21st Century Literature discussion

Book Chat > Who is America's greatest living novelist?

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message 1: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Our discussion of Nemesis started up just as Philip Roth was being fêted by some as the greatest living American novelist (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/books...). I'm not sure that anyone in the discussion agreed with that sentiment, but it has the makings of a pretty spicy thread topic. What are your thoughts? Who would you nominate as the greatest living American novelist, and why?

message 2: by Mattia (new)

Mattia Ravasi I would easily say Thomas Pynchon. With its earlier novels he basically revolutionized fiction in such a powerful and incisive way. On a merely literary level, he's the main pillar of postmodernism; """shorter""" pieces as The Crying of Lot 49 or V influenced immensely contemporary American literature, and I would argue that the great masterpieces of the late '900 are, in a way or another, an answer to Gravity's Rainbow (I'm thinking about Underoworld and Infinite Jest).
Moreover, its influence goes far beyond literature. He expresses at its best the theory according which Postmodernism is Modernism applied to mass culture. He blended semiotic instruments and ways of expression, cryptic writings and pop culture in such an hypnotic, influential way. I would argue that much American cinema and television wouldn't exist without Pynchon - and that, in general, American irony wouldn't be the same.

Don DeLillo is my second pick and its production is probably even more consistent than Pynchon's. Philip Roth itself moves a step forward on this line, showing an incredibly good bibliography, though I still have to approach his early works - so my judgment is inevitably partial.
Special mention for Dave Eggers and Jonathan Franzen, the two main forces of postpostmodernism, a genre though that has yet to produce its Gravity's Rainbow, its true manifesto (apart from Infinite Jest which is, in my opinion, more sort of its founding stone).

Oh and of course, I've kept Foster Wallace out of the whole topic because he (sadly) no longer lives. Otherwise he might well have won.

message 3: by Lily (last edited Mar 15, 2013 02:34PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2464 comments Not present in the grand way of the "big novelists" and perhaps better known for her stories than novels, but the discussion here should not overlook the contributions of Alice Munro, sometimes called a "writer's writer," to living literature. Yes, I understand I am defining "American" broadly, to include Canada. Also, I am not here to argue rankings. That aspect of judgment escapes my judgment.

Toni Morrison leaves us uncomfortable, but let us not leave her out of the conversation, either.

(If we expand "American" still further, to include the southern hemisphere, we really cannot ignore Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez nor Mario Vargas Llosa.)

I sadly happen to concur with Bookchemist's assessment of David Foster Wallace.

message 4: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I asked my Husband what he thought about this question, and he spent five minutes explaining to me why he thought it was a stupid question. He would accept "who is your favorite author?, but trying to pick out a "greatest" elevates opinion to something more factual than it is. Anyway, Bookchemist and Lily both make good points. I think Eugenides may also be a contender. I would argue he is at least the equal of Franzen. But I don't know who I would consider the "greatest," only that it would not be Philip Roth.

message 5: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Toni Morrison came to mind for me as well.

I don't believe in best writers though. I can't really play this game. I think different writers have different moments. I don't know that a moment of illuminating a moment of person's humanity is better or worse than a larger moment. Many of the classic greats do better in either the big pictures or the small ones and not both.

I also don't have a favorite color or a favorite flavor of ice cream.

message 6: by Carl (new)

Carl | 287 comments I would go with DeLillo. I like Pynchon for the slot also.

To me (don't hate me for this), both Eggers and Franzen are obnoxious pop stars at worst, but at best, neither is an artist.

Eugenides is quite brilliant - I'd like to see a couple more from him to get him in the greatest category.

message 7: by Carl (new)

Carl | 287 comments Also, yes, if only DFW were alive, he'd take it by miles. No one has done anything at all for postmodernism since DFW, so I think postmodernism is dead also.

message 8: by Deborah (last edited Mar 16, 2013 11:01AM) (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Also, I think it may make me a bit suspect as a moderator that the writers listed here, I only actually want to have to read Morrison and Eugenides. I don't seek Eugenides out, but if I was told I had to read him, I wouldn't mind at all. I haven't tried Delillo but hope to. Maybe he'll win one month and I'll have an excuse.

