Top Ten Writers — The bloggers, part two
We all have different tastes. We all cherish different writers. And this is what I love about life – its differences, and its similarities.
What do some of my favorite bloggers think about their top-10 writers?
Currently writes and provides content for Powells.com. Screenwriter and filmmaker who has received numerous Honorable Mentions in various contests for his feature-length screenplays. Award-winning short film “Speed Dating” ran on the Independent Film Channel through August 2006. Also writes and performs with a Portland, Oregon-based sketch comedy group, HammerSpace.
1. Neil Gaiman
Who knows why we connect to a given writer? On some fundamental level, it’s simple chemistry — some intangible link we just can’t quantify. Merely being the writer of the “Sandman” series (one of the greatest stories ever told, in any form) would put Gaiman near the top of my list. Add to that his first-rate graphic novel collaborations with Dave McKean (Mr. Punch, Signal to Noise, etc.), the accomplished stories in Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things, and the irresistible novels Neverwhere, Anansi Boys, Coraline, and Stardust (not to mention the flawed but impressively epic American Gods) and Gaiman gets the trophy.
2. Richard Russo
There’s simply no other novelist whose work I’ve so enjoyed reading, from the hilarious Straight Man to the touching, engrossing Empire Falls. And The Whore’s Child was the only short story collection I’d read cover to cover until —
3. David Benioff
The 25th Hour was a gripping novel and a good film, but it’s Benioff’s short story collection, When the Nines Roll Over, that won me over. I’ve never been a fan of literary short fiction, but I react to Benioff’s stories the way others react to Munro or Carver. I’ve read most of the stories two or three times and find they grow richer with each revisit.
4. Scott Smith
Only two novels to his name, but when those novels are the thrillers A Simple Plan and The Ruins, he deserves a place on my list. Smith manages to combine noir and horror, respectively, with a dark eye for human nature and a gift for entangling his intriguing protagonists in situations that are agonizing and horrific — and yet, you just can’t look away.
5. Billy Wilder
He always wrote with collaborators, it’s true, but the Wilder touch is the common denominator that links the brilliant films The Apartment, Some Like It Hot, Double Indemnity, and Sunset Boulevard. Even his lesser-known gems, like The Fortune Cookie and Fedora, are distinctively Wilder-esque.
6. Charlie Kaufman
I guess this goes without saying since Kaufman is one of precious few original voices currently working in mainstream film. As enjoyable as his clever earlier scripts were, Eternal Sunshine is a masterpiece that gets better (and more admirable a feat of storytelling) with every viewing. And the screenplay reads as smoothly as a terrific novella.
7. Woody Allen
This is the Woody Allen of Manhattan, Annie Hall, and Crimes and Misdemeanors, not the shtickmeister of recent years. Woody in top form is among the most distinctive and mesmerizing screenwriters working.
8. Aaron Sorkin
TV shows usually have a whole staff of writers, but Sorkin wrote almost every single West Wing episode while he ran the show — and when he left, it collapsed. The Studio 60 pilot suggests Sorkin may have another hit that is as enjoyable to listen to as it is to watch. Long live smart, funny dialogue!
9. Larry David
Don’t believe in the auteur theory? Just try watching any Seinfeld episode after David left. Every Seinfeld script produced during his reign has David’s imprint on it, and although Curb Your Enthusiasm isn’t scripted, per se, you can still feel David’s twisted brilliance on every carefully crafted plot development.
10. The Coen brothers — They deserve notice just for writing Miller’s Crossing, but when you add the insidiously hilarious The Big Lebowski and, of course, Fargo (along with most any other script they’ve written), they’re clearly at the forefront of the most original and captivating writers of their generation. And the next one. And the one before that.
It’s so tough to pick only ten. Even though I’m confident these are my top ten, I lament having to leave out Susannah Clarke, Steven Soderbergh, John Huston, Tom Perrotta, Art Spiegelman, Craig Thompson, Frank Miller, David Milch, early David Mamet, and far too many others to name.
1. Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald
I was assigned The Great Gatsby to read in high school. Instead of the typical novels we were forced to consume, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s riveting story set in the roaring ’20s filled my imagination with pictures of elaborate parties, complicated personal affairs and the eventual despair we all sometimes face. It really is a beautifully-woven tale. The other works of Fitzgerald I have sampled are good, but Gatsby restored my interest in the written word.
2. Al Franken
While probably better known for his work on Saturday Night Live, I selected Al Franken to appear on this list because of his more recent political satire. His unabashedly liberal take on our world’s affairs often rings true to me, but it is the manner in which the topics are approached that provides the most fun. Franken’s entertaining style, cunning wit and a sometimes blunt manner delightfully contribute to the final product, even if you do not agree with all his political views.
3. Stephen King
I think it just a bit strange that as a person who has no particular affinity for horror movies, let alone novels, would include the master of that genre on this list. But when the horror king produces works like Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, The Body and The Green Mile, it is impossible to not. The richness in the detail and the way King sees humanity fascinates me. Plus, the stories translate well to film; an added bonus.
