Friday, 19 March 2010

Top 10 writers

As always, this is a personal selection determined by what I've read and is by no means definite. I was grappling and thinking with whether to choose Joyce or Camus as No. 1o, but in the end I went for Camus... Joyce would have beaten Camus in this list if he hadn't written Ulysses or Finnegans Wake.

Albert Camus

Existential ciphers discover that the absurd is the essential concept and first truth in his novels... In his novels, nihilism permeates and there are often doomed ends for his characters. Often written written with beautiful simplicity and clarity, his writing poses thought-provoking philosophical questions. In his time he was more famed for his intellect, but is now famed for his image.

Notable works: The Outsider, The Plague, The Fall, The Myth of Sisyphus.

Paul Auster

Auster fuses the metric pace of crime thrillers with metaphysical subjects, making this certain genre of fiction - which usually appeals to smaller intellectual audiences - easily accessible and more exciting for the standard literary punter.

His characters are seekers who find themselves under new situations which are coincidences: chance events. They adjust to it in a quest to find answers about themselves: an identity.

Notable works: The New York Trilogy, The Invention of Solitude, Moon Palace.

J. G. Ballard

A prescient writer who argued that with the introduction of television and other media, we live in a world of fiction. His fiction explores a dark side to the human condition, where violence and terrorism erupts from the serene comfort of suburbia. He often wrote in a scientific and analytical register about emotive themes like sex, and he often approached logical mechanisms in a highly illogical way.

Notable works: The Drowned World, The Atrocity Exhibition, Vermilion Sands, Crash, Empire of the Sun.

Thomas Pynchon

Pynchon draws on a wide range of themes and approaches such as physics, mathematics and pornography and puts them together in this literary brew of pyrotechnics. Sometimes a strain to read and other times approachable, Pynchon certainly is fun even when you don't understand him. His novels appear out of the blue, and they are so allusive and packed with so much in them that they can be studied for a lifetime. A post-modernist who conjures up savage, delirious images.

Notable works: V., The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity's Rainbow.


Juan Rulfo

Capturing the poverty and wretchedness of rural Mexico, Rulfo produced a small but highly powerful body of work. He redefined the possibilities of the Latin-American novel, and he created concepts and ideas later defined as magic realism. His work portrays the remnants of a previous age foreshadowed by the present.

Notable works: The Burning Plain, Pedro Páramo.


Franz Kafka

The oppression of mysterious forces stifles these confused and somewhat bureaucratic individuals. Great levels of tension and pathos are shrouded with aura of the mundane. Kafka himself was tormented and troubled himself, often struggling to balance his life as a writer with his work.

Notable works: The Trial, Metamorphosis, The Castle.


Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Exploring existential themes and issues way ahead of their time, Dostoyevksy's novels are an unbelievably enthralling, exciting and inducing read. He penned the groundings of the modern novel and was the most remarkable Russian novelist and author of the 19th century. His work is full of passion, pathos, intellect, suspense...

Notable works: Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, Notes From the Underground, The Idiot, Demons.

Julio Cortázar

A master of the short story form, Cortázar also produced a few innovative experimental novels that originally defined the possibilities of the form. He sets his writing in realistic situations but then adds fantastical elements which surprise and unsettle the reader. In his stories, characters find themselves subjected to the most unexpected, fantastical situations and accept them as if they were normal, everyday occurrences. All this is written with a mixture of humour, absurdity and the laconic.

Notable works: Bestiary, End of the Game, Hopscotch.


William Faulkner

Using elliptical time, Faulkner's novels fracture the narrative and propose a different way of approaching structure. A moral writer, he denounces and cries out against stupidity, cruelty and prejudice. Faulkner writes from many angles at once, and this results in a remarkably complex ,challenging and rewarding read.

Notable works: The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Absalom, Absalom!, Light in August, The Wild Palms, .

Jorge Luis Borges

Drawing on his vast pool of literary knowledge, Borges produced short stories of a great strangeness and intricacy. Worlds within worlds, books withing books, labyrinths within labyrinths - Borges encompassed everything ever written within a few pages.

Notable works: Fictions, The Aleph, Universal History of Infamy.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. Coincidentally, yesterday I typed my own highest-rated author's names (Flaubert, Joyce, Kafka, Tanizaki, Celine, Nabokov, Beckett) into Google together, just to see what would happen (theorizing they'd never be all on the same list), and I found your intriguing blog this way, because all those authors were on your bookshelf when you wrote about it some months ago. I include Joyce by the way because he DID write Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.

Doug said...

SK, why the dismissal of Ulysses and FW?

I'll get around to reading your latest in a little over a week.



其實 said...
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Simon King said...

I. A.: You certainly have an excellent selection of writers and it is almost compatible with my tastes. I'm not entirely dismissive of Ulysses and FW, and I may even attempt to read them in the near future, but for now I think of them negatively. Also, if I were to praise Joyce I should praise him by what I know about him, and 'Dubliners' and 'Portrait' are two of the best books I've ever read... I look at the two other books dismissive because, on the surface, they seem like mere intellectual game-play.

Doug: Are my stories readable on your computer? Tell me if they are... I'll send you a copy of my book, which will contains the proper versions of the stories, when it's ready regardless.

Anonymous said...

Those two books have much depth, it's not just intellectual game-play. I found both of them to be extremely 'immersive', all-encompassing experiences, personally...

Some people find the "annotated student's edition" of Ulysses helpful, or one of the published guides to Finnegans Wake, or a university degree in English. I can see why many readers would resent that! But it doesn't annoy me that such complex works exist. Books like that are few in number anyway.

I always thought a good way to prepare for FW is to read Lewis Carroll's poem Jabberwocky (in Through the looking glass), then read Humpty Dumpty's explanation (later in the same book), then ask yourself if you could stand 600 pages of jabberwock.

Doug said...

SK, your new stories are only just readable. Its painful going with those internet grammar fuck up things. I'd appreciate a hard copy when you get one together.

As an aside, did you type them up directly online? If so, I'd recommend against that. If you type them up in a word processor you will have a digital copy that is readable from which you can work.

If you did type them up in a word processor then you can always email me the document.

Black Dagger said...
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Black Dagger said...

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