First Two #1 Seeds

ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT

Here are our first two #1 seeds:

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A.) Ernest Hemingway. Possibly the biggest writer persona ever. In his day he was a bigger figure than movie stars and pop singers. Instantly recognizable. Larger than life. A giant part of the culture. He destroyed the effete image of literature. He had popular best-sellers but was also a critical darling. He defined, at least for a while, the American voice– and transformed the English language. Even the Brits weren’t the same after Hemingway. In America, the hard-boiled detective genre sprang from a single Hemingway short story. (“The Killers.”) Hemingway began as an underground writer, the artistic creation of Sherwood Anderson, Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound. He took from his mentors, synthesized their ideas and made them accessible to the world. It’s impossible for us today to understand how revolutionary was the early Hemingway sound. Though some of his work today sounds dated, his best stuff holds up– his “Macomber” story one of the most exciting tales ever written; his top novels, “Sun” and “Farewell to Arms” striking reads also.

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whitman middle-aged
2.) Walt Whitman. More than any other single writer, Walt Whitman created the American voice and justified a distinctive American literature very different from its Old World models. Beyond that, he transformed the art of poetry on a world scale. Many consider him the father of free verse. Not just his art, but his persona was distinctively American. “Leaves of Grass” was every bit as revolutionary an artistic happening as anything Hemingway wrote. Or, for that matter, Allen Ginsberg and the Beats, who would’ve been impossible without Whitman blazing the trail before them. Whitman was the first hippie. He lived during a time when poetry was popular, and he was the most popular poet. The American character is a mix of several influences. Whitman is surely one of them.
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 THE NEXT two #1 seeds will be announced in a few days. There will be 16 brackets of four writers each. Remember that we’re allowing ourselves one week to change our mind about our announced choices for the tournament, depending on feedback, disappointment or outrage. . . .
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4 thoughts on “First Two #1 Seeds

  1. These both sound like right choices for “top” seeds. Hemingway created the first literary voice that spoke the clear, concrete language of American Midwesterners. And before Whitman, much American poetry kept fairly in line with European/ British models.

    If I were to recommend another American writer for this best of list, it would be Emily Dickinson. Her poetry is beautifully condensed, spare but evocative, sensual but restrained.

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  2. Don’t worry, Norbert. Not only will Emily D be seeded fairly high in our brackets, according to our best estimation, but we’ve also booked her on a trial basis as expert commentator at the Tournament! (It was between her and Norman Mailer, who we find to be a bit too verbose– plus has a wacked-out “antifa” protest group angry with him tagging along everywhere he steps. Mailer is so persistent though we might give him a trial anyway. . . .)

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  3. In fact Hemingway’s star is falling out of the sky. His “toughness” now comes across as sentimentality. I’m sure he’s still being taught, but his reputation is not what it was.

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