Where have all the Tolstoys gone?

Today I was in Barnes And Noble when I wondered, "What contemporary authors will one day be compared named along with the Twains, Steinbacks, Orwells, Fitzgeralds and Tolstoys of the past.

Looking through the Barnes and Noble mostly all I saw was (as far as modern novels go) novels written for superficial entertainment. For example, Tom Clancy, as much as I enjoy his books, they have no depth or meaning to them beyond what you read. The same goes for Michael Crichton. So I ask you, who are today’s signifigant writers?

I don’t know-I think Morgan Llyewllen’s (I know I butchered that!) book, 1916 was a masterpiece-I’m dying to read the sequel, 1921.

Cynthia Harrod Eagles wrote I, Victoria-which is basically the autobiography of Queen Victoria, had Victoria written such a thing. And her Kirov Trilogy-though there IS alot of sex in them, is fantastic!

I would also reccomend for teens, Ann Rinaldi. She writes young adult, but it’s historical fiction and it’s FANTASTIC!

Hm. There’s two things here. Three? I’m sure I’ll think of more.

Firstly: Literary Value. What books written in the last century have literary value that will keep, as opposed to being a fad that vanishes? Honestly, I don’t know. Hunter S. Thompson, perhaps? A certain raw truthfulness about them. They do carry the spirit of the age. There are a million million writers, with books with high literary purposes. Most are unreadable to the casual person.

Secondly: Ability to be read, a century later: Is this a good story? Does this keep me hooked, despite being a historical piece? P. G. Wodehouse’s novels do. So do Robert Heinlein’s. Clarke might have literary value as well.

Thirdly: Mass awareness.
I have no idea.

Anyone able to seperate what makes a Tolstoy or an Orwell from a… well, their contemporaries?
Time, I suppose. We need a century of sifting.
It is always risky to predict the future.

Ya gotta remember, every age had it’s Clanceys and Crichtons. We just don’t remember who they are anymore.

Admittedly this is not a time when great fiction shows up on the best seller list. But it’s out there.

Hmmm…just going by people who’ve had books out in the last year:

Thomas Pynchon
Don Delillo
Saul Bellows
John Updike
Martin Amis

(ok, Mason and Dixon was longer ago than last year.)

Of course I don’t know how they’ll be remembered.

Oh, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Umburto Eco.

And people are very excited about David Foster Wallace and David Eggers, although I don’t know if they’ll last till the end of the week.

Every great age of advancement has ended and so will ours. The Greeks and Romans had a great run and then they petered out. The Byzantines lasted for a 1,000 years after the fall of the Roman Empire and off of the top of my head I can think of nothing great that they gave to us. Various other cultures around the world also followed this arc of civilization. The Japanese (cultured elite) became intensely fanatic about WAKA poetry and then when basically everything that could be done with it was done it ended. I’m sure this can be a major theme of culture after culture. An art is born, becomes very interesting. People experiment with it, take it in new directions and then after a while there are fewer and fewer new directions. And eventually it becomes banal. How can it be and different with literature.

Todays authors can tell great stories but there are many great stories already written in the past. What’s to set them apart? How can they make anything so new that it forces it’s way into the public mind?

I think if you got trasported to the year 3000 the great books that will be read then will be almost identical to the ones that are being read now. You know it’s kind of like the NASDAQ, it’s not always boom time.

Brother Rat