ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT
(Pictured: Jane Smiley.)
From New Pop Lit‘s Editor-in-Chief.
Eudora Welty. Big rep. Something of a folk writer. Corny dialect. I could never finish reading “Why I Live at the P.O.”
William Kennedy. There was a brief William Kennedy vogue fifteen (or 25?) years ago. Remember it? It was not enough for him to make the Tournament.
Booth Tarkington. Booth’s stock hasn’t just declined in the past 80 years. It’s fallen off a cliff.
Jane Smiley. Jane Smiley is one of those faux-populist “literary” writers who write about farms or colleges and imagine they’re far more witty or profound than they are in reality. (For witty satire of a college, see Kingsley Amis.) If there is such thing as middlebrow, Jane Smiley is middlebrow. Plus, Jane Smiley has an irritating name. Out!
Bernard Malamud. Malamud has a fairly big name in literary circles, and did write one highly readable, close-to-great novel, The Natural. This is balanced by this editor having been assigned Bernard Malamud’s The Fixer once in an English course. The two books are examples that occasionally a novelist is best off writing about his own time and milieu– what he knows. Next!
Paul Harding. Sounds like an old-time NFL football player. Ever hear of Pulitzer Prize Fiction-winner Paul Harding? Neither have we.
Wallace Stevens. Insurance guy who wrote poems. A good poet with an esteemed reputation among insider poetry circles, but with no real following among the general public. (Are there Wallace Stevens Poetry Festivals somewhere?) With only 12-16 slots for poets to fill, “good” isn’t good enough. We may as well start culling the herd now.
But what do you think?
(Second photo: Jane Smiley speaking.)