Three Five Living Authors
When I was in university, as an ice-breaker, my professor decided to have us make a list of our five favorite authors. Obviously, this was a small class, and under any other circumstances, a ‘favorite author’ list can tell a lot about a person. However, he decided to append one more detail—they all had to be living. To this, many of us groaned. We were English majors—no more explanation needed. On top of that, our professor was sly. In a roundabout way, he was able to point out that we all needed to read more contemporary authors. Nonetheless, I made my list. Keep in mind, this was back in 2002.
1) Kurt Vonnegut
2) J. D. Salinger
3) Michael Crichton
4) Ray Bradbury
5) Chuck Palanuik
We were lucky. Many amazing authors were still alive, if not producing. As far as my last one, I struggled. As much as I like Chuck’s stuff, I don’t know if I’d rank him high on any of my favorite lists. But this brings me to my current list because if you look at my old one, hopeful you secret, sharp-knowing readers out there have noticed what has happened. If not, below should help.
1) Kurt Vonnegut (died April 11, 2007)
2) J. D. Salinger (died January 27, 2010)
3) Michael Crichton (died November 4, 2008)
4) Ray Bradbury (died June 5, 2012)
5) Chuck Palanuik (Alive and well…as far as I know.)
For this reason, I have decided to revamp my list and see who could fill these sadly vacant spots. Here goes:
5) Jonathon Safran Foer
He exploded in 2001 with “Everything is Illuminated,” following on the thick, detailed style that was very popular and still is for certain authors. In essence, his writing was fun and creative, though, sometimes a bit too gimicky. However, after two novels, he quickly disappeared, popping up again only to write a lackluster non-fiction, anti-meat edict. It was rumored that his next foray into literature was to come out in 2014. We are still waiting, but it is understandable. In the interim, he has had two kids and a divorce. Life gets in the way.
4) Malcolm Gladwell
His work is not really ‘fiction’ but in no way was this one of the restrictions. What I love most about him is that his writing reads not only like a story, but since his first book “The Tipping Point,” his writing style has improved immensely. His latest book “David and Goliath” wasn’t as original as his first three, but it did have that quintessential ‘Gladwell’ POV that makes his books fast and thrilling reads.
3) Neil Gaiman
I’ve been a fan of Gaimen since my teenage years, devouring his Sandman series with all the teenage angst I could muster. Afterwards, I wasn’t sure how I felt with his attempts in fiction, but eventually came around. I had enjoyed his short story collections, but found “Neverwhere” missing the special design his other works imbued. Truly, he is a hit-or-miss author, but I still love his imagination. “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” was brilliant.
2) Audrey Niffenegger
She would be in the number one spot except for the fact that she has so far produced very little. But what she has produced has been amazing. One aspect of her skill is taking very ‘sci-fi’ stories and making them truly ‘literary.’ “Time-traveler’s Wife” was an amazing debut, and her follow-up, “Her Fearful Symmetry” was just as stunning. The latter’s only fault being the side-plot didn’t quite resonate as well as I’d hope, but the main conflict blew me away.
1) Haruki Murakami
Murakami is easily number one. He has earned it through years of great works that have only recently dropped to standard and sometimes below. I devoured his early ones, like “Dance, Dance, Dance,” “Norwegian Wood,” and so on, but felt he really shined in “After Dark,” mainly because it was one of his few steps into third person narratives. However, for me, I’d have to say he began to fall flat starting with “Kafka on the Shore,” despite it being the novel that garnered him the most international attention. If he doesn’t produce another gem soon…I may have to replace him with Ms. Niffenegger.
Somehow, I feel I’m missing someone—one of those authors that upon the announcement of an upcoming, new book fills me with anticipation. If I have, please tell me who.