ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITER TOURNAMENT
One of the hardest things to do when setting up brackets like these is to remain impartial. Or: bias is a given, but we need to work to balance that bias.
For instance, if the last slot comes down to David Foster Wallace or Chuck Palahniuk, which writer goes in?
Both have cult followings. In his fiction, Foster Wallace stands for everything I abhor in postmodern lit. The work of both writers is rather dark. Which writer is more important, influential, and representative of our era?
David Foster Wallace put his mind out there as perhaps no author ever has, pushing the envelope of hyper-stimulated intelligence. What his fans react to more than the works themselves is the sensitivity of the person behind the words. His was a dead-end path, in my estimation, yet Wallace took the path all the way to the end, which ended in his own destruction. A cautionary tale, but in its way, an admirable one.
Palahniuk is a more transparent writer. Does this necessarily mean a shallower one? His warmed-over Nietzscheanism has appeal to young men today. Is there anything remarkable or lasting in it? That's the question.
What happens when we throw Michigan writer Jim Harrison into the mix, who's been shown on these threads to have his share of followers?
One thing Harrison isn't, is a trailblazer. He seems to have burst full-born from Hemingway's head. His best-known work, Legends of the Fall, includes a segment about World War I, and is obviously-- obviously-- a nod to Hem and the Hemingway ethos.
That said, Harrison's work feels more American than either Wallace's or Pahluniak's-- there's more affection for the country, the people, the land. With a mere 64 slots to play with, do we include a local colorist? What, then, about Erskine Caldwell? Bret Harte?
Decisions, decisions. . . .