Most Charismatic #7: J. D. Salinger

 

ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT

time jd salinger 2

IT’S A TRIBUTE to the charisma of J. D. Salinger that he became an iconic literary figure despite ceasing to publish while vanishing from view for several decades. The disappearance fit with the personality revealed in his works. His mystery enhanced his reputation. And really, everything about Catcher in the Rye and the stories and books about the Glass family could’ve been designed to create the impression of a compelling personality standing above and behind the work. No writer– especially in Catcher– has been so dependent on, or benefited more from, the uniqueness of voice.

J. D. Salinger is Most Charismatic American Writer #7.

NEXT:  Most Charismatic #6.
*******

Advertisements

Most Charismatic #8: Susan Sontag

ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT

-Barra-sontag

PERHAPS no writer represented the ethos and essence of the 1960’s as well as Susan Sontag. Though her novels were duds, her essays captured the “Question Everything” zeitgeist of the moment. Photogenic Sontag herself fit the image of hip New Yorker. (This included the pioneering white stripe-in black hair fashion motif adopted by her when she hit middle age, currently used by Democratic Party candidate Tulsi Gabbard.)

220px-Against_Interpretation_(Sontag_book)

Sontag’s most famous book of essays was Against Interpretation (1966). The most famous essay in it: “Notes on Camp,” which didn’t revolutionize changes in American style so much as document them.

Throughout her life Sontag was a provocateur, often making deliberately outrageous statements simply to take a contrarian viewpoint– to look at the other side of things (very 3-D)– and as a method of performance. (As she did after the 9-11 attacks.) More surprising than what she said is that anyone took her statements seriously.

Above all, Susan Sontag had style. Which is why she’s NPL‘s Most Charismatic American Writer #8.

sontagfortwitter

NEXT: Most Charismatic #7.
*******

 

Also Rans #3: Charles Bukowski

ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT

bukowski2

Charles Bukowski has inspired more bad writing than anyone on the planet, ever.

He could be called the most ANTI-charismatic American writer of all time. His appeal is the sheer ugliness of his person, poems, and prose. Call it gutter realism.

Bukowski appeals to many of us at times in our lives when we feel the sudden attraction of life’s underside. (Or when we accidentally end up on that underside.) Especially if that attraction is strengthened by whiskey or wine. Then the prose magically shines. We “get” it. To our numbed minds, Bukowski’s writing becomes the most glamorous art we’ve ever experienced.

barfly

Back on our feet, however, alcoholic filters removed, the poetry and prose become once again crude and ordinary. We perceive that Charles Bukowski is hardly a fit model for anybody. Particularly an ambitious writer.

GIVEN that, enough of a mythos has developed around this quintessentially American literary character that he almost made the M.C.A.W. list– despite his writing.

NEXT: Most Charismatic American Writer #8.
*******

Most Charismatic #9: Truman Capote

ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT

TrumanCapote

The 1950’s and 60’s saw the rise of the Television Author. That person called upon to be the Voice of Literature for the video-numbed masses on talk shows hosted by David Susskind, Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett and the like. Of course, the writer was supposed to behave like a celebrity– a character– and Truman Capote was very good at it. Here he is on the Tonight Show:

As you can see by the flaunting of Esquire Magazine, this was a time when literature and writers mattered.

Others such as Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal also embraced the spotlight, but Truman Capote edges them out in our assessment by being a more distinctive character, with a memorable persona and voice (immortalized in two recent movies, one starring Philip Seymour Hoffman). He was, if you will, a stronger, more recognizable brand. With his innovative non-fiction “novel,” In Cold Blood, Capote created a bigger, more noteworthy work. (Which Mailer tried to match, and failed to.)

Truman Capote then takes the #9 spot as a Charismatic American Writer.

NEXT: Also-Rans #3.
*******

Most Charismatic #10: Maya Angelou

ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT

Angelou_at_Clinton_inauguration

Poets have long played the role of official or unofficial voice of the psyche of the American nation– calmer or critic, healer or scold– from Walt Whitman up to T.S. Eliot, Carl Sandberg, Robert Frost, maybe even Allen Ginsberg. In recent times that role was filled by Maya Angelou, exemplified by the reading of her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” at the 1993 Inauguration of William Jefferson Clinton as U.S. President.

Long a public figure, unafraid of controversy, Angelou carried a powerful presence matched with a compelling voice. In an era of unexciting literary figures, Maya Angelou stood out– why she’s been chosen as #10 on the Most Charismatic American Writers list.

mayaand malcolm

NEXT: Most Charismatic Writer #9.
*******

Most Charismatic #11: Ayn Rand

ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT

ayn-rand 2

Ayn Rand? How did Ayn Rand make the Most Charismatic list?

First, her novels spark with energy and charisma, with larger-than-life characters and dramatic happenings.

Ms. Rand herself– a rather short and squat Russian emigre with a thick accent– could never live up to creations like Dominque Francon and Dagny Taggart. Though she tried.

Her ideas and persona, however, were so strong a cult of acolytes grew up around her. Ayn Rand created her own intellectual scene, herself at the center of it, complete with cigarette holder, cape, and piercing eyes.

ayn rand 3

Not enough for the top-ten all-time Most Charismatic American Writers— but enough to be listed right outside, at #11.

NEXT: Most Charismatic Writer #10!
*******

Also Rans #2: Edgar Allan Poe

ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT

Edgar Allan Poe almost made the Most Charismatic list for two reasons.

1.)  His fiction remains powerful, recognizable, unique. A few of his poems (“El Dorado”; “The Raven”) are standards.

2.)  His image has become iconic.

Edgar_Allan_Poe_portrait

Almost made the list, but didn’t.

NEXT: Most Charismatic American Writer #11
*******