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Contemporary Masters (1 Viewer)

Buddy Glass

Senior Member
I invariably go through phases of feeling either very cynical about most contemporary writers, or feeling very pleased and optimistic about them. In so far as one can assume he's still writing, J.D. Salinger would be my favorite. There seems to be documented evidence that he is still writing and has - apparently - cabinets filled with unpublished manuscripts.

Ian McEwan is a steady favorite. On Chesil Beach was fascinating and in my opinion proves - once again - that McEwan is unrivalled in the psychological depth and accuracy of his characters. There was an interesting review in some newspaper of the novel by a female journalist who wrote at length about the claustrophobia of the female body. Anyway, Atonement, Enduring Love and Amsterdam are excellent novels, but I'm personally very fond of his darker and earlier writing, i.e. First Love, Last Rites.

There are others: Richard Ford, Peter Hoeg, early Martin Amis. To get to the point: who are the contemporary masters of literature?
 

mwd

Senior Member
I wonder what will happen to Salinger's writing when he dies. Some of it might actually see the light of day, I hope. Or maybe he'll pull a Charles Strickland and burn it all.

Richard Ford is great. Rock Springs is one of my favourite short story collections, and the Bascombe books are all really quite excellent. I was let down by The Lay of the Land for a while, but I've warmed up to it. The three books together are wonderful, much better in my opinion than Updike's Angstrom novels, which they often seem to be compared to.

Joyce Carol Oates, I'd say.

When it comes to short fiction there's Alice Munro, and I think I'd include David Foster Wallace as well.

Of course the term "master" itself is awfully silly. So mostly it comes down to what one prefers. What one reader deems a master will seem to another reader merely competent, or vice versa.
 

Shawn

WF Veterans
Seconds on Vonnegut.

I grew up with Roald Dahl books... so I'll have to say him. (I'm so literary)

Lessing is a blessing.

Kenneth Roberts, though not really contemporary, is a favorite of mine.
 

Patrick

WF Veterans
Ian Banks can be a bit of a genius but a bit hit and miss. "The Wasp Factory" is probably his best.


Graham Swift never fails to capture me.


Ye, I've said all of these before, but Robert Harris and as you said, Buddy glass, Ian McEwan.


Mark Billingham writes a good "who dunnit".


As far as fantasy goes, Philip Pullman is probably the best in that area.
 

quarterscot

Senior Member
As usual, mostly blokes. They usually are in these sort of lists. Personally I think us men are lagging behind in contemporary literature. There isn't anyone who can touch Margaret Atwood. Then you've got Beryl Bainbridge, Nadine Gordimer, Carol Shields (yes she's dead, but only by a couple of years), Pat Barker, Kate Atkinson and Jane Smiley. It's a daunting collection.

There's a few impressive male writers: John Irving, Julian Barnes, Iain Banks. Ian McEwan is a fine example of what MWD calls "merely competent", though, and don't get me started on Martin Amis.
 

Buddy Glass

Senior Member
As usual, mostly blokes. They usually are in these sort of lists. Personally I think us men are lagging behind in contemporary literature. There isn't anyone who can touch Margaret Atwood. Then you've got Beryl Bainbridge, Nadine Gordimer, Carol Shields (yes she's dead, but only by a couple of years), Pat Barker, Kate Atkinson and Jane Smiley. It's a daunting collection.

There's a few impressive male writers: John Irving, Julian Barnes, Iain Banks. Ian McEwan is a fine example of what MWD calls "merely competent", though, and don't get me started on Martin Amis.

Ian McEwan is a remarkable writer. Consider his literary output since 1997: Enduring Love, Amsterdam, Atonement, Saturday, On Chesil Beach. All modern classics. He's devoted to his craft, one novel is always different from the other, his characters are unbelievably real... I don't know why people don't like him.

Martin Amis isn't as good. But Money and London Fields are brilliant. Yes, he's obnoxious and most of his more recent work is crap, but those two novels are unlike anything you'd ever come across. Had me laughing for months.
 

Buddy Glass

Senior Member
Someone once said to me that all the best contemporary writers are film writers. I don't necessarily agree, but there are a few writers in the movie business I feel deserve to be mentioned.

