James Salter, Bangkok

I’ll tell you something funny, Hollis said, something I heard. They say that everything in the universe, the planets, all the galaxies, everything—the entire universe—came originally from something the size of a grain of rice that exploded and formed what we have now, the sun, stars, earth, seas, everything there is, including what I felt for you.

9 Most Important Living Authors

With the unexpected death of the literary giant Gabriel Garcia Marquez last week,I deemed good to write a post about those authors who are national treasures in their own rights.Note that I am including authors who are not on the tender side of age,so don’t expect to see the relatively young Hilary Mantel,Kazuo Ishiguro,or Haruki Murakami.I am also listing only 9 of them,as I hope you’ll tell me which author you would have added as the tenth.

1.Harper Lee

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Age: 88
Notable Work: To Kill a Mockingbird (Pulitzer Prize Winner in 1961)

Lee’s name is the first to spring to mind in regard to this post.Although she wrote only To Kill a Mockingbird in her lifetime and lived as a recluse ever since,she has managed to touch the hearts of millions of people from different generations.It is good to know that hundreds of thousands of copies of Lee’s masterpiece are sold annually worldwide,a feat so rare that only a handful of books are still able to accomplish it,namely The Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye among a few others.


2.Toni Morrison

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Age: 83
Notable Works: Beloved (Pulitzer Prize Winner in 1988)Song of Solomon,The Bluest Eye

Besides being one of the best authors of her generation,Toni Morrison is an inspiration to women as well as to the Black community.Indeed her life is as remarkable as those of the Black characters she writes about.In 1993 she became the eight woman and the first Black woman to win a Nobel Prize in Literature,and in 2001,she was named one of the 30 most powerful women in America.The speech she delivered upon receiving the Noble prize says much about how great a person she is.


 

3.J.M Coetzee

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Age: 74
Notable Works: Disgrace (Booker Prize Winner in 1999),Life & Time of Michael K (Booker Prize Winner in 1983),Waiting for the Babarians

One of the few authors to have won the Booker Prize twice,J.M.Coetzee has written so many masterpieces throughout his literary career that he is unsurprisingly one of the most decorated writers still alive today.The icing on the cake came in 2003 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his “well-crafted composition, pregnant dialogue and analytical brilliance”.Like Lee,he is a recluse and has never collected any of his two Booker awards.


 

4.Peter Carey

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Age: 70
Notable Works: Oscar and Lucinda (Booker Prize 1988), True History of the Kelly Gang (Booker Prize 2003), Illywhacker (Age Book of the Year)

The man behind the masterpiece,Oscar&Lucinda,Booker Prize in 1988 and shortlisted for the Booker of Bookers in 2003.Like Coetzee,he too is vastly decorated,albeit to a lesser extent,and many see him as the next Australian Nobel Prize Winner.It is worth mentioning that he has won the Miles Franklin Award for a whopping three times! The peculiarity of Carey is his poly-valence.He is noted for his strong imagination which makes all his works unique; the plot for Oscar&Lucinda remains as original today as it was upon its publication,while for The True History of Ned Kelly,he recreates the life of a famous historical gangster.


 

5.Margaret Atwood

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Age: 74
Notable Works: Handmaid’s Tale (Governor General’s Award in 1989), Blind Assassin (Booker Prize in 2000) , Cat’s Eye, Alias Grace

Margaret Atwood is among the most famed writers of her generation.She is the recipient of numerous awards and almost all her novels have been shortlisted for prestigious literary prizes.The success which her critically-acclaimed works have had with the public has made her an icon for Canada,for literature and for womanhood.


 

6.Alice Munro

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Age: 82
Notable Works: The Beggar Maid, Dear Life, Dance of the Happy Shades (Governor General’s Award in 1968), Who Do You Think You Are? (Governor General’s Award in 1978), The Moons of Jupiter (Governor General’s Award in 1982)

Like Atwood,she is Canadian.Like Atwood,she has received many prestigious awards throughout her illustrious career.She is also the first ever Canadian to win a Nobel Prize in Literature,which she in 2013.She is said to be Canada’s Chekhov,as her short stories are as heavy in meaning as those of the Russian genius.Other great authors also regard her as a monument: Margaret Atwood calls her ”an international literary saint”, A.S.Byatt says Munro is one of the best living authors and that she [ Byatt ] was enraptured upon hearing that Munro has won the Nobel Prize,and Julian Barnes feels that Munro’s short stories “have the density and reach of other people’s novels”.


 

7.A.S.Byatt

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Age: 77
Notable Works: Possession (Booker Prize in 1990), The Children’s Book (James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 2009),Ragnarok

Considered by many to be one of Britain’s greatest authors,Byatt has a unique style of writing which draws heavily upon such Victorian writers as Matisse,Browning and George Eliot.She is also a real character to be reckoned with.An uncompromisingly honest woman,she has lavished praise on Darwin and Munro,but has labelled Harry Potter fans as ‘stupid’.She has also recently expressed her dislike of the American novels which were shortlisted for the Folio Prize.Nonetheless,there is always some sense to be found in Byatt’s words.


