ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT
A.) The ACHIEVEMENT.
The author’s works: How do they hold up?
Influence on literature AND on American culture.
Like it or not, the writer is a public figure. Writers are the face of the art.
D.) EXCITEMENT QUOTIENT.
Is energy generated among readers and society by the author and/or the work?
How authentic is the writer and the writing? How representative of some important aspect of American life, ideas, or people? Is the work an expression of American language, sound, voice?
Polished technical exercises aren’t enough. Does the writing have emotion? Heart? We’re not selecting A.I. robots.
THE ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT
We fill in the other two #1 spots in our Tournament brackets with two other legendary names from the past.
C.) Herman Melville. What does one do with Moby Dick? One of the other top competitors, Toni Morrison, explained once in a long essay the novel’s symbolism and significance. Talk about writing about America! The Pequod with its hierarchy, mad captain, and multi-cultural crew remains a striking metaphor about the country and concept “America.” What do they chase? That which Melville, writing ten years before the Civil War, saw as America’s founding flaw– the “white whale.” An allusion to slavery at minimum. I doubt if any novel ever written by anyone anywhere has been more ambitious– ambitious in terms of discussing the world, nature, society– and ambitious in looking inward toward man’s sins and soul. It’s also a great yarn. Lest we think this was all Melville wrote, he began as a popular novelist, wrote some classic short stories, including one, “Bartleby,” which in our cubicle work world is more relevant today than ever. Herman finished his career with a great novella, “Billy Budd,” just to show he still had it. But Moby Dick. A novel which can stand with any novel written by the world’s best, even the Russians.
D.) Mark Twain. We happily bow to the voice of the crowd on this selection. As a persona he’s up there with anyone. He has his undeniable masterpiece, other classic works, fantastic essays and a few good stories. If we’re talking about which writers defined the culture and the American voice, then figures like Twain have an undeniable edge. We also can’t deny there was a time when American lit was much bigger in cultural importance than it is now. But be aware– there are many brackets to fill. A wide variety of voices will be announced.
(We will be staging a press conference at which all four #1 seeded writers will be present. At least, we have commitments from them. Could be exciting.)