Sunday, September 26, 2010

Who in YHO in the finest female writer American has produced?


Summer Trips-Dubrovnik, 2007.



My choice would be Flannery O'Connor. Second choice: Emily Dickinson.

No takers on Walker, Morrison Welty, McCullers, Wharton, Hurston, Gilman, Plath, Robinson, Porter.

31 comments:

Steve Oerkfitz said...

I would also have to go with Flannery O'Connor. Second would be Joyce Carol Oates. Never had any love for Dickinson. She always struck me as someone who needed to get out of the house a little bit more.

MP said...

Count another vote for O'Connor, and I'd guess she'll win pretty easily. What about the finest female crime novelist? I'd go with Margaret Millar.

Naomi Johnson said...

I'll go with your candidates, patti.

Dave Zeltserman said...

Flannery O'Connor, IMO one of the finest writers period that America has produced.

Charles Gramlich said...

Hum, well you know I'll have to go with some genre writers. Leigh Brackett and C. L. Moore.

Steve Oerkfitz said...

If I was going with genre writers I'd have to go with Patricia Highsmith, Ursula K. Leguin and James Tiptree(Alice Sheldon).

pattinase (abbott) said...

My husband picked Oates because of the length and diversity of her writing.
Crime fiction-Highsmith and Millar for me.
Science Fiction/Fantasy-I have only read Ursula but Shirley Jackson for horror. Again, I am not well read here.
Need to read Leigh Brackett for sure.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - That's a tough one because there are so many good ones. I would say, yes, O'Conner deserves top billing. But I don't know...Highsmith is way up there, too.

George said...

Dickinson might be the greatest, but she's also the quirkiest. In science fiction, C. L. Moore and Leigh Brackett stand out along with LeGuin.

Todd Mason said...

I still can't believe that this is an askable question. Who's the finest male writer? And everyone's trending toward fiction writers, I note, although you made room for poetry with Dickinson.

"No takers" after you'd had it up for a while? I'm a fan of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, but she isn't as good a writer as some of those, such as Joanna Russ and Shirley Jackson, she directly inspired (probably at least Le Guin and possibly Brackett and probably Marge Piercy, too).

If the question is who are 100 of the best writers who are/were women, it would be easier to answer. Then there are those writes such as Rachel Pollack and Jessica Amanda Salmonson who were born men. And those, such as Lisa Tuttle, who have emigrated (in her case, from the US to the UK). And not using the HMCo. BEST AMERICAN rules, which choosed to include Canadians (well, the Americas aren't solely the US, nor even is NA, though BEST AMERICAN under those rules should be looking at Jamaican and Bermudan work among a few others).

So, here are five of the best writers who come to mind who are or were American women whom haven't been mentioned: Grace Paley, Doroty Parker, Anne Sexton, Willa Cather, Kate Wilhelm. And you can count as appeneded at least Russ and Oates and Brackett and Le Guin...and perhaps Tuttle and Pollack.

Todd Mason said...

And Jackson. Woof. Jayne Anne Phillips might rise higher in my estimation, she's already pretty high, as I read more of her work. Likewise Highsmith's steady Marijane Meaker...I still haven't read much of her adult work, but her YA work has been brilliant.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Why not askable? Would it be unaskable to say who is the finest writer Egypt has produced? Would it be unaskable to say who's the finest writer under thirty in the world today. By limiting the choices, it brings other authors to the foreground. I look at blog after blog where people asked to list the best crime writers name all men. I didn't want that list.
It doesn't imply women writers are inferior to men-just that I am limiting the selection here to women.
Heard Jayne Phillips read once and that experience put me off ever reading her again. Perhaps the most arrogant writer I ever heard speak. She repeatedly chastized audience members for the questions they asked.

Dorte H said...

Have not read enough American authors but well, I like Lee Harper and Anne Sexton.

Kieran said...

Joan Didion.

Todd Mason said...

