Top Ten: American Authors
Only just started getting into American literature at uni and I love it, so much in fact that my dissertation was based on American lit of the 20th century. I know there are so many other authors who should be in this list somewhere, so if you have any thoughts or recommendations then I would love to hear them !
10. Who? JAMES BALDWIN
Why? While covering the american lit course at uni, one of the topics was the treatment of African Americans by white Americans. Out of all the topics like The Beats and white hostility towards Native Americans, this was the topic that touched me the most. There are so many amazing authors who write about the treatment of black Americans in the 20th century, including Toni Morrison, Gwendolyn Brooks and Kathryn Stocket’s popular novel The Help. But it was Baldwin’s Going to Meet the Man- a shocking and brutal image of the animalistic cruelty towards black people- that I remember the most. A disturbing and graphic piece that has the power to stay with you long after you have read it, bringing to light the inhumaneness of white people in America.
9. Who? ARTHUR MILLER
Why? A View from the Bridge is one of my favourite plays. I love Miller’s Greek Tragedy and the shocking destruction and hidden secret of Eddie Carbone. And he was married to Marilyn Monroe, which is pretty amazing.
8. Who? AMY TAN
Why? Her exploration of identity (namely chinese-american) in America is very enlightening and moving. A piece of confusion, lost identities and personal roots is something everyone can identify with. Tan’s The Joy Luck Club is a brilliant book that explores not just identity, but the complex and fragile relationships between the mothers and daughters in the stories too.
7. Who? EDGAR ALLAN POE
Why? The master of all things mystery and macabre, Poe has the unbelievable power and skill to frighten the reader with his tales of horror, murder, hate and revenge (with a whole lot more besides.) Favourite writings are The Raven, The Cask of Amontillado and The Tell-Tale Heart.
6. Who? HARPER LEE
Why? For creating one of the most beloved classics in the history of literature, To Kill a Mockingbird. Linking back to the treatment of African Americans by white Americans, I like the fact that she depicted racial prejudice through the innocent eyes of herself as a child.
5. Who? STEPHEN KING
Why? Despite some criticism from various readers and critics, I love Stephen King and have for years now. Favourites have got to be Misery, The Shining, 11.22.63 and Bag of Bones.
Why? I really enjoyed Tender is the Night, but Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and its exploration of the glittering Jazz age and ruin of the great american dream is both beautiful and fantastic.
3. Who? EUDORA WELTY
Why? If you haven’t already, then read Petrified Man. Welty draws on the southern gothic genre as Flannery O’Connor does, and her comparison between the women in the beauty parlour to the grotesque, greek monster Medusa is very striking.
2. Who? SYLVIA PLATH
Why? Does it even need explaining? Favourites are The Bell Jar and her poem The Applicant, in which Plath demonstates her anguish, despair and injustice at the lack of freedom for women in 1950s America, who are nothing but the puppets of men.
1. Who? FLANNERY O’CONNOR
Why? Deceptive Christian fella steals a woman’s wooden leg and a tramp abandons a disabled girl in a diner for a car? One of my favourite genres, O’ Connor’s Good Country People and The Life You Save May Be Your Own is purely the classic and grotesque southern gothic, and I absolutely love her dark, macabre humour that often surfaces in her writing.