I love the idea of Pynchon, but have only actually managed to finish one book by him. I remember I enjoyed reading the Crying of Lot 49. I don't remember what it was about, and suspect that it wasn't about anything.

I like DFW's writing, but not so much I've finished anything by him. I get tired very quickly and lose interest and run off to read things that feel more edited.

Morrison though, is brilliant. I think she's a brave writer, who does give you people with wants and desires while looking at the world they live in. Many people though don't like her at all. So, it's clearly a matter of taste.

Casceil's husband is probably absolutely right.

message 9: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
When Peter was explaining why it was a bad question, he offered a different question as "more interesting." If asked to recommend an author to someone unfamiliar with the author, what author would you recommend? My unhesitating answer to that was Sarah Addison Allen, because most people aren't familiar with her, and I have enjoyed all of her books. She writes what I would call "Southern magical realism." I wouldn't consider her for a "greatest living American author" list, but the more I grapple with the idea of "greatest," the more I agree with my husband. Are we asking who will be remembered as best in another fifty years? Are we asking who is the most respected today? (And if so, respected by whom?)

message 10: by Daniel (new)

Daniel The Eggers and Franzen mentions are interesting to me. There's a lot of youthful chutzpah or swagger there, which has me agreeing with Carl's pop star reference. Yet I'm willing to hold out hope that a few more years under their belt will temper that swagger with a more mature profundity, which has me also agreeing with The_Bookchemist.

Regarding the question itself, it is indeed simply a matter of taste. But is that very much different from the verdict of a major prize committee? I think discussions like these serve more to remind us of great authors we should be reading, and not so much the demand for a definitive answer.

message 11: by Mattia (new)

Mattia Ravasi Toni Morrison sure is a good pick.

Carl wrote: "Also, yes, if only DFW were alive, he'd take it by miles. No one has done anything at all for postmodernism since DFW, so I think postmodernism is dead also."
DFW himself put postmodernism to sleep with Infinite Jest, which answers Gravity's Rainbow and carries on beyond it (Gravity's Rainbow being, for its very nature, the book which should basically celebrate/mourn/sign the end of human civilization). In an interview (I'm sorry I can't quote the actual thing, I don't have my books at the moment - I'll be able to do it in about a week) he once stated that he highly admired what Barth, Pynchon and the whole Postmodern lot had done for America, but that their job had been a destructive one - needed and functional, but destructive. His generation (and mine) are now like college kids without parents. All the partying and the suicidal fun were awesome, but it's now time to become parents ourselves.
DFW basically invented Postpostmodernism (which really needs a proper name), which is (long story short) highly readable (meaning enjoyable, meaning beautiful) postmodern literature. Eggers and Franzen and Eugenides all write it. I understand why people consider Eggers and Franzen to be pop literature - in a way, they are. In the same way, Franzen writes classic-inspired familiar sagas and can hardly be considered a revolutionary author. At the same time there's a huge deal of literary beauty and meaning in his novels, and in Eggers', and I think that a lot of times people simply isn't much used to high-quality pop literature.
DFW himself writes (mostly) a very beautifully complex form of pop, and he wasn't really happy with books meant for "critics, college professors and PhD students", as he states here:

Concluding, another thing Wallace once said is that the bravest authors of the newest generations will be the ones who won't fear to make people's eyes roll, to be criticized as not-incisive-enough because they'll search for beauty instead of impact. Franzen and Eggers and Eugenides all do that, in my opinion.

[I didn't list Eugenides alongside the other two originally because I don't think he overall is at their same level. He *almost* is. The Marriage Plot in particular lacks nothing that can be found in Franzen's recent fiction]

message 12: by Carl (new)

Carl | 287 comments I left Munro out, but she is one of the best pop writers. Bookchemist has it right in that it is about the beauty of the art and for me, it's about doing the kind of art that hasn't been done. I know others value other aspects like storytelling and drama, but for me, in consideration of the artistic aspect, it is DeLillo or Pynchon. William Gass is also a big favorite of mine, and his latest is unbelievably good, but his work is on the far edge of art, far away from the storytelling.

message 13: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2464 comments A few other writers sometimes mentioned when discussing this stratosphere of authors include Cormac McCarthy, John Irving, Elie Wiesel, and even Marilynne Robinson and Maya Angelou.

