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  #1  
Old 01-31-2009, 10:43 PM
Now that Updike is Gone, Who is America's Greatest Living Author?

I guess I'd have to say Philip Roth, but there are a bunch of others that I suppose should be taken into consideration: Ray Bradbury, Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, Cormac McCarthy, J.D. Salinger, etc.

Any thoughts?
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  #2  
Old 02-01-2009, 01:47 AM
Gore Vidal.

Often dismissed as just a controversalist and/or enfant terriblé, he is, in fact, America's greatest living man of letters. He's a successful playwright and screenwriter, an essayist without equal among his novelist contemporaries (he would have been a fine, if probably controvesial, historian or, if he had ever wanted to really pursue it, a wonderful literary critic) and his novels stand alongside any written in the latter part of the last century.
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  #3  
Old 02-01-2009, 10:23 AM
It's Pynchon or McCarthy. Harold Bloom would undoubtedly agree.
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  #4  
Old 02-01-2009, 01:22 PM
Stephen King
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  #5  
Old 02-01-2009, 08:32 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by JJFlamingo View Post
Stephen King
Yep, yep.
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  #6  
Old 02-01-2009, 10:38 PM
Out of the ones you listed, I'd say McCarthy or Roth. Though I've never read anything by DeLillo (plan to) or Pynchon (plan to/afraid to). And I should really read more Philip Roth. American Pastoral is glaring at me from my bookshelf.

I'm surprised there's been no mention of Toni Morrison. I mean, I've never read anything by her but I know she's held in super high regard when it comes to contemporary American authors.

Last edited by Powerslave; 02-02-2009 at 12:50 AM..
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  #7  
Old 02-02-2009, 09:35 PM
Toni Morrison would be a totally legit choice. Normally I would laugh off anyone who said Stephen King, but he has written some great books and knows more about writing than most people knocking around. Roth is my favorite. I always preferred Roth to Updike, I just assumed that John Updike was the academic's choice.
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  #8  
Old 02-02-2009, 09:40 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brando @$$ Fat View Post
Toni Morrison would be a totally legit choice.
Yes, she would.
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  #9  
Old 02-03-2009, 01:46 AM
hmm...

Honestly, for different reasons, I could not fault any of the choices I've seen in this thread. Each author is both extremely talented, and singularly unique.

Even Stephen King's inclusion couldn't be discounted. If The Stand, and It are nothing more than "pulp fiction", than they are so at its very, very best. Nobody can write a character so layered that you feel you've known them your entire life like King, regardless of the content matter of the novel itself.

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  #10  
Old 02-16-2009, 08:41 AM
I'm going to throw Michael Chabon into contention. I love that guy.

McCarthy and Morrison are great choices. Salinger too, but he doesn't really write anymore... and I really thought Ray Bradbury was dead ... my bad.
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  #11  
Old 02-16-2009, 10:48 AM
I was actually gonna mention that. Does Salinger even really, I dunno, count? I mean, he hasn't published anything since the 50s or 60s. While he may be alive, he isn't really a player on the contemporary literary field.

And I should probably read more Bradbury too. Aside from Fahrenheit 451 in 8th grade and a handful of short stories, I've pretty much neglected him altogether. I've been putting off The Martian Chronicles and Something Wicked This Way Comes for like 7 years now. Hurm.
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  #12  
Old 02-17-2009, 09:52 AM
Nobody should put off Bradbury's Martian Chronicles. Iread it for college and its one of the best books Ive read.

