Saturday, October 29, 2005

America Writers - need help here!!! 

American Writers, from the 20th and 21st centuries that are worth reading. Just to make this interesting, the authors need to have written more than one book and ideally should write fiction. Add any others in the comments.

Ernest Hemingway. I love everything I've read by him, made the obligatory pilgimage to his home in Key West, and just stared at his desk and typewriter.

Douglas Coupland (Generation X, Microserfs, Life After God, et al.). Canadian, but the distinction between Canadian and American blurs; though he has a Canadianview, much of his writing takes place in America. He defines Gen X.

James Dickey (Delieverance, To the White Sea, and several books of poetry). Survivalism and independence, while being part of something greater, whether it's a group of friends or simply belonging to the land. I know Deliverence became a movie; I never saw the movie. Don't think I want to. His books are incredibly powerful; generally speaking, there's a single character, with the landscape acting as a supporting character.

Neal Stephenson (Snowcrash, Cryptonomicon, et al.). Redefined science fiction to be just that - fiction that includes a great deal of science, that can be set in the present, the near past, the future, or centuries ago. Brilliant writing.

Elizabeth Wurtzel (Prozac Nation; More, Now, Again, et al.). A memoirist criticized for writing her first memoir just after college. What could she possibly have to write about? Plenty, and she writes it well and doesn't hide anything. Young and depressed in America, she describes the disease, friends' reactions to the disease, denial, and being one of the first to go on medication. And somehow she's managed to repeat her successful soul-baring in further memoirs. Her non-memoir non-fiction tends to be rambling, but her memoirs are excellent.

J. R. R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings trilogy, et al.). The books are slow, and that's deliberate. He's written a modern epic, akin to the Edas, the Iliad, the Mahabharata. The landscape is a character in its own right, and the "boring walking" scenes deserve a fresh look. I love him, and I'm generally disdainful of fantasy.

Anyone else? I read so little fiction, this is harder than I thought...

This is completely contrary to what you've asked for, but since I'm in Toronto I'm going to take "American" in the broadest sense and suggest the iconic Canadian writer Robertson Davies.
If you haven't read "The Cornish Trilogy" specifically "What's Bred in The Bone" you should consider it.
Okay, I love books for teenagers, especially the edgy ones, and some of the best American writing is being done in this field right now. I think it is the hardest field to write for. You have to be gritty, you have to be sincere, you can't be shmaltzy, you can't be too kiddy or too boringly "adult".

So I think two of the best American writers in this category are M. T. Anderson, Feed published by Candlewick Press, a very fine publishing house, and of course, the great Robert Cormier. Most of you have probably read one of his books The Chocolate War or I am the Cheese.

And though he isn't an American, he deserves mention just for being smart, funny, and the man who has a chance at filling the void in my heart left by the death of Douglas Adams, Jasper Fforde. He is responsible for the Thursday Next series of Literature Mysteries. If you like jokes about books and think puns are funny, put him on your Christmas list.
Ah, I miss Douglas Adams. Jasper Fforde I must check out.

My favorite teen author is Francesca Lia Block. I didn't discover her until I was an "adult" but still think she's wonderful. Robert Cormier is great, as well, with more realistic stories.

And before anyone points in out, yes, I know Tolkien isn't American. But we've claimed him, I believe, as much as the British have.
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