Friday, May 24, 2013

Why Are There No Great Writers Anymore?

The first two-thirds of the 20th century produced a corps of great writers who defined their generation (Hemingway, Fitzgerald), exposed the social ills of America (Lewis, Steinbeck), broke new stylistic ground (Mailer, Capote, Heller, Pynchon, Wolfe) or produced a corpus of work that influenced the intelligentsia (Roth).


When there was Life,
there was greatness.
Since then, not so much. A few years ago, a couple of friends and I tried and failed to think of a Baby Boomer writer who might fit in the august company of great writers and could think of none. It's not just enough to be a good writer, but one who makes a noticeable impact on society or the art. The closest I could come was to name Tim O'Brien (Going After Cacciato, The Things They Carried) but even he doesn't carry the weight of a Hemingway or Wolfe.

Nor can I think of a GenXer or Millenial who would make the grade.

Perhaps it's television, the death of The Saturday Evening Post, the atomization of the media markets in general. Perhaps it's the short attention spans of our modern species. It's rather sad: can you even imagine there being an Algonquin Round Table these days?

Maybe you disagree. Make your case.

2 comments:

Roland said...

Times, technologies and tastes change. Sculptors were once superstars. Now internet application writers rule. Did you know that some authors rely on apps called Freedom and Self Control to block their access to the internet just so they can get their writing done?

Hemingway overcame a death wish and alcoholism to write. But could he have beaten the internet?

Steven J. Wangsness said...

Good points all, Roland.