Writers are often concerned with posterity. Would their work outlive them? I personally don’t give a damn about my work post my death– I don’t think any of it’ll be any good, and even if it is, I believe nothing lasts– so a few stories or books lost is neither here nor there.
But as a reader, I wonder what books from our century would folks be reading in the next?
This article in the Smithsonian gave me pause.
In 1936, a quarterly magazine for book collectors called The Colophon polled its readers to pick the ten authors whose works would be considered classics in the year 2000. Sinclair Lewis, author of the 1935 hit It Can’t Happen Here, was a natural choice for the top spot.
Just five years earlier Sinclair had been the first American to win the Nobel Prize for literature. But some of the authors are likely forgotten names to even the most ardent reader here in the year 2012:
- Sinclair Lewis
- Willa Cather
- Eugene O’Neill
- Edna St. Vincent Millay
- Robert Frost
- Theodore Dreiser
- James Truslow Adams
- George Santayana
- Stephen Vincent Benet
- James Branch Cabell
The editors at the magazine supplemented the published list with their own ideas of who might still be read in the year 2000. Their list included authors like Thomas Wolfe, H.L. Mencken, Ernest Hemingway and Hervey Allen.
If I had to bet on some authors who would be respected and known in the next century, I would list, in no particular order: Alice Munro, J K Rowling, Ernest Hemingway, Haruki Murakami, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, John Green, Maragaret Atwood, Hilary Mantel, Cormac McCarthy, Ian McEwan.
This is a biased list, as any list is bound to be. I’ve picked (some of the) authors whose work I’ve enjoyed the most– and who I believe have enough human resonance in some of their work to outlast the huge technological changes that would take place in the coming decades.
How many of the authors from the 1936 list do you recognise? Given that ebooks last ‘forever’, do you think this improves the chances of some of the current batch of authors? If you had to vote, which are the five (or ten) authors from the last century and this one who you would put your money on? Why? Do you agree with any of the authors in my list?
Dare I suggest Stephen King?
I not only recognize all the names on the first list, but I’ve read half of them–Lewis, Frost, Dreiser, O’Neill, Cather–which is not to say that I like most of those whom I’ve read. Dreiser was pretty good as was Cather.
As far as a future list goes, I’d have to include Tolkien (still popular after 80+ years), possibly Lovecraft, hopefully Gaiman and Rowling, I’d like to say Tim O’Brien (but doubt it). Richard Wright and Toni Morrison are definitely on the list. I would hope Charlotte Perkins Gilman could make it.
Wow, this is fascinating. I know two of the first list off the top of my head. The others I would have to look up. Wolfe and Hemingway I also know, so those are good adds.
I think you’re spot on with JK Rowling, John Green, and Maragaret Atwood. I’d also add Veronica Roth, Stephen King, and JD Salinger. I also deeply believe that an author with some really diverse characters is going to come out of the pack soon and blow all of our minds. I don’t know who, but for that writer, I’m saving a spot on my list. And, maybe wishful thinking, but I’m also going to throw my own name in to the ring. Eye on the prize, right?
Very thought-provoking post! I would add Agatha Christie and Clive Cussler to your list. Christie has lasted until now, no reason why she would disappear and Cussler’s adventures would keep entertaining new generations.
Nice post, yes I always think of Franz Kafka, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Oscar Wilde…writing and thoughts of these great writers are simply magical…
Wonderful. I guess I would add Alexander McCall Smith, Agatha Christie, Sherman Alexie, Janet Evanovich, Eoin Colfer, Neil Gaiman, Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett
I did want to add quite a few of those names. As some commenters have pointed out, it is quite impossible to limit the list to 10.
If Tolstoy is still is still read today (despite all world wars, technological breakthroughs the world went through), why not today’s authors can survive in the next century?
Sigmund Freud said two centuries ago that psychology of human being won’t alter much despite the change the evolution brings to human beings. His works are still the Bible for the study of psycho-analysis.
