Friday, April 1, 2011

Who's Good Enough?

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 American 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? 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.


  1. Dude, Kerouac is gonna win this, and he's gonna do it with just one book.

    "On the Road" smokes everything else by an American writer, before or after.

    In the meantime, ax all of the following, who are automatic zeroes:


    Actually, if you just ax Rand, I'll be happy . . .

  2. After I dissed Updike to you the other day, I started to regret it. Must have taken some balls to write the way he did back when everyone else was imitating Hemingway.

    How about Faulkner and Steinbeck? Kurt Vonnegut (I'll be his trainer.)? Are you looking for trainers? I can't really volunteer as a ref because I would be totally on the take. But if I could be a trainer, how about Truman Capote and Gore Vidal? You're probably shaking your head about Vidal, but think of the pleasure it would give me as a trainer to clean his eye jelly off Truman Capote's thumbs.

  3. Faulkner and Steinbeck are automatic entrants, among others. Start thinking about where in the seeding they belong.
    Re Asimov. Do we need a sci-fi author or two? How many have substance? Asimov's "Foundation" series is up there in the genre.
    Re Rand. Few writers have had a larger footprint, or more cultural and political impact. We need to be, er, objective.
    Updike can't be left out. The question is where he'll be in the brackets.

  4. More names to consider:
    John O'Hara? Margaret Mitchell? Theodore Dreiser? Erskine Caldwell? Thomas Pynchon? Neil Simon? Thornton Wilder? Carson McCullers? Joyce Carol Oates? Jonathan Safran Foer? Louisa May Alcott? Booth Tarkington? Joseph Heller? William Carlos Williams? John Cheever? Irwin Shaw? e.e. cummings? Amiri Baraka? Dorothy Parker? Ralph Waldo Emerson? Edith Wharton? Harper Lee? Willa Cather? John Irving? John Dos Passos? Wallace Stevens? Amy Lowell? Henry David Thoreau? Alice Walker? Flannery O'Conner? Henry Wadsworth Longfellow? Emily Dickinson? James Dickey? Philip K. Dick? Hart Crane? Henry Miller?

  5. I'm trying to think of contemporary writers you should include. The only one I'd really recommend--although she's not that well-known, and hence would likely get weeded out fast--is Jennifer Egan.

    Why? Two reasons: She's one of the best writers writing today, and she does it WITHOUT AN MFA and without being part of the academic system.(The two facts, of course, are correlated).

    Her "A Visit to the Goon Squad" is an incredible novel-in-stories about, of all things, punk rock. It's much more emotional and critical of American society than is the work of the academicians, and she understands the extent to which people are driven by raw needs like lust, poverty, hunger.

    Aside from her, I can't think of anyone contemporary who publishes anything worthwhile, except through POD or on the internet.

  6. Heller, McCullers, Emerson, Lee, Irving, Dos Passos, Thoreau, Miller, Asimov from your later comment must be included, IMHO. Also Lovecraft should be considered as he and Poe are the Godfathers of the horror genre.

    One problem with this competition will be finding judges who are objectively qualified to make judgments. For example, I consider myself well read, of course, but I don't think I'm well read enough to contribute to something like this.

  7. I'm with Frank on feeling unqualified. I wouldn't be able to weigh in on O'Hara v. Dreiser. I know Toni Morrison and Salinger, but if they went head-to-head, I'd want to give Morrison extra points for not being a white guy. Also because I'm not on with "society as soulless." My choices say more about me than about American letters. Is that legit re the tournament or should I sit back and learn? (As about Jennifer Egan. Thank you.) Names not yet mentioned I would stand up for: Twain. Frost? Kesey?

  8. Another issue is this. Take Salinger, my favorite. Would his published, uncollected works be considered? What about his unpublished, uncollected stories, like the ones they have at Princeton University library. I've read them, but I doubt too many people have. (And they are excellent, actually.)

  9. Let's not take this tournament too seriously, folks. Has anyone seen basketball referees? Or wrestling referees?? Ayn Rand might be worried about objectivism. I'm not. I'll recruit refs anywhere I can get them.
    Regarding unpublished work: everything should be brought into the argument by a writer's advocates. If Salinger needs to clobber another writer from behind with the unpublished stack of writing-- I'd guess it's hefty-- then all is fair in love, war, and the Pop Lit American Writer Tournament!
    -Re Egan. I appreciate the argument, believe me, but it'd be hard to put her in over a David Foster Wallace, who might be a grossly overrated author but carries a decent-sized footprint in American letters. We don't know which current writers will stand the test of time, so it's hard to put many of them in, especially when so many others are up for consideration. But I'll bow to any general outcry.
    (P.s. A study of IP#'s reveals that the above argument for Jennifer Egan may have come from her publicist.) :)

  10. Well, one argument I'd make about including Salinger's unpublished stuff for consideration is their intertextuality. Holden Caulfield makes an appearance in one of the Princeton stories, for example.