If I remember right it "There Will Come Soft Rains" an awesome and masterful three page short story.
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  #13  
Old 03-06-2009, 09:16 AM
I honestly believe that Stephen King is the best American novelist of our time and possibly the best weaver of fiction to date. He brought so many new layers to the Horror novel that its unbelievable, from multi-dimensional characters to his friendly prose. And I'm not just saying this because I've been an avid Horror fan since seven years of age (At eight I began King's book, IT and read maybe 113 pages through it. Funny because the day after Posting in the Thread for IT on these Boards I found the book, it had been missing for years. I had to finish IT out of a Library copy.), I find King's literature (Because I do find his work to be literature.) to be sometimes best when it is outside of the Horror Genre. He has written the phenomenal Dark Tower Series and Lisey's Story, which I consider to be two of his best. (IT was probably better than Lisey's Story, but I love them both.) His characters seem more real to me than a lot of people that I've known my entire life. And when an author can make a fiction more meaningful to his audience than reality, well they are either masters of their craft or they have a mentally unbalanced audience. (Which in my case it may be both. )

I would probably vote Clive Barker also, but he originated from Liverpool, England and he has done far less for literature than King. Then again, King was the man who pretty much jump-started Barker's career.
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  #14  
Old 03-06-2009, 12:50 PM
Quote:
I honestly believe that Stephen King is the best American novelist of our time and possibly the best weaver of fiction to date. He brought so many new layers to the Horror novel that its unbelievable, from multi-dimensional characters to his friendly prose.
Leave.
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  #15  
Old 03-13-2009, 09:25 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Homyrrh View Post
Leave.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JJFlamingo View Post
Stephen King
Quote:
Originally Posted by poopontheshoes7 View Post
Yep, yep.
So all three of us should leave then? You do realize that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, right?
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  #16  
Old 03-13-2009, 09:45 PM
Indeed. That Stephen King is the greatest novelist--living, non-living, or otherwise--is laughable and anyone should be laughed at for saying as much. I am of this opinion.
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  #17  
Old 03-13-2009, 10:20 PM
That's cool, and I can respect that opinion without insulting you over it. See how that works?
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  #18  
Old 03-14-2009, 02:07 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by g1ng3rsnap9ed View Post
That's cool, and I can respect that opinion without insulting you over it. See how that works?
I cannot apologize if you took offense to being asked to leave because I thought your opinion was ridiculous. While perhaps it would have been best followed by an emoticon, you still have a ridiculous opinion.
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  #19  
Old 03-14-2009, 06:13 AM
For the sake of discussion then, what makes my opinion seem so ridiculous? What author would you consider to be the greatest then? (I promise not to tell you to leave. )
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  #20  
Old 03-14-2009, 10:36 AM
Dont bother Ging. It's obvious we can't understand or appreciate real literature.
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  #21  
Old 03-14-2009, 11:22 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by g1ng3rsnap9ed View Post
For the sake of discussion then, what makes my opinion seem so ridiculous? What author would you consider to be the greatest then? (I promise not to tell you to leave. )
More seriously then, Stephen King is not a bad writer, but he falls well short in probing thematic depths that are regularly reached by Pynchon, McCarthy, or even Chabon. His prose is chiefly mainstream, and while, again he's not bad in any way, the measure of "greatness" would have to be crudely altered to allow him the top spot and leave other authors (those aforementioned) in lower spots.
Quote:
Originally Posted by poopontheshoes7 View Post
Dont bother Ging. It's obvious we can't understand or appreciate real literature.
Indeed.
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  #22  
Old 03-14-2009, 11:24 AM
Steven King is probably the most talked about, but that doesn't necessarily make him the greatest. Then again, it is all up to opinion.
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  #23  
Old 03-14-2009, 11:36 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Homyrrh View Post
Indeed.

Hmmm, I'm pretty sure insulting another members intelligence is looked down upon here. So you may want to leave your elitist attitude behind when you post.
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  #24  
Old 03-14-2009, 12:58 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by poopontheshoes7 View Post
Dont bother Ging. It's obvious we can't understand or appreciate real literature.
I guess not.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Homyrrh View Post
More seriously then, Stephen King is not a bad writer, but he falls well short in probing thematic depths that are regularly reached by Pynchon, McCarthy, or even Chabon. His prose is chiefly mainstream, and while, again he's not bad in any way, the measure of "greatness" would have to be crudely altered to allow him the top spot and leave other authors (those aforementioned) in lower spots.


Indeed.