Given that background, I can assume that next century’s fiction writers may not discover any thing which Tagore or Tolstoy overlooked. Though the style, settings may change.
Great blog topic! And thanks for dropping by my poem too. I only recognised old Frosty from the first list. In regards to who I would put my money on in the second one, it would be JKR, because her stuff is so marketable, Hemingway because he copyrighted that particular style, and McCarthy for a similar reason. I also think that there are more polymathic writers emerging, so by the time that we are looking back at this era, that it will be a question of who was the most creative across multiple platforms. I think that’ll be the norm in the next century, if not long before as well. Thanks for the blog 🙂
P.s. Great to hear someone saying that they don’t really care about their own creative posterity, it’s a daft carrot on a made up stick. And McCarthy is the main one I agree with since I love ‘Child of God’, both film and book.
Before I even read your list, I was thinking Atwood. I don’t know who I’d put on my list, as I’m more drawn to non-fiction nowadays.
Reblogged this on Archer's Aim and commented:
An interesting question. I did recognize most on the list. Re-blogging on Archer’s Aim.
Thank you for liking “A Shadowy World.” I enjoyed reading this interesting post. 🙂 I recognize Robert Frost because I read some of his poetry while I was in school. The only Edna St. Vincent Milay poem I am familiar with is the one about the candle burning at both ends. I have heard of Sinclair Lewis, Willa Cather, Eugene O’Neill, Theodore Dreiser, and George Santayana, but I am not very familiar with their works.
I agree that Hemingway will probably still be read and respected in the years to come, but I am having a hard time guessing who else will be read in the future.
I agree with Rowling, Hemingway, and Atwood from your list, but I also think most of the top five from “their” list will be read later on, and then I think there are a few up and coming authors that we haven’t heard enough from yet that will having staying power. I’m not sure that ebooks will be a huge part of the change-over but I think they will have an impact.
I nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award. Thanks for all the great content you post.
Of the first list, most of which I have either read or heard of, I would have to say
Sinclair Lewis, Willa Cather, Eugene O’Neill, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Frost for sure, and possibly Stephen Vincent Benet and James Branch Cabell.
From your wonderful list – Alice Munro, J K Rowling, Ernest Hemingway, John Green, and possibly Maragaret Atwood.
Children’s authors seem to last beyond the ages, but I would definitely put Dr. Seuss, Beatrix Potter, A.A. Milne, Eric Carle, Margaret Wise Brown, Arnold Lobel, Margaret and HA Reye, CS Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, EB White, and Judy Blume.
I knew the first five, but not six to ten of the last century list. I agree with many of your picks for the next century, though I’ve never come across John Green. Maybe add Sebastian Faulks and Michael Frayn?
I would add Maya Angelou. Love her!
I like your list!! ( and agree)
I don’t recognise any of the 1935 ten, which surely reflects the Atlantic divide. There are a multitude of reasons why people read authors from their own countries, too many to go into here, but schooling must be a part of it. Some sort of sense of national pride too. I don’t want to send Damyanti’s thread off-topic but I was interested to see Peter Carey come out against American authors being allowed in the Man Booker Prize, as British/Australian/Commonwealth authors wouldn’t be allowed to win the Pulitzer, for example. Literary protectionism, hmmm…
I can see Marquez and Murakami novels on my shelf right now, but I don’t believe they will be held in as much reverence as the decades tick by. In the desire to make money, the publishing world will push new literary heroes, create new reputations for us to be in awe of. Throw in the desire of successive generations to want new stuff, not what their parents had, and you have supply and demand both pulling in the same direction: the future.
In 100 years from now people would probably fall off their chairs laughing if you told them that their ancestors read Harry Potter books…as adults. I don’t see longevity for Rowling in my crystal ball. Pullman on the other hand…
In 100 years from now a lot of people will be reading books written by authors whose parents, perhaps grandparents, haven’t even been born yet. I think we vastly over-estimate the importance of the current, and I think the Smithsonian article backs up that point of view.