It is interesting to consider what distinguishes the writers discussed so far from that rich pantheon of authors that includes Tom Wolfe, Joyce Carol Oates, Joan Didion, Chinua Achebe (Nigerian or American?), André Aciman, Assia Djebar (Algerian or American?), William Gass, Margaret Atwood, .... Somehow we seem to be tapping some (occult) values that may be deeper than personal taste. I strongly suspect we each have one or more of these authors for whom we would prefer their influence on our lives to be indirect rather than by personal reading, ala this comment about Pynchon: "He's like Proust. We could live our whole lives and never read Gravity's Rainbow...and still be inspired by it."


message 14: by Lily (last edited Mar 16, 2013 08:38PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2464 comments Carl wrote: "William Gass is also a big favorite of mine, and his latest is unbelievably good, but his work is on the far edge of art, far away from the storytelling..."

Sorry, Carl. I was writing as you were posting and didn't see what you had written until afterwards!

If you have a few moments, say a few lines more about how you identify "pop writing" and from what you distinguish it. Likewise "art", or perhaps "beauty of the art." (E.g., what is "beauty"? Know perhaps that a favorite pair among my books is Eco's History of Beauty and On Ugliness. I consider both to be about art.)

message 15: by Carl (new)

Carl | 287 comments Lily, it is difficult and I would suppose that it is always a it subjective. I hate to say it, but I have not read the Eco books.

To me, a pop artist will not stray with language. Their books are usually geared to 8th grade language and vocabulary. The sentences are quaint or even puerile. There is usually a large amount of cliche, and in fact, pop artists rely on cliche to enrich their popularity.

With DeLillo, Gass, DFW, or even Proust, sometimes, every sentence has a unique beauty. With an artistic writer, one needs a highlighter, bookmarks and other tools to be able to savor the quality of the writing. Take for instance the first paragraph of the 8th section of DFW's The Pale King - no pop writer could or would dare to write a paragraph that beautiful. I could read that paragraph 100's of times and each time, new beauty would come to the surface and that reaction doesn't happen with pop writing. Pop writers want you to read fast, read for content, and read for resolution of plot lines.

Unfortunately, artistic writing, by its nature, is often not engaging because it is not as involved with storytelling.

The same is true with pop music vs. artistic music - pop music relies on cliched lyrics and tonal patterns to engage the listener; whereas artistic music relies on the beauty of the sound and to some extent, the artistic qualities of more poetic, less cliched lyrics.

Of course, with both artistic literature and artistic music, the creator relies on a better educated audience, so it may seem snobby, but I'm okay with that.

message 16: by Carl (new)

Carl | 287 comments I think calling Munro on the pop side is probably wrong...she's probably on the artist side, and I think Joyce Carol Oates is worthy of high praise in that category. I know Atwood's poetry and enjoy it but need to read her fiction.

I love Cormac McCarthy, but I don't know about greatest category...maybe...

message 17: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2464 comments Carl wrote: " I hate to say it, but I have not read the Eco books...."

Don't "read" them, but some day, come across them (library, book store, ...) and enjoy them for a few minutes or an hour or two. My only point here was the crossover of beauty and ugliness in a world that has been sensitized by the works of the likes of Diane Arbus; valiant crippled athletes in Special Olympics; paintings and photographs capturing the luminescence and destruction of oil slicks, pollution, poverty, warfare; and space craft transmissions of the magnificence of star-production nebulae. Modern beauty, I suspect, is not identical to classical beauty, but usually has something to do with what we label "truth."

Thank you for your lucid distinctions. Very much what I "needed" and sought.

message 18: by Carl (new)

Carl | 287 comments Ah, I will seek them out. Yes, for me beauty in art has to do with how closely one can get to communicating about the spirituality of being human, that kind of truth. DFW said something like, Fiction is about what it's like to be f&$@ing human, and I think that is a perfect goal for fiction or any kind of art.

message 19: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2464 comments Casceil wrote: "...If asked to recommend an author to someone unfamiliar with the author, what author would you recommend? My unhesitating answer to that was Sarah Addison Allen, because most people aren't familiar with her, and I have enjoyed all of her books. She writes what I would call 'Southern magical realism.'..."