Okay, that would have been a much better response than before, and if that was said I would have respected your Post and let it go. As was said, this entire Thread is a matter of opinion only and therefore nobody is right nor wrong. But since you gave your reasoning without any insults (...wait a second! Indeed? ) then I think we can now both agree to disagree with respectable opinions that just happen to disagree.
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  #25  
Old 03-14-2009, 07:34 PM
I hesitate to continue this ridiculousness, but I had hoped that much of what I had previously mentioned was interpreted with some degree of humor. While "Leave" may not have been the ideal word, I had assumed it would have been interpreted along the lines of "Get out of here with that ridiculous opinion. Leave! ". Elitism is not presnt in any consequent thought I can imagine.

Besides, I've yet to insult anyone, at least not anyone who knows fine literature...(see I guess I should put a here, or else a )
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  #26  
Old 03-14-2009, 08:41 PM
Looking back on it I guess that I did misinterpret that to be harsher than it really was. Oh well, I guess that I may as well say my apologies for being a bit prickish.

*Walks off into the sunset holding hands with Homyrrh and Poopontheshoes7.
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  #27  
Old 03-15-2009, 12:59 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Homyrrh View Post
I hesitate to continue this ridiculousness, but I had hoped that much of what I had previously mentioned was interpreted with some degree of humor. While "Leave" may not have been the ideal word, I had assumed it would have been interpreted along the lines of "Get out of here with that ridiculous opinion. Leave! ". Elitism is not presnt in any consequent thought I can imagine.

Besides, I've yet to insult anyone, at least not anyone who knows fine literature...(see I guess I should put a here, or else a )
Well, we all know how a well placed can make a seemingly negative or rude comment come across as funny or a joke. So, truce I guess.

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  #28  
Old 03-15-2009, 09:41 PM
...at no point in his career was Updike America's greatest living author.


Pynchon, though. Not only Greatest Living but Greatest Working
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  #29  
Old 03-15-2009, 10:50 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tayzlor View Post
...at no point in his career was Updike America's greatest living author.


Pynchon, though. Not only Greatest Living but Greatest Working
Yeah, but right after Updike died there were a bunch of writers/literary scholars debating who was now the greatest living author. I'm just going by popular academic consensus, not my personal opinion. I haven't read any of his novels, so my knowledge of him is limited to poetry and a short story.

And just to make myself clear, I only mentioned Bradbury and Salinger because they're still hanging in there.
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  #30  
Old 03-16-2009, 08:34 AM
Pynchon is still living. After reading 'Blood Meridian', Harold Bloom seemed to make somewhat of a case for Cormac McCarthy, but Pynchon's hard to top. 'Catcher in the Rye' is an imaculate novel, but whether it constitutes Salinger as the greatest novelist iis trivial.
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  #31  
Old 03-16-2009, 10:34 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Homyrrh View Post
More seriously then, Stephen King is not a bad writer, but he falls well short in probing thematic depths that are regularly reached by Pynchon, McCarthy, or even Chabon. His prose is chiefly mainstream, and while, again he's not bad in any way, the measure of "greatness" would have to be crudely altered to allow him the top spot and leave other authors (those aforementioned) in lower spots.
Just some food for thought, since I'm assuming you are probably involved in some form of academic literary study...

I just wanted to point out that in his time Charles Dickens was immensely popular. Initially he wasn't part of the English Canon because of this. He was too beloved/relatable to the masses to be considered "high-art". Not to mention similar claims of lacking thematic depth have been lobbied against him. Now he's a regular fixture in anthologies and on university syllabi. Not to mention general cultural capital. He is considered to be the best, or at least amongst the best writers of his period.

My point is that given the current trends of Postmodern and Postcolonial studies, attempting to breakdown the distinctions of "high"/"low" art, etc. it wouldn't be that unreasonable to think that in 50-75 years academics will be making the claim that Stephen King is one of the greatest american writers.... if not sooner.

I must admit though that I'm not very familiar with his work. But the general consensus is that he is an extraordinarily talented author, correct?
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  #32  
Old 03-17-2009, 08:07 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by jdparker View Post
Just some food for thought, since I'm assuming you are probably involved in some form of academic literary study...