Oh, and we’ll all be living on space stations, right?
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jane Eyre and RK Narayan are among many whose work we cannot forget as well as Munshi Premchand. I agree with you that one should disconnect with our previous body of work.
Oh yeah, I forgot Ayn Rand! I hope her books are still around. WISHING they were still fictional!!
I recognize Sinclair Lewis, George Santayana, Robert Frost and Edna St Vincent Millay from the 1936 list, all of whom I’ve read. Also Willa Cather and Eugene O’Neill who I have not read (yet).
From your list, I only know Atwood, Hemingway and Rowling. I do agree with you that they’ll all probably still be popular, tho I really can’t say why with Hemingway, I never could understand why they make such a big deal out of his writing. Personally, I think he’s boring.
It’s so hard to narrow it down to only top 10. My list of favorites includes Stephen King, JK Rowling, Tolkien, CS Lewis, Atwood, who’ve already been mentioned numerous times. These are some others who I HOPE will still be around and popular that far in the future (in no particular order):
1. Robert Heinlein: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Stranger in a Strange Land, I Will Fear No Evil, JOB, Methuselah’s Children (and many, many more- ALL excellent books that make you think!)
2. Mark Twain: Letters From the Earth (my favorite of his)
3. L. Ron Hubbard: Mission Earth Series (10 books, all of which are great), Battleship Earth
4. Piers Anthony: Xanth Series (GREAT series for young readers, full of puns and other wordplay, and anyone else who likes an adventure with humor included), Incarnations Series, MANY more
5. Isaac Asimov: I, Robot, Foundation, …
6. Robert Service (my favorite poet of all time): The Cremation of Sam McGee, The Spell of the Yukon, etc
7. George Orwell: 1984, Animal Farm
8. Sheri S Tepper: The Gate to Womens Country, Beauty
9. Anne Rice: Interview With A Vampire, Queen of the Damned, Pandora, …
10. Tom Robbins (GREAT sense of humor, incredible stories): Still Life With Woodpecker, A Cowgirl Gets the Blues, Jitterbug Perfume, …
Went eight out of ten on the first list, but I’m a high school English teacher, so there is that. As far as your list, I would certainly have to vote for McCarthy, but wonder about John Green. I would probably add E. B. White and Sylvia Plath (those look odd together). I believe it was Norman Mailer that came up with the 30 year rule … that in order to be considered a classic a book should still be read thirty years after the author’d death, so that may make for some interesting conversations!
Way to get a blog fight going! I’m going to stay away from picking authors – peoples opinions are diverse and informed by their own biases and the experiences surrounding when they read the book. It’s like having a memory of a song because you heard it when you met your first love. The song wasn’t necessarily the best in the world but it was huge for you. (Mine was Arc of a Diver, by the way- definitely not Billboard 100 greatest songs but I go into a trance whenever I hear it). The lists made up by organizations are based on marketability or popularity or profitability or all three, so will have something to offend everyone. But to answer the underlying questions: Do you think the digital age will help writers stay known longer? and Do you think your work will be read?
I believe there is something I call electronic amnesia. The more things are digitized the easier it is to forget them, mostly because of the volume of material. Photographs for instance, we used to have photo albums containing our most precious shots.We were very careful to take pictures we wanted to keep because it cost money to develop them and if you made a mistake it screwed the picture. I have many photo albums on my shelf of my grandparents. Nowadays millions of photos are taken and placed on Facebook etc. Rarely are they kept on a special hard drive or printed and put in photo albums. Jump drives will get destroyed and deteriorate as will CDs, so 100 years form now will the photos I took be anywhere that my descendants can find? Doubtfully. My grandfather published 3 books in the 30’s. I have them. Colleges have them. I can pass them down so my descendants might have them until they fall to dust. Where will my writings be? Unless I have them published in print form, they will be on the same digital shelf as the photos; that isto say, nowhere. So I think the digital age will actually hinder the masses from remembering or savouring these lists from 100 years prior.