Less that You shouldn't ask it than puzzlement that, indeed, the lists of Finest Crime-Fiction Writers wouldn't include Marcia Muller or Sara Paretsky or Wilhelm or Liza Cody or Highsmith or Meaker or...(and, previously, you had seemed resigned to the notion that the General Assumption is that the best writers were and are men, the kind of thing that is sustained most by treating it as if it was real or correct)(there's a Whole Hell of a Lot of That constantly going around, including in this discussion, where people take care to say "genre" writers who are either presumed, or to be treated as if the presumption were correct or the reasonable default, lesser than theoretical non-genre writers.

Wow, never having heard Phillips in person, sorry that she was channeling your 8th grade music teacher!

Todd Mason said...

Though, of course, the problem with Who's the best Eqypt has produced, or even who under 30, is that it would have to be understood to be...who's the best you've read, that you recall...the Egyptians depend, for most of us, on who has been translated well where we could read them...the under-30, only somewhat less on where they've been published...

pattinase (abbott) said...

Todd, you are so funny. You better show up at Noircon.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Didion is an excellent choice. SLOUCHING TOWARD BETHLEHEM, THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER, PLAY IT AS IT LAYS and the book on El Salvator as well as the strange but compelling YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING (why did she thing so little about her dying daughter) are compelling works. Great call.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I adore Anne Sexton and recommend A YEAR OF MERCY STREET or something like that.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sorry Searching for Mercy Street by her daughter Linda Sexton Gray. Absorbing. Harper Lee, one perfect book.

Todd Mason said...

And I'm not even joking (well, around the edges a bit). There is so much conventional thinking that is, too me, apparently maintained by people holding it up with one hand or both (depending on their fervor), since its foundation is in in the shifting sand of ignorance and laziness of thought (and would that literature was the only area of human endeavor of which that was true). Very much including those who are proposing All Male Lists of Literary Giants. Even as we realize they mean "what I've bothered to read so far."

pattinase (abbott) said...

Too true. A horde of readers are convinced that only men play it as it lays.

George said...

I've heard that Jayne Anne Phillips is irascible. I've gone to readings where Joyce Carol Oates got testy with some of the audience questions.

Anonymous said...

I like Joan Didion and Jayne Ann Phillips. (I've never seen her in person, but I could name a few obnoxious women mystery writers if you like.)

Joyce Carol Oates is just not to my taste, for the most part.

Annie Proulx?

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Ruth Rendell was no stroll in the park either. When some reader gave her her idea of Wexford's hometown (Kingsmarkam), she gave them a withering glance and said, "It is I who created Kingmarkam."
Well, yes, but we as readers fill in the gaps--don't chastise us for your talent in making it real. Never been able to read her again either.
Writers like these would do better to stay at home. Whereas Elmore Leonard could double his audience by appearing nightly.

Todd Mason said...

The late Phillip Klass, who mostly published fiction as William Tenn, was another example of the soul of gentility in public encounters. James Morrow and Karen Joy Fowler, and editor Ellen Datlow, likewise in my experience.

Loren Eaton said...

My choice would be Flannery O'Connor.

YES.

K. A. Laity said...

Far far far too many wonderful women writers over CENTURIES to even begin listing (though I haven't even seen Zora Neale Hurston and Octavia Butler appear yet) and Todd's point about the narrowness of the scope so far -- an awful lot of non-fiction writers overlooked -- is well taken too.

I don't get the list mania. Comparing apples and oranges,a s if "women" was any kind of limiting category. Women write as differently from each other as men do from each other and as much the same as any of them might.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Hurston is listed on the initial post. Just a means to get people talking-not a mechanism to compare in any definitive way. Scholars rank Presidents, which leads to discussions of what makes a great leader. I think lists can be useful to encourage people to see new names and give new names.

Todd Mason said...

And, as further appendage, among the particularly nice folks, at first and second encounter, I met at my only BoucherCon so far were the late Ed Hoch and some guy named Crider. I suspect Sue Grafton, who patiently awaited questions or gush in our elevator ride together, might well've been as well, if I hadn't been so exhausted (and initially unaware of who I was riding with) at the time as to be unready to converse (the only time my friend Alice Chang has envied me to the verge of a dope-slap my encounters with literary figures).

pattinase (abbott) said...

I've met Bill and he is easy on the heart. Joyce Carol Oates, who comes here once in a while, is supposedly as nice as can be.