I just wanted to point out that in his time Charles Dickens was immensely popular. Initially he wasn't part of the English Canon because of this. He was too beloved/relatable to the masses to be considered "high-art". Not to mention similar claims of lacking thematic depth have been lobbied against him. Now he's a regular fixture in anthologies and on university syllabi. Not to mention general cultural capital. He is considered to be the best, or at least amongst the best writers of his period.

My point is that given the current trends of Postmodern and Postcolonial studies, attempting to breakdown the distinctions of "high"/"low" art, etc. it wouldn't be that unreasonable to think that in 50-75 years academics will be making the claim that Stephen King is one of the greatest american writers.... if not sooner.

I must admit though that I'm not very familiar with his work. But the general consensus is that he is an extraordinarily talented author, correct?
Engineering, actually. Kind of the same thing, right?

This is indeed a valid point, and a well-taken one. Obviously, I cannot argue for or against whether or not King will actually be taken more seriously in a half-century or so. Maybe even my best indication at present is the general intuition when reading his work, perhaps through some subconcious analysis or thematic recognition, etc., that this is like eating cafeteria food...easy in, easier out.

I would be inclined to make the statement that King will be revered by many in so many years, if not simply for his quantity. Can anyone envision an American Canon with Stephen King included?

Though as no foundation of my own thoughts, I feel this article sums up some of my general sentiment, minus much of the arrogance and self-absorbed, academic condecension.
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  #33  
Old 03-17-2009, 02:05 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Homyrrh View Post
I would be inclined to make the statement that King will be revered by many in so many years, if not simply for his quantity. Can anyone envision an American Canon with Stephen King included?
I could. More people could recognize the storylines from Cujo or Pet Semetary than they could for Blood Meridian or American Pastoral. Stephen King's stories have become more a part of American culture. I do agree that to call him the greatest living writer implies a sort of ignorance, but he has solidified a place for himself in American literature. Plus, the man knows more about writing than many critically acclaimed writers do. He's no moron or philistine, as most critics seem to think.

Hell, America could do a lot worse...we could still be remembered for the Twilight books, among other things.
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  #34  
Old 03-17-2009, 03:12 PM
It depends on what you mean by author. Do you mean novelist, or just author of published material?

For today, Thomas Pynchon has the title, I think. When you're making it "greatest" and not necessarily "best".

Only Pynchon has a collection of work over an extended period of time that has never wavered in it's stunning quality. I agree with Tayzlor that Pynchon had this title since before Updike's death, who was good also, though I've only read the first Rabbit novel.

As a writer of short fiction, Joyce Carol Oates has been sorely left out of his discussion. Her novels are hit and miss, but when they hit, they really wallop.

And that description really matches Stephen King, as well. A better writer of short fiction than he is a novelist, but his when his novels work, they are really great and too often underrated. I'm looking forward to Under the Dome, because it seems like a renaissance of 70s Stephen King.

And with Under the Dome, Pynchon's Inherent Vice coming out, Oates has a new novel coming as well, it'll be a good couple weeks this fall.

I'm always glad to add new fiction to my neverending reading list.
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  #35  
Old 03-17-2009, 03:32 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Homyrrh View Post
Engineering, actually. Kind of the same thing, right?
In retrospect I don't really know why I assumed that. I guess I just got that vibe.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Homyrrh View Post
I would be inclined to make the statement that King will be revered by many in so many years, if not simply for his quantity. Can anyone envision an American Canon with Stephen King included?
Certainly, it is too soon to say. The Canon of Literature is tricky. I'm merely stating that it wouldn't be unprecedented for a popular writer, not taken to be a serious artist in his own time, to enter into the Canon. The argument becomes stronger when one factors in the cultural effect of someone like Stephen King. Taken with the fact that, aesthetic wise, he's considered a talent, I'm inclined to think that he's almost already got a spot in the Canon. Who knows though.
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  #36  
Old 03-17-2009, 07:55 PM
On second thought, the "Canon" would include authors at least as much revered for their ubiquity and influence as those who are essentially "artists". Whereas Pynchon or McCarthy may very well be literature's greatest living gift to us, King may be our most influential and, well, rather important.
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  #37  
Old 03-17-2009, 09:46 PM
I have to go with Cormac McCarthy. His books are fantastic, imo.
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  #38  
Old 03-18-2009, 12:39 AM
How about Chuck Palniuk? He's a a prominent contemporary American author. I've only read two of his books, Choke and Rant. I quite liked Choke, I thought it was brilliantly constructed. The characters were sharp and funny and the plot had a great element of comedy and satire.