Great questions. I like all of those, but surprisingly (or not), I believe they are mostly literary fiction. Maybe memoirs at time. Action loves (thrillers and mysteries) never seem to make it into these lists, despite their selling power.
George Orwell, more than likely. Russian writers, too, such as Dostoyevsky and Solzhenitsyn. I’d expect the likes of Jack London and Kenzaburo Oe will still be read, too. There’s a timeless importance to their work.
We studied all of those authors in school, but have a feeling their not getting as much teaching time as they used to. As we’ve seen, e-books have “rescued” a lot of novels that would otherwise be out of print, so maybe more of today’s novels will survive in digital form. Goodness knows, people are still watching 1950s TV shows off of cable or satellite, so the next generations may find more older stuff than people ever saw before the Internet made stuff available.
Stephen King, Danielle Steel, JK Rowling, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen
Great, thoughtful post, Damyanti. I love thought-provoking posts like this! I recognize all but James Truslow Adams on the list, but I’m probably not the typical person (I have a master’s in literature). Hmm, longevity. For the most part, I wouldn’t go with the 20th century writers. I’d reach back beyond some of those to those who already have the longevity and legacy, and maybe add a few “newer” ones as well. For me, I think religious texts world ’round have an in-built (that is to say, inherent) longevity, so I think those will persist for thousands more years, if humans do. Beyond those, the ones whose body of writing likely will be preserved largely intact: Homer, Plato, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, Twain, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Poe, Tolkien’s Hobbit and LOTR, Hemingway, Frost, Bradbury, Agatha Christie, Margaret Atwood, Vonnegut (sorry, I could not stick to 5 or 10!). This is a short list (as you suggested), actually; I humbly believe words have a solidity — and power and lastingness — far beyond the bones.
The only author I would bet a slim paycheck on is Hemingway. As for the earlier list I ‘discovered’ Willa Cather a couple years ago and think she is completely underrater as a stylist and a story teller. My two bits.
I recognize 8 of the 10 on their list, and based on that, I think they did well in their choices. Lists can be terribly subjective, though. I have no idea right now who I’d put on a top 10 list from the 20th century. The 21st century is still too young to know who will endure. I also don’t really agree that “e-books will last forever” because of their dependence on technology and the speed with which technology changes. Who’s to say whether or not the tech we use today to read e-books won’t be lost in 50 years? If those e-books aren’t converted to the new tech, they’ll be lost. Compared with the physical reality of print books, despite their vulnerabilities, e-books are not a really durable format.
As a writer, I’d like to say that I write the best I can, following my own inclinations regarding story and theme. At the moment, I’m more concerned about people buying and reading my book, “Perceval’s Secret,” now rather than 50 years from now. If people are still reading my books in a hundred years, that’ll be lovely, but I won’t be around to care.
My novel is available at Amazon worldwide and Barnes & Noble in America as well as Kobo International. I’d love to hear from non-American readers!
“Perceval’s Secret” by C. C. Yager
I nominated you…
I recognize 5-1, 3,4,5,6. I would place Hemmingway, O’Neil, Rowling, Harper Lee, Capote, Steinbeck, Stephen King in this group too. I think there are some I hope disappear and one is 50 Shades of Grey.
Willa Cather, Sinclair Lewis, and Ernest Hemingway.
I would add, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tennessee Williams, Virginia Wolff, Mary Karr, Jonathan Franzen, Joyce Carroll Oats, Anne Tyler, John Grisham, Maya Angelou.
Number seven and number ten are the only two authors with which I am not familiar. Ali made an interesting comment on the lack of children’s authors. Which children’s authors would be on your top ten list?
Robert Frost always and forever, as he is a premier poet whose poems are entrenched in textbooks from elementary to college. Willa Cather is a literary genius who is definitely underrated. The second list? Sorry to say I didn’t a) recognize any of the authors or b) read them. My contemporary authors tend to be quirky personal faves like Jasper Fforde.
