Nicola’s Top Ten Writers “Hall of Fame”
I am an English Literature Graduate, I work in a library, and I am always reading a book. There would obviously come a time when I realised that I loved some writers more than others. Not that my opinion counts for anything, but I am going to throw it out there anyway. Perhaps someone agrees with me, perhaps my opinion will englighten someone. You never know, it might happen. So here are my top ten writers, counting down from number 10.
10. Sarah Waters
Sarah Waters. Let’s see. Ah, yes. She is British. Wilkie Collins is her favourite writer. She is a feminist. She sets her novels in the Victorian era. I think she’s also a lesbian, but that’s neither here or there. What’s not to like? Waters tends to write Historical novels set in the Victorian era (notably a time of extreme sexual oppression) with a feminist slant but without sounding preachy. She creates genuine atmosphere and really knows how to build suspense. Her work is well researched, and she writes convincingly within the context’s style whilst not alienating her audience. Her most well known novels are Fingersmith (2002) and Tipping the Velvet (1998), but my personal favourite is Affinity (1999).
9. Anne McCaffrey
One of only two Americans that make my list, as I generally hate American writers as a general rule. Hey, I try not to discriminate, but my prejudice of American writers stems from nineteenth century American Literature when awful writers such as Henry James and Nathaniel Hawthorne roamed. Bad times. Bad times. But back to McCaffrey. She created the incredibly famous (within the fantasy fiction world, at least) Dragonriders of Pern series which has 19 volumes. I must confess I have not read them all, but I vow to get there. The Pern series, which began in 1968, was highly original for its time and has been increasingly emulated over the years. It is sure to be a huge influence on Christopher Paolini‘s Eragon series as many of its elements mirrors Pern most religiously. Dragonrider is her first novel from the series.
8. Bill Bryson
Oh man. Look. This guy is just hilarious. He makes travel writing interesting. No. Really. You don’t believe me? Well, fuck you. He even makes science interesting. You think I have just walked into the Twilight zone? (No, no, not that Twilight) He is just one big joker from start to finish. He even makes a mundane event such as getting Christmas decorations or trying to catch a train into an onslaught of side splitting laughter. His books should carry a health warning. Just look at this picture. He looks so jolly. He looks like Santa Claus. He looks like Richard Attenborough. You know he loves kids. And dinosaurs. Pick up any of his books. Anyone of them. It could be a dictionary for fuck sake, Just pick a damn book up!
7. Margaret Atwood
Dystopian novels are awesome. Feminst texts are awesome. This woman does both. I have loved Atwood since the tender age of sixteen. She had an instant advantage. I had to read her The Handmaid’s Tale along side the depressing and dull infested 1984 by George Orwell. Of course Atwood came out on top. No offense to 1984 which was a well written novel that demonstrated its point with relative ease, but it is a chore! If you were not reaching for the razor blades before, that would surely be your fate if you spent too much time with 1984. In many respects, The Handmaid’s Tale is potentially just as depressing, but at least Atwood has the sense to leave us with an ambigious ending layered with a little hope among all of the darkness. Actually, Atwood as sense about a lot of things, which is why she is an awesome writer and on this list.
6. Trudi Canavan
I don’t actually care what you say. I am entitled to my guilty pleasures, and the fantasy genre is one of them. This Australian writer has similar skills to J. K. Rowling. In case you are wondering what those skills are, they are characterisation (which so many authors have great trouble with) and imagination. Her writing skills is not up there with literary writers, of course, but she is slightly more superior, on a technical level, to J. K. Rowling. The reason I compare the two is because the Harry Potter series and the Black Magician trilogy by Canavan have that same readability factor that sees yourself forgetting to eat, sleep, and in the rare moments you remember to go the toilet and take the book as your companion, you then forget to get back off again until someone bangs on the bathroom door loudly complaining they have been waiting to have a shower for the past three hours, and could you get the fuck out of the bathroom please. The Magician’s Guild starts the trilogy.
5. James Clemens
His real name is Jim Czajkowski so you will forgive me for not realising that he was American until it was too late. And by too late, I mean that I had finished six books of his before I was informed. There was no turning back. I liked this writer. He is hopelessly masculine, violent, seems to have an obsession with armless men and is far too interested in older men falling for extremely young girls and vice versa for it not to give some cause for concern, but dammit, I like him. When he is not writing, he is a vet. That’s got to be a good thing, right? So, he writes fantasy novels for adults, probably more aimed at a male audience and has awesome cover art for all of his books. If you like gritty stuff and main characters frequently suffering gruesome and violent deaths with a dash of paedophillia, then this is for you!
