Saturday, October 15, 2016

Who Is America's Greatest Living Novelist?

...Bobby D on the train from Dublin up to Sandy Row (no, really)...
How many times have I blogged "Meet Me in the Morning 56th and Wabasha" and then given the actual time and date of my book reading? About 23 it seems from some quick research. I don't know if I ever actually revealed that that of course is a line from one of my favourite songs from the best Bob Dylan album Blood On The Tracks (just pipping Blonde on Blonde). Bob Dylan's win of the Nobel Prize in literature has set off a torrent of anguish amongst America's literary elite. A torrent of anguish I am not going to get on board with. I like Bobby D and have seen him croaking away in concert 3 times. Besides they've given the Nobel Lit Prize to Winston Churchill as a thank you for saving Europe in WW2, to Bertrand Russell for living a long time and saying nice things about Sweden, to Karl Gjellerup for being Danish and to Svetlana Alexievich for interviewing people and writing down accurately what they said. The Nobel Prize in literature isn't quite as political a prize as the Nobel Peace Prize but it's not far off. It isn't exactly worthless but it shouldn't really be taken that seriously...I think the whole thing with Dylan was probably a set up so they can establish a precedent and give it to ABBA next year. 

Still if you were going to give a prize to America's greatest living novelist who would you give it to? Last year and this year the bookies took a lot of money on Philip Roth, this year Don DeLillo came in for consideration. I like those guys but out of the big four dinosaurs: Roth, DeLillo, McCarthy and Pynchon its the latter two whom I like a little better. This, of course, is just a personal preference and I'm not going to waste your time arguing that Thomas Pynchon or Cormac McCarthy are better than Roth and DeLillo. Marilynne Robinson also gets mentioned a lot for the Nobel Prize as does Joyce Carol Oates. I'm down with Ms Robinson but not so much with Joyce. As you all know I worship at the feet of Donna Tartt and I think if you were looking for an outside the box choice instead of going to Bob Dylan what about the great Ursula K Le Guin? My better half is a champion of Sandra Cisneros and Junot Diaz so we could throw them in the mix. Alice Walker gets spoken about a lot as the greatest living African American novelist (you do know Toni Morrison is still alive don't you?) but I am not a fan of her work. I like the fact that she's a crackpot but her novels...meh. Maybe the youth vote? There is the wonderful Danielle Evans - she's only 26. In general people who dont teach writing in a university are always more interesting than people who do and working class writers are generally better and more interesting than upper middle class writers. They have real jobs and real experiences. Wanky white bread posh people have on the whole nothing to say and they say it so damn tediously. My favourite 3 working class novelists who are still alive are Dan Woodrell, James Ellroy and Don Winslow. A few years ago I would have had Harvey Pekar on the list and Charles Bukowski and maybe James Fogle but they are no longer with us. Anyway enough blather here's my top 15 in really no strong particular order: 

1. Thomas Pynchon
2. Cormac McCarthy
3. Toni Morrison
4. James Ellroy
5. Marilynne Robinson 
6. Philip Roth
7. Donna Tartt
8. Jonathan Lethem
9. Don Winslow
10. Dan Woodrell
11. Don DeLillo
12. Amy Tan
13. Michael Chabon
14. Sandra Cisneros
15. Jonathan Franzen