Poetry would never die, or at least, that’s my hope. Robert Frost has inspired an entire generation.
We just studied his “Desert Places” in AP class and it’s always a thrill to bring his work to the table for discussion.
Oh dear, I haven’t read anything by any of those authors, wow, I don’t know who to suggest, JK Rowling? I think the numbers of books being published will continue to grow and the choices will just be so vast.
I did think of Stephen King, just as much as Rowling, but finally replaced him with an author I like better. Not saying who :). I wonder if anyone would read this post 100 years from now, and have a good laugh at all our expense.
T.S. Eliot. His poems are the greatest that I have ever read. Just this weekend I was reading The Four Quartet, and I am still mesmerized by his power of perception, expression, imagery.
Oh I loved Eliot when I read him in college, Peter. Still do.
I’ve read work from two of the authors listed on the original list, and then an additional two, from the editor’s partial list. As for ones that I think will be around for the long term-I agree with you that Rowling is a safe bet. Suzanne Collins might be another one-her Hunger Games trilogy is already being dubbed a classic and it’s becoming required reading in some high schools.
I thought of Suzanne Collins, but wondered whether she would match Rowling in longevity.
I only knew a couple from the list but now it makes me want to look them up, thanks. I wish I could be in my youngest grandchilds shoes and see which ones make it from now. Maybe a carefully placed secret note in my will to have her refer to this list and either laugh and say “you have got to be kidding me” or sit amazed and say “wow, you hit the nail on the head” with some of them. Thanks for this post, starts you thinking and reading.
It’s probably worth noting that the list seems heavily skewered toward academic rather than popular reading. Adams is the writer who coined the term “American Dream.” Santayana is responsible for “Those who cannot remember the past and condemned to repeat it” and “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” Benet wrote “The Devil and Daniel Webster” and “By the Waters of Babylon.” Cabell greatly influenced later writers. It should be remembered that famous writers of yesterday who seem forgotten today always have the chance of being rediscovered. Even literature is subject to the vagaries of popularity. It took decades for Melville to be rediscovered. ‘Moby-Dick’ was the book that sunk his career but is now regarded as one of the greatest and defining books of American literature.
Some notable published writers from 1936:
Edgar Rice Burroughs, James M. Cain (‘Double Indemnity’), Agatha Christie (as noted by others), John Dos Pathos, Daphne du Maurier, William Faulkner (as noted by others), Grahame Greene, Aldous Huxley, Margaret Mitchell (‘Gone with the Wind’), George Orwell, Ellery Queen, Ayn Rand, John Steinbeck, Rex Stout, Bertolt Brecht, Noel Coward, T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, C.S. Lewis, Edwin Muir.
Naturally I’d love for my favorite writers to still be read in 2100: Peter Ackroyd, Douglas Adams, Dave Barry, Roberto Bolano, Jerome Charyn, David Maine, Grant Morrison, Robert Pirsig, Thomas Pynchon, J.K. Rowling, Jeff Smith. I think Stieg Larsson will still be read, Michael Chabon, Stephen King, John Le Carre, Dennis Lehane, Yann Martel, Salman Rushdie, Lemony Snicket, . I’d love for Susanna Clarke, Zachary Mason, Mo Yan, Charles Yu to persist. Writers I haven’t read yet.
Although I think the question we should start asking now is what filmmakers should still be remembered then.
Tony, thanks for that long, welll-thought-out and informative reply. This is why I blog, to receive comments like this one.
From the last century: I have to add John Steinbeck – he’s as relevant as ever he was. And Katherine Mansfield and Virginnia Woolf – these two women were ground breakers. And for this century (because he’s continued publishing in the 21st) William Trevor. He’s hugely underrated in my opinion.
