Posted by: roamingolivia | June 2, 2011

Favourite living writer

Last night I went to this London Review of Books (LRB) Bookshop event with Tea Obreht and David Bezmozgis. Obreht wrote The Tiger’s Wife, which has been getting good reviews everywhere, and Bezmozgis wrote The Free World, which … well, ditto. It was weird they were featured together, as these are the two books out right now that I really want to read (but have not yet purchased, not sure why).

LRB events are great because there is free wine included in your £7 ticket, and if the event is boring, you can just look at how many great books they have on the shelves.

This event in particular was good, and I want to read these two books about as much as I did before; plus, I want to be Obreht’s friend – she seems really fun. Bezmozgis reminds me of a friend I already have, so it seems less urgent to befriend him. Anyway, despite the fact that these books sound good and I still want to read them, it ruins my life that I read so many books by Nabokov because no one is the new Nabokov.

And this again reminds me that I need a favorite (see what I did there? I alternate the spelling of this word between British and English) living writer. Who can it be? I think one should have a favorite living writer, and I don’t have one. I want mine to be Bolano, but he is dead. The definition of it needs to be someone who you respect, and whose new works you rush out to buy. And even if I don’t love everything they write, I think there is still some value in them.

So here are my finalists, with the objections and problems with each.

  • Joan Didion – I love Year of Magical Thinking and her essays. The main issue with this is that I haven’t read her novel. Also, I don’t know what she is writing now.
  • Javier Marias – I liked Your Face Tomorrow, but am still undecided about whether this book was important and brilliant or a bit boring and shallow. And I haven’t read anything but this trilogy.
  • Gary Shteyngart – I love Absurdistan and the way his brain works, but I wouldn’t say these are the most profound books in the world. But I do rush out to buy his new books, even if Super Sad True Love Story didn’t work 100% in my opinion.
  • Thomas Pynchon – I just read Crying of Lot 49 (will write about this soon here) and liked it, and have read Gravity’s Rainbow and liked it. I also have read several hundred pages of Against the Day. I would definitely run out and buy his next book, but I don’t know that I would be able to finish it, so that makes this a problematic choice. But possibly the most serious contender.

Other contenders include Adam Levin, David Mitchell and Hisham Matar, but I have only read one book by each, and I think that disqualifies them.

Who is yours? Do you have one? Do you think it matters?



  1. Two come to mind right away: William Trevor and Michael Frayn.

  2. I wish David Foster Wallace was still alive so that I could answer this question more easily. Oh, and JD Salinger too (but does that even count, since he quit writing (publicly, at least) so long ago?)

    Shteyngart is a good choice. Michael Chabon is one of my favorites. I’ve only read one David Mitchell book so far and it was super, but I think I’m going to need to read his others.

  3. Oh, Jeffrey Eugenides makes my list. If only he’d write another novel some day.

    And nonfiction is a whole other ballgame, but I wanted to say that Michael Lewis is good at writing. Real good.

  4. I’m on two David Mitchell books, and I would read all the others. I just so rarely read whole canons from authors – I might try with Michael Ondaatje, I have another of his in my queue. Murakami (which I think we talked about when the Nobel came out) and AS Byatt and Edwidge Danicat. And while its not original or fancy, I will read everything Kingsolver writes, forever.

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