Tuesday, December 11, 2007

writers to learn from

this morning i responded to an e-mail from a promising student who would like to be a writer. he asked me to recommend some writers--contemporary realists--whom i would recommend to help him in becoming a better writer. i composed a list of 14 or 15 writers i admire + sent off the reply quickly, but not thoughtlessly.

now let me try the list again, putting a bit more thought into it. many of the writers are the same, but this time i want to name what exactly i would want to learn from them. i have not, however, limited myself to realists or contemporaries this time.

thomas berger--for his dry, matter-of-fact sense of the absurdly obvious

joan didion--for her sentences, sleek and highly evolved as sharks

nicholson baker--for his absorption into sensuous details

george saunders--for combining satire + perfect pitch in diction

don delillo--for turning the masses into a dynamic character + paranoid hysteria into narrative

frank o'hara--for the liveliness of his breathless conjunctions

vladmir nabokov--for his obvious delight in words

manuel puig--for combining hollywood myth + marxist politics

virginia woolf--for expressing amusement + weariness in the same phrase

flannery o'connor--for her fascination with extremes

john milton--for creating intellectual metaphors that have weight + pulse

marcel proust--for understanding human consciousness + feeling + conveying this knowledge through events + gestures

james ellroy--for transubstantiating harsh reality into noir poetry

harold pinter--for his ellipses

armistead maupin--for his winsome narrator

guy davenport--for the chiseled, angular elegance of his pedophilia

j.r. ackerley--for creating the first fully-rounded animal character without relying on anthropomorphism

william s. burroughs--for mixing horror + comedy + eroticism

d.h. lawrence--for writing the first pornography to succeed in exciting me

sinclair lewis--for saying what nobody wanted (or wants) to hear in such an appealing way that, at times, it is heard

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