4. Ira Levin
If you were to ask me my favourite novel, I would reply This Perfect Day without hesitation. The lesser known novel by the author of Rosemary’s Baby and A Kiss Before Dying contains a riveting story of a dystopian future through which we follow and learn with the main character, Chip. This is another book that I can vividly imagine, down to the cold metal cases that hold the truth, thanks to Levin’s powerful articulations.
5. Andrew Niccol
Speaking of tales from the future, Gattaca is such a compelling story to me, I read the screenplay after enjoying the film so much. There is a richness in the way the characters in Niccol’s stories are presented which I love. There is never a doubt about the quality of the people we are watching in the tales, nor do I have to think very hard to put myself in their shoes. I hope to see more from this talented writer soon.
6. Edgar Allen Poe
There is something I just like about this quirky man. It is too bad he died so early, as I am sure there were more interesting places yet to meet paper he could have taken us. Alas, the collection that does exist illuminates the minds of young and old alike and still punctuates our popular culture today.
7. Aaron Sorkin
There is nothing about Aaron Sorkin’s writing style I do not like. His portrayals of exceptionally intelligent people, complete with the flaws and abnormalities we all have, are particularly realistic to me. Sorkin’s writing leads you from point to point in a tangled overlap of plot lines, character development and overall story. But the trip is a smooth and entertaining one requiring little effort to appreciate or comprehend.
8. Roger Waters
While the presentation and musical style of Pink Floyd concept works Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall stand alone in their greatness, those digging just under the surface can read the foundation of words and see how amazingly true they ring. I am not quite sure how to represent Water’s compositional style, but suffice it to say, the words and the music both left their mark on me.
9. Herbert George Wells
While Jules Verne may be the father of what we know as science fiction, H. G. Wells’ works appeal to me more. The pioneering ideas of time travel, invincibility and science as a whole have no doubt shaped the works of today, where constant references are seen. There is nothing quite like the original, though, so I like to go back to these early works for perspective.
10. Wil Wheaton
From the time I started reading his website, Wil Wheaton has surprised me in his growth as an author. Vivid, but succinct imagery peppered with comedy that is tangibly realistic help make his work so engaging. I particularly like the diverseness in topics, from his past famous movie and television roles, to his life as a husband and father and finally, as a poker player and commenter.
1. Hayao Miyazaki
He’s probably better known as a director of award winning animation, but his screenplays, whether original or derivative works, are consistently entertaining and charming.
2. Stephen King
I haven’t picked up one of his novels for years, because after a while they started to get predictable and I lost interest. But his earlier works still can just grab your attention, never letting you put the book down. As a teenager, I read a massive amount of the Stand in one sitting because it just drew me in. And even in college, I would go back to his earlier stuff for entertainment.
3. Clive Cussler
I don’t think there’s a Dirk Pitt adventure I haven’t read. They’re not terribly challenging, but for an adolescent male, it was great escapist fun which has continued into my adulthood.
4. Richard Matheson
There’s a reason they’ve made I Am Legend into a movie going on three times. (Most people will recognize the story as the Omega Man.) He’s a great author and screenwriter in addition to being incredibly prolific in his writing.
5. Robert A. Heinlein
Some of his works such as Starship Troopers tend towards being militaristic, but I haven’t been disappointed with any of his books that I’ve read.
6. Joseph Wambaugh
I haven’t picked up one of his books in years, but I can still remember several of his characters from books such as The Choir Boys and The Delta Star. Great entertainment.
7. Carl Sagan
I enjoyed a couple of his more scholarly works as well as his novel, Contact. If they only hadn’t done the movie. They had the ending all wrong…
If there’s a book that I’ve absolutely destroyed from over use and abuse, it’s their book The Joy of Cooking. I think my mom gave it to my wife and I for our wedding (or early on in our marriage). And that’s the old school version. How else are you going to know how to prepare squirrel? That, and there’s literally nothing that’s impossible to cook without it.
9. John Grisham
Again, not to difficult to read, but engaging and entertaining stories. With all of the hard news I read, escapism is ok.
10. Ann Rule
Standing as an opposite to my enjoyment of escapist novels, I love true crime books. And nobody writes them better than Ann Rule. If you’ve never read her book The Stranger Beside Me, you’ve missed something.
1. John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats
Darnielle’s songs are like the finest crafted short stories. Concise and powerful, not a word is wasted.
2. Theodore Roethke
My favorite poet mixed the metaphysical with the natural to astounding success.
3. Kurt Vonnegut
“A writer for mixed up high school kids,” at least that’s what my cheerleader sister told me when I was reading him in high school.
4. Haruki Murakami
The postmodern master.
5. John Vanderslice
Talented at whatever path he chooses: songwriting, producing, social activism. He could write the great American novel if he chose to.
6. Saul Bellow
Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March is my favorite novel.
7. Michael Chabon
From the time I read a galley of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh when I was in college, he has been my favorite novelist.
8. Flannery O’Connor
I live in the American south, and see her characters every day. An inspiration to everyone from Sufjan Stevens to Clem Snide.
9. Martin Amis
His teeth may be fixed, but his fiction and essays still have a wicked bite.
10. Larry David
The funniest writer for television. Ever.