I’m a fan of e-readers but I’m not so sure they will last forever. I think the way we manage the content is likely to continue to evolve rapidly and that might mean a lot of work will be lost, or at least difficult to access.
All those are in my favorites list, but I had to only choose ten. I hope if there’s only one thing an alien would discover of humanity a million years from now, then it would be a book, in some shape or form.
Keeping it to the ten, that’s the difficult thing. Me, too, about the aliens – a book in any shape or form. And most especially, not reality TV!
Stephen King for sure. His prolific career has inspired so many to write and his popularity is immense.
I thought of him too, and he would definitely be my first pick after the ten on the list.
I think that Stephen King and Tolkien will be remembered in the far future.
Might well happen, I agree.
I think Khaled Hosseini will be alive and well read too, just for his beautiful construction of stories. Even if he’s not popular in bookstores (and I really hope he is), he’ll be studied in schools. This was a great post. Very thought provoking!
Like most people I’d only recognise a couple of names from the 1935 list. Any list for the next century should include Agatha Christie, still so widely read today as are Tolkien and C.S.Lewis with their timeless books.George R.R.Martin, J.K.Rowling & John Grisham, shouldn’t be forgotten. P.G.Wodehouse books are readable at any age and perhaps there are genre specific authors like romance novelists of whom I know nothing who will still have universal appeal.
I have personal favourites that I doubt would make a list of the top 10 but who might be in the top 100 like Harlan Coben and I’m sure Stephen King would be a dead cert for that list.
xxx Massive Hugs xxx
Being popular after death means you don’t get to spend the royalties. I’m with you on not caring! Great post.
I actually know just one from their list. I said “know,” not read. There are writers that I think they should have included, my biases aside. I agree with you on J K Rowling, Ernest Hemingway, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ian McEwan. Not saying I disagree with the others but I know less, if not nothing, of them. I tend to just read what I feel like reading regardless of any writer’s or book’s popularity. I would add Paulo Coelho, Stephen King, Agatha Christie, Ernest Hemingway, CS Lewis, H.G. Wells, Orson Welles…They are just at the top of my head. I may not have read some of them yet, but I know the significance of their contribution to Literature.
I’m familiar with all but two on the original list, and still read Lewis and Frost with some regularity. I agree with including J.K. Rowling- there’s no denying the profound and nearly universal appeal of her work. Id add Salman Rushdie and Toni Morrison. And considering how widely read Tolkien and C.S. Lewis still are today, I’ll add Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin to the list.
I only recognised a couple, the editors list i did better, but on your list i totally agree as all those authors, bar Munro, are on my shelf. If only we could live another hundred years to find out the answer.
I like your list. I would add Agatha Christie and one of my favorites, Peter Mayle.
Of the 1936 list I recognize Sinclair Lewis and Robert Frost, though I’ve only read the latter. I think part of what influences opinions of what will, or will not, last generation is heavily dependant on our own tastes, and a desire that the authors we enjoy continue to be read.
Of the list you gave, the only one I think will definitely still be read is JK Rowling. A lot of people look down their nose at her, but the NY Times had to change the rules on their best sellers list to avoid having over half the list taken up by her books! She speaks to young adults in a way few authors have, and I can see each successive generation then sharing her books with their children down the road.
I do wonder if some of the authors still being read might not be from the realm of SciFi or Fantasty more so than from just straight literature. J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis are still widely read, and they would have been contemporaneous with the 1936 list. Just as the Authurian Legends and Robin Hood are still widely known, so to will there always be a place for Epic Fantasy, in my humble opinion.
The same can also be said of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells whose stories continue to be known and endure. So I would posit that some of the Grand Masters of SciFi would endure as well. I would think that Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, or Clarke would be most likely, but I very much hope that Douglas Adams amazing wit and writings continue on forever.
I think you have hit the nail on the head. Add Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and Orson Scott Card (who in Ender’s Game wrote possibly the most popular sci-fi book ever) and I think you’re list is absolutely correct in every respect.
