Who’s good enough to make the tournament? Certain writers are gimmes– but 64 spots, when you start listing writers, isn’t a lot. The New Pop Lit Competition Committee hasn’t decided if there will be a play-in game. Who should we start thinking about?
Sinclair Lewis? Anne Sexton? Pearl Buck? David Mamet? Zora Neale Hurston? Fanny Hurst? Maya Angelou? John “The Mummy” Updike? Charlie Bukowski? Ezra Pound? Carl Sandburg? Gertrude Stein? Sherwood Anderson? Truman Capote? Zane Grey? Herman Wouk? James Jones? James Baldwin? Ray Bradbury? James Cain? James Fenimore Cooper? Harriet Beecher Stowe? Isaac Asimov? Ayn Rand? Mario Puzo? John Berryman? Bernard Malamud? Richard Wright? Ray Carver? Raymond Chandler? Lillian Hellman? Mary McCarthy? Katherine Anne Porter? Any contemporary poets? Any fantasy writers? Let’s have some names!
In the meantime, we’ll start on the easy part– the #1 seeds. Coming next.
(Image from the 1961 classic movie, “El Cid.”)
WHEN ONE CONSIDERS a project like our proposed “All-Time American Writers Tournament,” one bumps up against notions of the Canon. That collection of writers and literary works designated by the academy as worthy of preservation and study.
YET the world has changed so drastically the realization hits that for all its impact on society, there is no Canon. Or: no one cares. For the general public, a Neil Gaiman or Stephenie Meyer has more importance than a score of canonical writers. Names like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Pearl Buck barely register. Inside the classroom it’s hardly better, according to a college professor we know. The chief struggle is to keep students off their smartphones and have them read the assignments. Compared to the overwhelming noise of media found on phones, the internet, and television, of what impact is an assigned poem, play, or novel?
Professors themselves aren’t the respected figures they once were. A quaint person in a classroom– artifact from another era. Quickly forgotten.
So low is the standing of “Literature” in the culture that we ask ourselves, “Why bother?”
We’ll likely make the attempt regardless. An impossible task– to have readers become interested in dusty figures of history at a time when for most of the population there is no past, only NOW. A task but also a challenge. A test to see if the best writers, as personalities and talents, can be made interesting. Even provocative.
The Canon? Is there a Canon? Should writers today blow up all notion of a Canon? Or reinvent the Canon?
These are questions our tournament will address. . . .
Meanwhile take a look at our new book review blog with sample review. We have several reviews of our favorite authors to put up– but are also looking for reviews, commentary, or gossip by others, short and to the point. Make it new. Make it exciting. Make it pop!