Casceil -- I sent your suggestion on to three book-loving friends with especial interest in Southern writers. Two have already replied they were not familiar with her writing, but would check her out. (I sent along her web site link: http://www.sarahaddisonallen.com/)

message 20: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Thank you for the link to the website, Lily. I hope your friends enjoy her books.

message 21: by Lily (last edited Mar 18, 2013 09:52AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2464 comments Casceil wrote: "Thank you for the link to the website, Lily. I hope your friends enjoy her books."

Casceil -- LOL! If they do, I probably will, too. They are major influences on my reading -- probably more on mine than I on them. But, their primary interests are different from mine, and they can be very useful to screen and suggest.

message 22: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2464 comments In memoriam -- no longer among the living greats:


message 23: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2464 comments Some who have indulged in this conversation and the one currently occurring on literary fiction may find this article with some views by Harold Bloom of interest, whether or no you agree them:


message 24: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Thanks for the link, Lily. It really sets our discussion in sharp relief when we hear America's greatest literary critic (and read that with the same tongue-in-cheek as the rest of this thread) saying of David Foster Wallace that "he can’t think, he can’t write. There’s no discernible talent." Wow...

message 25: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2464 comments Daniel wrote: "...'he can’t think, he can’t write. ..."

Daniel -- two of the comments at the end of the article are beyond my understanding, re. Wallace's Harvard training in philosophy and logic versus "the specious argumentation methods of Deconstruction."

Now I can't claim to understand Deconstruction, whether its strengths or limitations, but I will say that my limited exposure, esp. to the work of Derrida, has not left me with a judgement of "specious" -- at least "totally specious."

message 26: by Carl (new)

Carl | 287 comments Some lack the intellectual capacity to understand David Foster Wallace, and it's sad that's the case with Bloom. That wouldn't have been true of him 30 years ago. It's also sad that Bloom didn't cite any of the nonfiction of DFW, or even The Pale King in his assessment, making it clear that his experience is far too limited to cast that judgment. It's actually somewhat humorous. I hope I'm not that way when I get that old.

message 27: by Carl (new)

Carl | 287 comments I agree. Derrida s fabulous. We need to accept that some people are not intellectually capable of understanding Derrida.

message 28: by Lily (last edited Apr 10, 2013 05:19PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2464 comments Carl wrote: "I agree. Derrida s fabulous. We need to accept that some people are not intellectually capable of understanding Derrida."

LOL! Carl, I think I've decided not to take that personally, regardless of what I wrote. [g]

message 29: by Zadignose (new)

Zadignose | 87 comments I look forward to some break time so I can read the Bloom commentary. However, I won't have a context. So far, I've been unable to read David Foster Wallace, because my first impressions have been entirely negative.

I tried to read the Broom of the System, but after two chapters stopped. Not because of "difficulty," but because it seemed just bad.

My first feelings were "trite, shallow, bullshit, phony, not entertaining." I had the uncomfortable feeling that it was almost like a comedy, except for the obvious fact that it wasn't at all funny.

Then I was shocked to find that the blurbs that promote it describe the book as the exact opposite of my impression. The describe it as genuine, full fleshed characterization... and hilarious! I just can't see how.

Yet I didn't force my way through the book, so can't judge the overall effect.

Then I read a chunk of Infinite Jest, and stopped. First impression: A tad better, but basically phony and trite.

message 30: by Carl (new)

Carl | 287 comments Z, I think you're reacting to postmodernism rather than the writer, and a lot of people don't care for it. DFW is hard work if you want to go below the surface, and if you don't go below the surface, it's probably not much good. I had to force myself through the first 40 or 50 of pages, initially thinking it was junk, but I loved it when it was finished.

message 31: by Carl (new)

Carl | 287 comments Lily, we need to expect the fact that some people are too stupid to let loose on a comment thread, and I am one of them who should not be let loose.

What I meant was that if you found the Derrida is NOT specious, I agree with you. Those people who simply knock him down as specious are not intellectually capable of understanding him. There are many other reasons to knock Derrida, but specious is the opposite of what he was. I think it is settled in a lot of communities that he was the greatest philosopher of the 20th Century, definitely the greatest of the last half of the century from today's perspective.

If you enjoy Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein, and Derrida, you are bound to enjoy DFW.