I would like to think that the other greats of fantasy (Robin Hobb, Robert Jordan, George R. R. Martin, etc.) will still be read as well, but it may be but the bias of of my preferred genre speaking for me.
I think it’s are bias that makes this such a difficult exercise. The stories that touch us are the ones we want to live forever and share with everyone. It’s often hard to imagine how some one else could dislike a book that deeply resonates us.
I do wonder though if the World Building that Fantasy and SciFi have to do might lend themselves to easier reading down the road. Contemporary fiction is bound by the world we live in, so there is no need to explain or define it. In Fantasy and SciFi everything has to be laid out and explained, so the world becomes, more or less, timeless.
Oh, Tolkien! Yes, I forgot to mention him
It also occurs to me that Tolkien translates so well to cinema, that they will likely be doing either a “Hobbit” or “Lord of the Rings” movie every decade or two for, likely, a long time! That will keep his stories and writing very much in the public’s conscious.
I think the LOTR movies are already enough and very well done so I’d rather they don’t do remakes because most time, remakes fail in comparison and just ruin the whole thing.
I don’t recognize many of the authors of the list. Sinclair Lewis and Frost certainly, but I haven’t read much of them. As far as who is on the list of five or ten from the last century there is really only one. Love him or hate him, Stephen King is to writing what Elvis was to music. In terms of the one true measurable, success, there is no equal.
I recognized all but one of the authors from the 1936 list, which is not to say I’ve read all of them!
In a related vein, I’d recently been perusing a collection of ghost stories written by women in the Victorian Age, and thought I’d look into the works of a few that have fallen by the wayside. I’m sorry to say that, after reading a collection edited by S. T. Joshi, I’m only mildly impressed by Gertrude Atherton (1857-1948), even though she was a friend of Ambrose Bierce. I’m hoping to have better luck with short story collections from Vernon Lee (1856-1935) or Violet Hunt (1862-1942).
I agree with many authors on your list. I’d also add Stephen King, Amy Tan, and Khaled Hosseini. Of course, probably because I enjoy them. 🙂
I agree with jk Rowling, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Margaret Atwood. I think jk Rowling because of the massive popularity and Atwood and Marquez because they already in current school curriculums because of their skill and relevance I’m thinking of who else i would add. I’m not sure. There are those I would add because I love them dearly but in reality I think they won’t truly make it. One I would add is Maya Angelo.
I guess H. P. Lovecraft wasn’t even recognized in his own time. No Dickens? No Burroughs?
My list would include God. He did write the Bible you know…
My goodness. I haven’t even heard of four people on your list. Faulkner belongs somewhere. I’d even put Faulkner above Hemingway. And where’s Carl Sandburg? Edna St. Vincent Millay, but no Sandburg?
John McPhee belongs on the list, in my opinion. His creative non-fiction is some of the best writing out there.
I know 1-6 and 9, so 70% is pretty good. I’d probably say that only 3 of those are really important.
Hemingway has already succeeded on any list you’d make, but I wouldn’t call him a current author.
For me, I’m surprised by how many of the names from 1936 I *do* recognize. I also realize that part of the reason that I recognize them is because, through the internet, I’ve been exposed to far more authors than would ever have been possible in the small town I grew up in.
With that in mind, I do think that, as long as the technology, is still accessible, things like e-books do increase the likelihood of stories sticking around and being remembered. A number of the names on that list I know from Project Gutenberg. If similar archiving projects keep track of future stories, I think that they will be around for far longer and far more people than they might have been otherwise.
I agree with most of your list! I think that writers that explore the human and the universalities of humanity are far more likely to last than those that are very focused on the context dependent events. I would love to add some of my favourite poets, but I fear that they will never reach the visibility they need to be remembered as long as I like.
Thank you for this. I enjoyed mulling this over in my head.
