If you follow this blog much, you know I like posting Top Ten lists occasionally. Today we have one regarding writers who have been given their due, but not enough. I am not digging into the realm of the complete unknown. All of these writers are quite famous. I simply feel that they should be more famous.
But let’s be honest, while there are many writers we honor as masters of the craft, there are a few we note as the greatest. I’m talking about the universally agreed top tier of writers like Hemingway, Tolstoy, and Shakespeare, just to name a few. There is room for more on that list. And so from the group noted as the very good there are some who I feel should be mentioned amongst the very great. All of this of course is merely my opinion.
10 Sherwood Anderson – Anderson did it all. He wrote short stories, novels, autobiographies, poetry, and essays. How can we dismiss a man who influences Faulkner, Steinbeck, and Hemingway? Anderson even helped Faulkner and Hemingway get published, which is great for many reasons.
9 Giuseppe di Lampedusa – Lampedusa may not ever be fully celebrated for two reasons: he was very introverted and isolated, and his best work was published after his death. Still, this one work, the novel The Leopard, is the best Sicilian novel ever written.
8 Wallace Stegner – Stegner won the Pulitzer, the National Book Club award, and was called “the dean of Western writers.” And yet it seems he has taken a backseat to Ken Kesey as far as the best post WWII American writer. Kesey and Stegner can share the stage.
7 Marie-Henri Stendhal – Name the best French authors. You will mention Hugo and Dumas, probably Proust and de Maurier. But don’t forget Stendhal, whose The Red And The Black is not only one of the best French novels ever written, but one of the best in world literature, and one of my favorites.
6 A.A. Milne – The author of Winnie The Pooh and The House on Pooh Corner is sadly relegated to a great author of children’s literature, when in truth is a great author. The Pooh stories are great reading for any age, and I still love them.
5 Elmore Leonard – I am afraid that Leonard is better known for the movies that are based upon his books than his actual books. Simply put, Leonard is one of the greatest story tellers who has ever lived. His plots and thick and his characters are thorough and interesting.
4 Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Marquez may have been on of those writers who was born too late. I can see him sitting at the Cafe Montmartre or in Gertrude Stein’s salon discussing literature with Hemingway and Fitzgerald. He’s that good.
3 Ivan Turgenev – What can say of one of Hemingway’s favorite writers? He liked Turgenev so much that Hemingway named one of his short stories after Turgenev’s best novel, Fathers And Sons. Like Stendhal gets lost in the French shuffle, so too does Turgenev amongst the great Russian authors, whose numbers are tremendous.
2 Cormac McCarthy – I’m a sucker for good Minimalism. McCarthy’s writing is stripped down to the bare bones, and yet is still expressive and interesting. His use of dialogue may be the most unique I have ever come across.
1 Friedrich Schiller – Johann von Goethe is the largest name to come out of German neo-Classical writing and the Wiemar School of literature, but his great friend Schiller should be as well noted, if not more so. His poetry is as a good as Longfellow and Tennyson, while his plays rival Shakespeare and Beaumarchais. Three of the greatest Italian operas are based upon his plays (Don Carlos and Luisa Miller by Verdi and William Tell by Rossini) and his poem “Ode To Joy” was used by Beethoven in his celebrated Choral Symphony. In addition to his poetry and plays, Schiller’s philosophical essays are extraordinary. His “Twenty-Seven Letters On The Aesthetical Education Of Man” should be read by every writer who takes his writing seriously as fine art.
This list is like I said nothing more than my opinion. Your opinion may differ. Think about how your top ten might be different. Who on my list would you leave out? Who might you include? Make your own list. Include it in my Comment section. Or post it on your blog. Or if you prefer just keep it to yourself. There are no wrong answers, unless you include Dan Brown.