Monday, August 6, 2007

Top 5 American Authors

A quick and simple one, I thought of this last night and came up with five so, rather than lose it forever, I'm posting.

1. William Faulkner - The master. His way with words and different styles is unparalleled, in my mind. Favorite: Light in August.

2. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. - Kurt's up in heaven now. So it goes. Favorite: Mother Night.

3. Ernest Hemingway - Probably the best short story writer who ever lived. Some of his novels and longer works really miss though (The Green Hills of Africa is good, not "greatest author ever" good) Favorite: The Sun Also Rises.

4. Mark Twain - If you think he's not a master of satire and irony, read Puddn'head Wilson. Favorite: PW.

5. F. Scott Fitzgerald - Given, I'm basing this on one book and a few short stories, but that book WAS the quintessential "great American novel." Favorite: R.L. Stine's Say Cheese And Die! Err, The Great Gatsby.

Honorable mention: Flannery O'Connor, Michael Chabon. (Hey, why not.) Oh, and for kicks, Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Dan's Top 5:

Mark Twain - Probably one of my favorite figures in the history of American Literature, though admittedly I think I've only read Huckleberry Finn.

Ernest Hemingway - Again, here I've only read the novella The Old Man and the Sea. However, I enjoyed it thoroughly and also just learned that he won the Nobel Prize for literature.

Hunter S. Thompson - I'm probably going to be remembering Thompson as the author that I identify with my early twenties. I have read both Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Rum Diary. For me to have voluntarily read two books by the same author is quite a statement. In fact, I can't think of anyone else of whom I can say that. Oh yeah, Hornby...

F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby was fantastic, though sadly I don't remember most of it. I do remember finishing it my math class the day of the final reading quiz and thinking to myself, "Wow, that was a good book."

John Steinbeck - I'm ranking him this low only because I've never read anything he's written. It's a real testament to my status as such a pathetic reader that I have to include someone I've never even read before.

Honorable mention: Isaac Asimov (did not get a chance to discuss whether he qualified as American Author, having moved here as a child of three)

Tim's Top 5:
1. F. Scott Fitzgerald - I've often called Jane Austen "the female F. Scott Fitzgerald if he had been born without wit or literary ability". I stand by this characterization in that I hate Jane Austen more than one could possibly fathom and F. Scott Fitzgerald is dripping with both wit and literary ability. "The Great Gatsby" is an unparalleled literary achievement...except that it's not Fitzgerald's best, because The Love of the Last Tycoon is even better, albeit still incomplete. This Side of Paradise is a bit uneven, but still a good read.

2. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. - I've always felt like I should like Kurt Vonnegut far more than I do, but I still enjoy his work. Slaughterhouse-Five is a masterpiece, but, like Ryan, I think Mother Night is superior. I didn't enjoy Cat's Cradle, I did really like Hocus Pocus...one of these years I should read the rest of his novels.

3. John Steinbeck - Oprah be damned, Steinbeck was a good writer before you soiled him with your East of Eden book club invite. Sadly, I've never read The Grapes of Wrath, so I'm really kind of flying blind, but I respect Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, The Pearl, and what I've read of Travels With Charley. Give the man credit, he had the courage to just say this book is done at 100 pages. He's the anti-Grady Tripp.

4. Michael Chabon - I apparently really enjoy his work on some level, because I keep reading it. I was a bit underwhelmed at The Yiddish Policeman's Union, since it seemed like he was trying to cash in too much on the Jewish themes that got him a Pulitzer, but he creates characters and places in a way few authors do. Even Summerland, bad as it was, had defined characters that I can still recall and picture, even though I didn't enjoy the book on any level. Wonder Boys is a book that didn't really strike me as great when I read it, but after seeing the movie and learning to love it, I admire it more and more. Favorite: The Final Solution -- a book that was the inverse Nick Hornby -- I didn't enjoy it until the very finish, at which it became a masterpiece...see also Steve Martin's The Pleasure of My Company -- a vastly underrated book in comparison to the middling Shopgirl

5. J.D. Salinger - Catcher In The Rye is appreciated by the wrong people for the wrong reasons, but it's a book that I could identify with and those come along very rarely. And it's a very universal book, I've met few who have read it and not been at least somewhat sympathetic, because it's an expression of a period of people's lives more than a story. Franny and Zooey is a much more hollow effort, but one that's worth reading.

* I included him as #5 and then recalled that I had in fact read Franny and Zooey, so I could include Salinger with a little more validity...anyway, enjoy...6. James M. Cain - I've read very little of his work, but he edges out Dashiell Hammett on the list of authors I admire but have no basis to admire list. Cain wrote books that translated perfectly to the screen, but the stories behind them were raw and potent. The Postman Always Rings Twice is a book that really should be mandatory reading, I don't imagine Double Indemnity is any different. But basically it came down to choosing between Poe, Joseph Heller (whose non-Catch 22 work is probably insignificant), Hemingway (whom I've never read a novel by), or Dashiell Hammett. I don't like E.L. Doctorow.

Note: Saul Bellow is Canadian.

1 comment:

Vulpes Ryanis said...

I think I am the only man who likes Jane Austen. Well, judging by the classes I took, the only straight man anyway.