Saturday, January 26, 2008

Favorite English-language novelists

It's time to take part in the latest Normblog poll--this time it's favorite English-language novelists. Not only are the polls always interesting, but they are a good ocassion for a blog post. Norm emphasizes that it is "favorite" not best. Now my friend G. W. Clift who has kept a list of all the books he has read since college, who reads all of Dicken's novels--in order, and who reads when he walks his dog, might be better qualified to make a favorites list that could claim to be the best. But his list wouldn't be my list, though it would probably contain someone I'll inadvertently leave off. But that doesn't excuse me from trying.

At first, I thought a favorite lists would be easier, but I've changed my mind. Do I pick novelists that I was once crazy about (Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer, Tom Robbins), but haven't read in years? I've gone through periods when I've read lots of detective and crime novels, should I include them. On the positive side, my list of favorite crime novelists would have a better gender balance than this list is going to have. But it's going to hard to include Sue Grafton and leave out Sarah Paretsky, not to mention Evan Hunter, Lawrence Block, Elmore Leonard, or James Elroy. Well, there's a good chance Norm will do another poll on crime writers. Do I include Ralph Ellison? His Invisible Man is a classic, but he never finished another novel.

So here's my criteria. Favorites have to have written more than one novel and I have to read and really enjoyed at least two of their novels. I was going to add without having hated or been unable to finish reading one or more, but that's really not fair. I'm thinking that every great novelists, whether for money or to fulfill a contract, has written a howler. Crime novelists are out. I would be interested in reading more novels by author and would be interested in re-reading.

So, at long last, here's the list. Norm asked for up to 10. I've come up with 8. You're also supposed to pick your top three and rank them. (They'll get extra points

1.Mark Twain
2. James Cain
3. Jane Austin
John Updike
Joseph Conrad
Charles Dickens
William Kennedy
George Orwell

PS: Wikipedia has list of American and British novelists

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