As an aside, I feel sure that Bloom's mind shut down when he was about 60.

message 32: by Lily (last edited Apr 10, 2013 08:28PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2464 comments Carl wrote: "As an aside, I feel sure that Bloom's mind shut down when he was about 60. ..."

LOL! What a sweet recovery -- only to try again. You sound like my brother when I turned 30 and he was 4 years younger -- in the '70's! [g]

(I have enjoyed K,W,D & what I have read of DFW. But I didn't always understand Dr. Duffey's PChem, either.)

message 33: by Carl (new)

Carl | 287 comments Your mind will be good forever, Lily. Only some people lose their minds. You haven't done that yet.

message 34: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2464 comments Carl wrote: "Your mind will be good forever, Lily. ..."

I hope it will, as I think most of us wish for ourselves and each other. The many 80-year olds + I know at this point are great mentors for realizing that understanding everything isn't necessary to live life fully, but that keeping on understanding more is great fun.

message 35: by Mattia (new)

Mattia Ravasi @Zadignose, as Carl has already said, Foster Wallace is an extremely "active" reading, meaning you'll have to do your part if you want to enjoy the book (and I understand that a lot of people don't want this or can even find this wrong). That's especially true for Infinite Jest, where the challenge isn't only mental, as you try to follow and order the events as they're scattered throughout the novel, and to remember who the hell each of those characters is, but also physical - keep flipping between the two ends of the book can really be a pain at times, and moreover, simply carrying around that *brick* to read it requires quite some effort at times ^^

The only reason why you'd want to do that is it that once you connect with it is incredibly entertaining and enjoyable and terribly deep and clever and kaleidoscopic and contemporary and so on and so forth.
My evaluation is that you (not "you", the reader) should go through at least 2 or 300 pages before starting to really connect with the thing. Some people need more, some people start to enjoy it earlier. Of course some people never enjoy it but hey, FIDLAR ^^

message 36: by Diane (new)

Diane | 35 comments Casceil wrote: "I asked my Husband what he thought about this question, and he spent five minutes explaining to me why he thought it was a stupid question. He would accept "who is your favorite author?, but tryin..."

message 37: by Diane (last edited Apr 12, 2013 03:31AM) (new)

Diane | 35 comments I think I'm with Casceil's husband. In this thread, I note that some people equate "great" with postmodernism, some reject the icons of postmodernism, some suggest that anyone who dislikes Derrida does not "understand" Derrida, still others seem to suggest that there is an objective scale by which one can measure "greatness..."

First, if Derrida and deconstruction have taught us anything it's that categorizations and hierarchical thinking can be deconstructed to render any such judgments meaningless. Indeed, chasing after a definition of "greatness" doesn't lead us out of the prison house of language, but rather pushes us ever more deeply into that very labyrinth. In short, language (according to deconstruction) leads us always (and already) to more language, not to meaning.

Further, Foucault teaches us that there is no neutral position from which to critique social practices. I would argue that none of us can make a judgment as to "greatness" apart from our participation in Western, early 21st century culture. Moreover, each of our own peculiarities (our languages, the place of our births, our genders, our educational levels, our wealth (or lack thereof), etc.), profoundly affects the way we judge anything, including books. Because we are each part of a system of culture, often we are not even aware of the assumptions or biases that lead us to our conclusions.

Please understand: I'm not arguing that we can't differentiate one writer from another, or one work from another in terms of what we define as "quality." I just think we have to acknowledge that there's no eternal, objective rubric from which to judge.

That said: of course I think that it's possible to identify writers who have left their mark on contemporary fiction. I think we can identify novels and writers from the past who have and continue to influence the way we think about literature and ourselves. But again, such judgments are tentative and contingent--the future may not judge in the same way.

I've read and taught The Crying of Lot 49, but have been unable to plow through Gravity's Rainbow (this is somewhat of an embarassment to me) BUT I would never not acknowledge the importance and influence of the book for literary studies.

By the same token, Beloved is both important and influential. Further, Morrison's body of work is a touchstone for any study of twentieth century fiction, as is Margaret Atwood's and Gabriel Garcia Marquez's. I think when you start listing writers who might fill the bill for "greatness" you have to consider their influence on other writers and their body of work rather than a single novel. (and know that any nomination you make is based on what you consider "greatness" to be.)