 

8.Philip Roth

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Age: 81
Notable Works: American Pastoral (Pulitzer Prize in 1998), Goodby,Columbus (National Book Award in 1960), Sabbath’s Theater (National Book Award in 1995)

Philip Roth is widely regarded as one of America’s most important authors.While his books are regular winners and finalists of prestigious literary competitions,he himself has received various awards recognizing his contribution to literature,such as the Kafka Prize,Man International Booker Prize and the PEN/Nabokov Award.Many people see him as a top contender for the next Nobel Prize in Literature.At the end of 2012,he announced that he would retire from writing novels.


 

9.Wole Soyinka

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Age: 79
Notable Works: The Trials of Brother Jero, A Dance of the Forests, King Baabu

Although often overshadowed by his fellow colleague Chinua Achebe whom,for unknown reasons,people tend to regard as the only important African writer,Soyinka is a master at writing satires which are effective in their humor and condemnation of tyranny.His writing is said to revolve around ”the oppressive boot and the irrelevance of the color of the foot that wears it.” In 1986,he became the first African writer to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature.A true icon in Africa,Soyinka is known to say it as it is.Over the last few years,he has vehemently and unrelentingly protested against the regimes of Robert Mugabe and Omar Al Bashir.

 

 

 

Why you must read ‘Mrs Dalloway’

Synopsis: On a Wednesday in June 1923, Clarissa decides to throw a party for tonight itself,but meanwhile,Woolf takes us through the lives of various characters for that day alone.As time goes by and as the party closes in, two seemingly different storylines start interweaving with each other.

What you will like in ‘Mrs Dalloway’:

1.The freshness and originality.
Although written in 1925,‘Mrs Dalloway’ remains a unique novel to this day. Woolf masters the stream of consciousness like no one else,and the way she uses two modern pieces of technology of the 19th century-the car and the aeroplane-to foreshadow the prevalent theme is baffling.But ‘Mrs Dalloway’ isn’t only a work showcasing Woolf’s technical genius.Indeed,the stream of consciousness also serves to provide us with a new way to read a book,for it allows us to get incredibly intimate with the characters.In addition,the author explores some themes seldom seen in classics,like madness ,homosexuality,atheism and suicide.Even the way the book makes you laugh is different from those of other novels!On the whole,‘Mrs Dalloway’ is truly one of its kind.

2.The humour
The theme of misjudgment is prevalent in the book as the characters often mistake appearance for reality.Therein lies the humour of ‘Mrs Dalloway’ ; all too often characters have the wrong impression of one another,for at various points in the story they are way off the mark when trying to figure out what others are going through.Moreover,we can’t help but love Woolf’s sardonicism!She knows how to place gibes intended for the aristocrats: ”Sitting at little tables round vases….with their air of false composure,for they were not used to so many courses at dinner; and confidence,for they were able to pay for it; and strain,for they had been running about London all day shopping,sightseeing”. Subtle,intelligent and funny; I love this kind of humour.

3.The philosophical grandeur
Woolf is not a mere writer who experiments with different techniques.Far from it!She is a great philosopher who knows which words best convey our feelings,no matter how abstract they are.So when she talks about atheism,suicide,the burden of life or a lesbian’s own ignorance of her homosexuality, she succeeds at reaching our hearts: her words always hold a certain candidness and so,speak volumes about how people really feel.

4.The size.
My Folio Edition has 173 pages,so I guess a normal paperback edition must have 200 pages or so.Anyway ‘Mrs Dalloway’ is a little book that is quickly read,especially because every event takes place in a single day.So even if you get a little fed up with the book,you’ll have to bear with it for only a few pages.

What you might dislike in ‘Mrs Dalloway’:

1.The stream of consciousness.
You won’t have any problem with the stream of consciousness per se,but rather with the writing style it imposes on the author.Indeed,this technique doesn’t simply require the author to switch back and forth between the minds of the characters;the author must also write in such a way that she may put in words the flow of things occupying the minds of the characters.Consequently,the whole of the book is filled with this kind of flow,devoid of punctuations and respect of syntax.If you don’t get used with this writing style,you will eventually find the book chaotic!

2.No chapters!
Chapters are useful to readers in that they serve as landmarks when we want to stop reading a book; it is easy to remember the page at which we stopped and we can easily get back into the story,as a new chapter is always like a fresh start.Thus,the lack of chapters in ‘Mrs Dalloway’ can make your reading of the book a bit tedious,as you don’t know at which page to pause.It is all the more so when you will try to get back into the story which is like a never-ending flow(!);you might have to re-read one or more pages that you’ve already read in order to re-freshen your mind.

3.The dullness?
The story takes place in one day only,and there is barely any excitement,if not for one event.So,if one doesn’t fancy novel techniques,psychology,intelligent yet subtle humour or philosophy,it is highly likely that he won’t like the book.Don’t expect any plot twists,drama or hilariousness!

Verdict: I really liked the book but won’t advise everyone to read it,for it is a far cry from any other novel.Some of its quotes totally define what we feel about certain issues in life,and the way Woolf makes her stream of consciousness serve different functions is very impressive.All in all,the book’s beauty lies more in its features than in its plot.So,if you don’t wish to read a strenuous book,‘Mrs Dalloway’ might not be for you.You may come back to it when you have nothing else to read.

Related articles: ‘Mrs Dalloway’-The work of a genius