In the 1935 list, I’d keep Eugene O’Neill, Robert Frost and George Santayana. Then I’d have Thomas Wolfe and Ernest Hemingway. From the latter list I’d definitely keep Alice Munro and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but would most certainly throw away J.K. Rowling for sheer lack of style and ponderous verbosity. I would add Janet Frame, Chinua Achebe and Raja Rao to the list, along with Joseph Conrad, Emily Bronte, Jane Austin… (I don’t think the library’s big enough for the complete list, but once Rowling is joyously tossed out there’ll be room for dozens more!)
I’d have to disagree with the Rowling statement. She may lack in style compared to the others, but the subject wasn’t on style. If anything, particular style is an enemy to lasting the ages, as particular types of writing lose their appeal as time progresses. Rather, it’s a subject of ease of accessibility and cultural influence. We live in a world with an increasing number of generations who were drawn to reading through Rowling’s work. It may not be the best thing those people will ever read, as far as style or skill, but it has had a lasting impact on the world. Several generations of children grew up and were influenced by the content and subjects she spoke about and that will lead them to share those books with their children.
The books of style and elegance are also things people likely won’t read until they are older, and while it may be seen as valuable and it may influence them, the stories we read and hear as children have a much more resounding type of influence. The fact that her stories increase in maturity in line with children aging means it will also be something that they can return to throughout adolescence, continuing that influence. All of this, long before the child is ever able to appreciate Proust or Hemingway.
We have to agree to disagree. What Rowling needed was an editor with a red pencil, not a publisher to foist – by way of marketing – a load of runny inarticulate verbage on two generations of children.
Two generations of children who can tell you about all the characters, places, and events that take place over the course of seven books. That’s impressive for something that’s supposedly inarticulate. But yes, we’ll just have to agree to disagree.
J. K. Rowling might not hit the depths of the true greats of literature, but I agree that there is no denying the basic humanity in her work. I expect her books to stay relevant for at least another century as the proverbial gateway drug to the fantasy genre.
My thoughts exactly. She isn’t the greatest, her style isn’t anything to speak about, but she’s as you put it “the proverbial gateway drug” for many young readers, because it’s easy to access and fundamental in its themes. That alone will keep it relevant.
In the story I’m currently writing, I’ve taken note on that concept, by intentionally keeping my writing style as spartan and easy to access as possible. Meanwhile, in the world, I will have quotes and pieces of fictional writing that are written in the style of the literary greats. My goal is that by introducing styles like that in small, easy to swallow pieces, I will be able to draw new readers towards the works of writers such as Proust, Tolstoy, Hemingway, and much more.
Do the dead ducks, Enid Blyton and Beatrix Potter (greater writers by a mile than money-grabbing Rowling) mean anything? Rowling has maimed an entire generation with her drivel, and now let’s start reading books and stop being sycophants. Really, really, start having a sense of judgement when it comes to writing and, how dare you subject children/grandchildren to such drivel. Let’s start getting children to read writing of worth and not reastuff printed on pages that would be offensive to wipe ones bum on. Read Rowling’s biographical blurb on her books and it says “Ha ha ha ha ha I’m making money. No one is laughing at the money I make”. Please, please stop calling her a written, and try to wean your kids/grandkids off her marketing ploy. Surely you’ve intelligence enough to see that. Or is that the problem?
Silly! Quite short-sighted and silly. The woman’s there to make money. She ain’t a writer’s a****-hole. P.S. Ever heard of Enid Blyton? She’s hardly 100, is largely forgotten, and one of the greatest.
Edna St. Vincent Millay is my very favorite poet, and Robert Frost is my second. So I’d agree with those two. Most of the others I’ve heard of, but haven’t read.
They did pretty well, at least on the first half. I like Dreiser and love Willa Cather. I like your list too. I’d add Amy Tan and Stephen King.
My books will still be read, but only by my great grandchildren. Joking aside, I’m only surprised that there aren’t more children’s authors on the list. Parents typically encourage their kids to read the things they enjoyed, statistically that should improve the chances of childhood favourites.