Wes Anderson - i think he's the most innovative and original filmmaker in years. He's an auteur, a brilliant writer with a distinct but very enjoyable sense of humour. There's a sadness, a sense of the melancholy, about his films that I like.

Noah Baumbach - like Anderson, but less quirky. The script for his commercial breakthrough, The Squid and the Whale, was Oscar nominated ("Yes, it's very Kafkaesque", "You mean because it's written by Kafka?"), but I prefer one of his earlier works, Kicking and Screaming (not be confused with the Will Ferrel movie) which is hilarious and intelligent.

Susannie Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen - I'm Danish, so I watch a lot of Danish films. Susanne Bier's film After the Wedding was also nominated for an Academy award, but Anders Thomas Jensen has made three very ironic and dark-humoured, grotesque, films: Flickering Lights, The Green Butchers, and Adam's Apples.

There are others: Sofia Coppola, the Cohen brothers, Charlie Kaufmann, but I could go on...
 

quarterscot

Senior Member
The trouble with nominating screenwriters is that films are often a collaborative effort. Which is a nice way of saying: if anything goes wrong, they just throw the writer on the fire and get a new one. So you generally don't know who wrote what.

The only exceptions are if the writers are also the directors, so better placed to protect their scripts. I'd nominate the Coens too, together with Quentin Tarentino, Martin Scorsese, Kevin Smith, Mike Leigh and (early) Woody Allen. Don't know many Danish films but whoever wrote Festen, if it was a single person, must be something of a genius.
 

Buddy Glass

Senior Member
The trouble with nominating screenwriters is that films are often a collaborative effort. Which is a nice way of saying: if anything goes wrong, they just throw the writer on the fire and get a new one. So you generally don't know who wrote what.

The only exceptions are if the writers are also the directors, so better placed to protect their scripts. I'd nominate the Coens too, together with Quentin Tarentino, Martin Scorsese, Kevin Smith, Mike Leigh and (early) Woody Allen. Don't know many Danish films but whoever wrote Festen, if it was a single person, must be something of a genius.

Ugh, I can't stand Tarantino. Seems he can get away with anything because he's Tarantino.
 

Buddy Glass

Senior Member
The trouble with nominating screenwriters is that films are often a collaborative effort. Which is a nice way of saying: if anything goes wrong, they just throw the writer on the fire and get a new one. So you generally don't know who wrote what.

The only exceptions are if the writers are also the directors, so better placed to protect their scripts. I'd nominate the Coens too, together with Quentin Tarentino, Martin Scorsese, Kevin Smith, Mike Leigh and (early) Woody Allen. Don't know many Danish films but whoever wrote Festen, if it was a single person, must be something of a genius.

Thomas Vinterberg for Dogme 95. Festen is quite synonymous with the critical succes of Danish cinema in recent years.
 

Buddy Glass

Senior Member
What the HELL do people see in Salinger? I just never got it and still don't,

A lot, actually. Have you read Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters & Seymour: An Introduction, Nine Stories and Franny and Zooey? I hope you aren't judging Salinger based on your high school reading of The Catcher in the Rye...

There's a lot to be found in Salinger, I think. He is, of course, the most prominent voice of adolescent and post-adolescent anxiety and despair (evident in "Franny", "Teddy" and, of course, Catcher). But there's a maturity in his writing that he doesn't seem to get much credit for (Like the tragic depth of "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut" or the moving and very human account of love and a soldier's post-traumatic stress in "For Esmé - with Love and Squalor") and a devotion to his art that - to me, at least - seems extinct. He's the last great writer.

There's a wonderful moment in "For Esmé - with Love and Squalor" when the protagonist, a soldier in WW2, awaiting orders in a house that belonged to Nazis, picks up a book written by Goebbels with an inscription that reads: "Life is hell". The soldier - a thinly disguised Salinger - writes underneath, in trembling hand, "What is hell? I maintain it is the inability to love - Dostoevsky".

I don't like that many young writers who debut with nihilistic coming-of-age novels are automatically compared to Salinger. Salinger's writing is compassionate toward human beings, not cynical and indifferent. His characters are complex, flawed and endlessly loveable.
 
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