I know that I occasionally describe myself as a writer.
Well, we all know that’s bullshit. At my best and luckiest, I’m a story teller. I’m unpublished and unknown. You have to be one of those two things before you can be pretentious enough to earn the writer epithet.
But, one of the things that writers often do is talk about other writers. Basically masturbate over how smart their observations are and talk in needless absolutes.
I hope you brought a towel incase this gets messy.
THE GRAPES OF WRATH is the greatest American novel ever written. Possibly the greatest novel ever written. But, oddly enough, I can’t stand Steinbeck beyond that. I find him slow, aimless and needlessly wordy.
Hemmingway, on the other hand is the master of the short, terse sentence. Which probably explains why I love his short stories so much. His books are fine, but he really feels at the top of his game when he’s staying under ten thousand words.
I love science fiction, but I can’t penetrate the last great spasm of science fiction that came before the 80s. I appreciate Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury and the rest of that generation, but I find their prose as dry as a mouth full of dead leaves. I don’t know if the vernacular has changed so much between now and then, but their writing leaves me flat. Note, I didn’t include Philip K Dick in that, because honestly the man was more of a drug and philosophy writer than a scifi writer.
I view scifi writing post-William Gibson’s NEUROMANCER as the next spasm moving the genre forward. Gibson himself is a brilliant conceptualist, but not a great character man. He’s responsible for the main-streaming of the asterisk-punk stuff, which you can either laud or damn him for.
Gene Wolfe also started his major publishing period around this time. Wolfe is problematic for me. He is a brilliant writer, and one who transcends classification. (His writing is part of the reason that the term “speculative fiction” supplanted scifi or fantasy.) But, he reminds me of Dickens. And I hate Dickens with a fiery passion. Wolfe relies a lot on small characters moving the story along a very long and winding path, in the same way Dickens did.
Neal Stephenson is also a hell of a lot of fun to read. Nothing too deep or literary about his stuff, just good abstract genre fiction. SNOW CRASH so much fun.
Douglas Adams is also fun, but in a comedic way. He was one of the first writers whose death actually saddened me.
THE NEVERENDING STORY is my favorite book. For a while there I was tempted to learn German, just so I could read Michael Ende’s original text.
HP Lovecraft was a horrible human being, but his short stories were light years ahead of their time. I think his ideas of what really frightens a human have had more influence on me than anything I’ve read in the last decade.
I may get stoned by the nerds for this, but I find Tolkien’s writing great for a history text book, but shitty for a novel. No, I don’t want to read another five pages about how lovely the Shire is, or how the Dwarves like their beer or whatever the fuck else. And, for the love of Christ, are all those songs really necessary? You know people can’t hear a damn thing through text, right?
Oddly enough, I’ve read all of Jane Austen’s novels. Me. Reading about prissy English people in the 1800s. And what’s even weirder? I enjoyed it. I’d love to read the censored bits where she leaves in the fact that people were having “relations”.
There’s more, but I think that’s enough self flagellation for one morning, yes?