4. Charlotte Bronte
How do you get those two dots above the ‘e’ of her name? Tell me in the comment box. So. Charlotte. Look at the picture. What a pretty girl. It’s unusual, isn’t it? Whenever you see a portrait of someone before the 1900’s they never seem to look good. You think that either painters couldn’t do people justice, or absolutely everybody before the year 1901 were ugly. Either way, what an appealing portrait. But fuck her appearence, this woman could write. The author of the extremely famous Jane Eyre Ms. Charlotte has assured her place in the Literary canon. Her novel spawned many gothic images that are still used today, her most famous being ‘the mad woman in the attic’. Jane Eyre is a brilliant novel reflecting on the oppression of women and the class system, but more importantly, one person’s courage and goodness that overcomes the greatest obstacles to justly receive one of life’s greatest gifts. In many ways, Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester are more romantic and symbollic than Romeo and Juliet or Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy will ever be. However, Jane Eyre often eclipses her achievements in other novels, such as Shirley, Villette, and, The Spell.
3. J. K. Rowling
I will not apologise for putting her on this list. Nor will I apologise for having her so high up it. There are different techniques, different strengths, and different ways to determine ones talent of writing. Sure, if JK had written some essays, or some articles on whatever, nobody would batter an eyelid. Technically, her writing alone is completely unremarkable. What is remarkable about JK, however, is her sheer imagination and her unrelentless talent at characterisation, which to me, is the most important aspect to any story. If you’re not involved with the characters, you do not care what happens to them, and therefore the story. This woman can tell a story, and she has made millions upon millions of people across the world extremely happy with her imagination and relighted many people’s passion for reading, including mine when I was fifteen years old. The Harry Potter series is complete genius and I really could not care less if her writing itself is unoriginal and lacking, because the story most certainly is not. And Severus Snape is awesome. You know it. I know it. We all know it. Don’t argue.
2. Jane Austen
Oh, don’t grumble at me, okay? Yes. Alright. I know it is extremely predictable, but what can I do? I am smitten. I am not going to talk about Mr. Darcy, you can relax. Actually, my favourite novel of hers is the often forgotten Northanger Abbey. It is so many levels of awesome. It is a satire. This meek little writer who nobody had ever heard of wrote a novel mocking everybody right underneath their noses. It’s fantastic. There is a page long quote which is just masterly where she gives a big “UP YOURS” to her readership which is just so mind blowingly cool that you want to dig her back up and give her a big high five. I actually swear by Northanger Abbey. I really do. The heroine, Catherine Morland, actually inspired Ian McEwan‘s Atonement and the character of Briony Tallis. Because Ian McEwan knows Austen’s genius too.
I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with novel writers, of degrading by their contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of which they are themselves adding – joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if accidentally take up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid leaves with disgust. Alas! If the heroine of one novel be not patronised by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard? I cannot approve of it. Let us leave it to the reviewers to abuse such effusions of fancy at their leisure, and over every new novel to talk in threadbare strains of the trash with which the press now groans. Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body. Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than other of any other literary corporation in the world, no speciies of composition has been so much decried. ~ Northanger Abbey
Amen. I salute you, sweetest Miss Austen.
1. Wilkie Collins
What did you just say? You didn’t. Did you? You didn’t say “Wilkie Collins? Who the fuck is Wilkie Collins?”. If you did, you’re fucking crazy for talking to yourself. Okay. Did you think it? Did you think “Wilkie Collins? Who the fuck is Wilkie Collins?” If you did, I pity you. You poor, poor creature. There, there. I am here to make it all better. This is Wilkie Collins. Pioneer of detective fiction, pioneer of Victorian sensation, pioneer of the mystery novel. Best friend of Charles Dickens. Best selling author of the nineteenth century with the best selling novel of the nineteenth century (The Woman in White). Why then, has nobody heard of him? It’s obvious really. It’s for the same reasons that nobody will know who Dan Brown is in ten years time. He was a popular writer. He was frowned upon. For his time, he was not literary, but a sensationalist, relying on scandal and shock to gain an audience. But there was more to Wilkie Collins than that, and even his contemporaries knew this, though they refused to acknowledge it, simply because good old Wilkie wrote ugly truths about his society that they did not like to be reminded of. Collins primary thematical concern was oppression of women, and unjust martial laws. In a time where it was considered blasphemy to even express the idea that women were equal to men, Wilkie at least tried to demonstrate the advantages that men took of women under property and martial laws, even if he did not fully embrace the ideas of equality. But all of this political rambling was done behind brilliantly written novels with fantastic plots and cunning wit. A victorian with a sense of humour. Collins was still a man of his time, but in many ways he was more modern than his contemporaries, and his stories show an immense amount of wisdom not only politically, but also in story telling.