Sorry to have gone on so long. I'll be quiet now, promise.

message 38: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2464 comments Well, Diane, with apologies to Casceil's husband, I'll posit that there are no stupid questions, although there are a lot of questions that can't be answered. It seems to me that the posing of the question at hand (Who is the greatest living American author?) has brought forth some valuable perspectives, even if only that the participants in this group have a slightly deeper awareness of the positions of each other.

And, yes, I do understand why it is appropriate to agree with Casceil's husband.

message 39: by Diane (new)

Diane | 35 comments Oh, Lily, of course you're right. There are no stupid questions, and I'm sorry for even suggesting that. In addition, it's very true that posing a question like this allows us to learn something from each participant. I stand by the position that trying to establish "greatness" among American living authors is an impossible task, but also acknowledge that this is a position, not necessarily a fact!

And, despite my protestations, I'm very interested in learning who our fellow discussants would nominate into the Hall of Greatness. Finally, I'm also interested in the difference between who we think of as great living writers and who we consider our favorite living writers--the two are not mutually exclusive, or course, but it's possible to put someone in the hall of greatness that you don't particularly enjoy (I might call that the Pynchon Factor for myself.)

Thanks for calling me back to the real:)

message 40: by Zadignose (new)

Zadignose | 87 comments To continue my trend of putting myself at odds with the majority of those I interact with, I should point out that I never cared one jot for either influence or importance.

message 41: by Carl (new)

Carl | 287 comments Where the subjective becomes more and more objective is through cultural norms and high quality education, but I agree that no opinion on greatness can be completely objective.

message 42: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...

People do just fine without "quality education."

message 43: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2464 comments Deborah wrote: "http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...

People do just fine without "quality education.""

Neat link! Thx, Deborah.

message 44: by Zadignose (new)

Zadignose | 87 comments Then there was "the self-taught man" in Sartre's Nausea, but he was a perv.

message 45: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Does community college count as quality education? Because there are other lists too.

message 46: by Carl (new)

Carl | 287 comments Holy cow! A great education can occur anywhere, by yourself, or otherwise! I didn't mean to hit a sensitive nerve!

message 47: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Ok. Cool.
Anecdotally, I found more poetry in daily life when I was a teenaged drop out whose social circle included other drop outs than I have among the well educated later in life.

My brother is currently in NYU Law and his idea of Art seems to be those tribute and parody videos on YouTube.

Ok, now I'm just babbling.

message 48: by Carl (new)

Carl | 287 comments I force myself to dramatically limit my YouTube parodies; otherwise, I'm afraid they'll commit me to the nuthouse, not that this couldn't happen in some other manner, just that I don't want to fuel my decline any further.

I consider three requirements for great education regardless of the path:
-Learn how to think critically.
-Learn how to maintain an open mind.
-Learn about the historical artifacts of your own as well as other cultures.

I'm still working on it.

message 49: by Ellie (last edited Apr 12, 2013 01:28PM) (new)

Ellie (elliearcher) | 142 comments I love this discussion.

I can't really answer "best" living artist-there are different kinds of great. I think Pynchon would be up there (even though I don't personally love him) and DeLillo for some reason almost but not quite (and I do love DeLillo). Some of Cormac MacCarthy is brilliant. I would put DFW up there-how can I decide between Pynchon and DeLillo let alone Morrison who is a very different type of artist.

And my son has hooked me on YouTube parodies-I limit myself to watching them with him or (between that and GR) I'd never get any reading done.

message 50: by Jen (new)

Jen | 67 comments This is a great thread. I'm going to pose the gender question: why are there so few female American authors in contention? There are a few excellent suggestions (Morrison, Robinson, etc) - and a couple of Canadians (as a Canadian I assure you I am delighted by the embrace, but they don't really qualify: see original Guardian article re: 'greatest US writer'). But let's face it, we're mostly talking about men here.

Interestingly, the same question posed here in Canada might have the opposite result (with Munro and Atwood arguably our highest regarded living authors on the international scene).

Any views on what factors make this so?(I ask this as a Canadian who wrote their lit thesis on Hemingway so I assure you, I am not throwing stones!!)

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