Rant on the other hand, seemed to be an interesting concept, however poorly executed. It was really difficult to invest any of myself into that novel. His most recent one, Snuff, I read the first 75 pages and got the same vibe. I do want to finish it, but I don't have a lot of time for pleasure reading.

I'm not necessarily making the argument that Palanuik is the greatest American author, however I do think he is an interesting writer. I hope he picks up some more of the intellect and humor of Choke. He should drop the ultra-shocking elements. Do something more down to earth and human.

PS: This thread may be the basis for my summer reading list.
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  #39  
Old 03-18-2009, 12:47 AM
Yeah, the subject asks simply for "author" not novelist, so I say it's easily Bob Dylan. Over 47 years, he has been the world's greatest poet and his best work far surpasses the magnum opus of any living American novelist. "Chronicles" is excellent as well.

Dismiss him as a science-fiction humorist all you want, but until 2007 Kurt Vonnegut not Updike, was the greatest living American novelist. Just as his greatest influence, Twain was the greatest American writer of the 19th century despite his many dismissals.

Living Novelist? McCarthy would certainly be near the top of the list, and would be even if he'd only written Blood Meridian and Suttree. Roth is often great, but also very inconsistent. I've only read DeLillo's White Noise and Falling Man, loved both but thought neither were the kind of masterpieces that would merit "best author alive" status and they're among his most praised. Salinger could deserve the title based on his limited, but essentially perfect output, but that feels too much like cheating.

Elmore Leonard and Richard Price, so far unmentioned, would be near the top of my list too. They've both written in several mediums and consistently published nothing but excellent work..

I think Howard Zinn is the best author of books alive today, but his work is historical and non-fiction, which I don't think is what the topic is looking for.

Ultimately, for the best living American novelist I have to go with Larry McMurtry, but no one touches Dylan as the best living author.

Last edited by QUENTIN; 03-27-2009 at 11:29 PM..
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  #40  
Old 03-18-2009, 10:36 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by QUENTIN View Post
Yeah, the subject acts simply for "author" not novelist, so I say it's easily Bob Dylan. Over 47 years, he has been the world's greatest poet and his best work far surpasses the magnum opus of any living American novelist. "Chronicles" is excellent as well.

Dismiss him as a non-fiction humorist all you want, but until 2007 Kurt Vonnegut was the greatest living American novelist. Just as his greatest influence, Twain was the greatest American writer of the 19th century despite his many dismissals.

Novelist? McCarthy would certainly be near the top of the list, and would be even if he'd only written Blood Meridian and Suttree. Roth is often great, but also very inconsistent. I've only read DeLillo's White Noise and Falling Man, loved both but thought neither were the kind of masterpieces that would merit "best author alive" status and they're among his most praised. Salinger could deserve the title based on his limited, but essentially perfect output, but that feels too much like cheating.
[B]
Elmore Leonard and Richard Price, so far unmentioned, would be near the top of my list too. They've both written in several mediums and consistently published nothing but excellent work.

I think Howard Zinn is the best writer of books alive today, but his work is historical and non-fiction, which I don't think is what the topic is looking for.

Ultimately, for the best living American novelist I have to go with Larry McMurtry, but no one touches Dylan as the best living author.
Damn you Quentin, just can't get away. Dylan, Vonnegut, McMurtry...of course you'd say that...
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