February 13, 2009

New American List


A while ago I asked for some input about who are the 128 greatest living prose fiction writers. I thank you for the input, and you'll be glad to know that I did absolutely nothing with that information.

But, this time it's different. I solved the blogging problem that had stifled me before. John Updike died, so the occasion for my idea is a bit more relevant now I think, though it has changed focus a little.

See my intention was to start another blog. And, I will start this blog once I can convince myself this is actually a good idea (I keep wavering on this to be honest, even right now I'm thinking, no, no this is stupid), or at least I hope to, that'll host a kind of literary tournament/debate. I'm going to cook up some brackets, pit author's against each other, and ask people to vote for who is the better author out of those two pitted against each other. Like, who's better Stuart Dybek or Steven Millhauser? Have people vote, and hopefully discuss their reasoning for their vote in the comments to get a literary conversation/fight going.

Of course since it's online I'm sure it'll just devolve into bickering and name calling, but I hope not. But, it might just start something if I can generate any kind of audience. I mean, it has an NCAA style tournament so that has some intrinsic value, plus we Americans love ranking and rating things, and bickering online is lots of fun, too, so maybe, maybe there's something there. But, damn, what if I'm just wasting my time, I don't want that (if you feel this is a waste of time, let me know in the comments, please...or if this already exists elsewhere on the interwebs and i just never found it).

But, here's a little problem I'm having right now. I narrowed my focus to just American writers not just fiction writers of English. Since Updike died, I kind of see it as an abdicated throne as to who is the best American literary/noteworthy/quality fiction writer alive. I got a list of 103 American writers (I believe they are American, as they live here and have citizenship, as fact checked by wikipedia...also I believe they are alive, so if I'm wrong on any of them, let me know). So I need 28 more. Who have I forgotten, let me kno (by the way, Alice Munro is a Canadian):

1. A.M. Homes

2. Adam Haslett

3. Aleksander Hemon

4. Alice McDermott

5. Allan Gurganus

6. Amy Hempel

7. Amy Tan

8. Ann Patchett

9. Anne Beattie

10. Annie Proulx

11. Barbara Kingslover

12. Barry Hannah

13. Bharati Mukherjee

14. Bobbie Ann Mason

15. Bret Easton Ellis

16. Charles Baxter

17. Charles D’Ambrosio

18. Colson Whitehead

19. Cormac McCarthy

20. Cynthia Ozick

21. Dan Chaon

22. Dave Eggers

23. David Leavitt

24. Denis Johnson

25. Don DeLilo

26. Dorothy Allison

27. E.L. Doctorow

28. Edward P. Jones

29. Edwidge Danticat

30. Elizabeth Spencer

31. Elmore Leonard

32. Ernest Gaines

33. Ethan Canin

34. Francine Prose

35. George Saunders

36. Geraldine Brooks

37. Gore Vidal

38. Ha Jin

39. Harper Lee

40. Harry Crews

41. J.D. Salinger

42. Jamaica Kincaid

43. Jane Smiley

44. Jayne Anne Phillips

45. Jeffrey Eugenides

46. Jhumpa Lahiri

47. Joanna Scott

48. John Barth

49. John Edgar Wideman

50. John Irving

51. Jonathan Franzen

52. Jonathan Lethem

53. Jonathan Safran Foer

54. Joy Williams

55. Joyce Carol Oates

56. Julia Glass

57. Junot Diaz

58. Kate Christensen

59. Kevin Brockmeier

60. Larry McMurtry

61. Lee Smith

62. Lily Tuck

63. Lorrie Moore

64. Louise Erdrich

65. Maile Meloy

66. Marilynne Robinson

67. Mark Helprin

68. Mary Gaitskill

69. Michael Chabon

70. Michael Cunningham

71. Nathan Englander

72. Nell Freudenberg

73. Peter Matthiessen

74. Philip Roth

75. Ray Bradbury

76. Richard Bausch

77. Richard Ford

78. Richard Powers

79. Richard Russo

80. Rick Moody

81. Robert Coover

82. Robert Olen Butler

83. Robert Stone

84. Russell Banks

85. Sabrina Murray

86. Sandra Cisneros

87. Sherman Alexie

88. Shirley Hazzard

89. Stephen King

90. Steven Millhauser

91. Stuart Dybek

92. Sue Miller

93. T.C. Boyle

94. Thom Jones

95. Thomas Pynchon

96. Tim O’Brien

97. Tobias Wolff

98. Toni Morrison

99. Ursula K. LeGuin

100. Walter Mosley

101. William Kennedy

102. William Vollman

103. ZZ Packer


viva el mustache


Diana said...

I get what you're trying to do but I don't think I'd be any good at contributing to the debate. It would be like asking me to tell you which is better: Oreo cheesecake or tuna noodle casserole (with a crunchy potato chip topping.) I would say both are good, fantastic, excellent, different but equally delicious, and I couldn't possibly choose. I wouldn't want to. Wasn't it Henry James who said the house of fiction has many windows?

But it could be fun to watch others debate. Or it could be frustrating. It will be interesting to see.

Bryan said...

Yeah, I'm with you Diana. That's why I'm not that fired up about it. Because why does there need to be someone better than the other. But, just an idea that I've been thinking about.

And I think I'm closer to that "this would be fun/frustrating" to see unfold, so I would make a poor moderator for it because I haven't read many of those authors, let alone qualified enough to debate it with an intellectual fervor.

Diana said...

It might be fun, though, to vary this a bit--instead of debating who's better, guest bloggers could post about why we should read their favorite book/author.

Luke said...

My boy Rick Bass, Jean Thompson, Richard Yates, Mark Richard, Padgett Powell.

Nathan Melcher said...

Is this list only of fiction writers? Because I notice a lack of poets. If you were extending to screenwriters, I'd add Scott Frank and David Mamet (also for playwriting).

Fictionwise, I'd add Neil Gaiman, Kevin Brockmeier, and Amy Tan.

Ande said...

Richard Yates is dead. I'd throw Aimee Bender, Percival Everett, and Joe Meno out there. Bender and Everett are a couple of my favorites. Meno's latest short story collection has been named a finalist for the 2009 Story Prize (the other two finalists are Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth and Wolff's Our Story Begins, so pretty good company) and he's also one of my favorites.

Jorge said...

I kind of have a man crush on Kevin Brockmeier. So I second adding him.