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Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:08 am UTC
by Sir_Elderberry
I see, with decent regularity, people say (on this forum and others) something like "x was an author with good ideas, but his prose isn't that good." (see: Cthulu thread) Interested in this, I would like a benchmark of comparison. Who, in your opinion, can just flat-out write?

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 5:08 am UTC
by nevskey1
Well, without going too ancient, I would have to first mention my favorite writer, Herman Melville (yes of Moby Dick fame/infamy). A terrific marriage of both great ideas and great writing, and on many levels, at that: sentence style, word choice, metaphor, allegory, etc. Another example along those lines is Nabakov. Great ideas and great writing.

Now, in terms of just writing, Scott Fitzgerald deserves mention, as well as Proust.

For more contemporary examples I would have two point out three in particular: Cormac Mcarthy, Michel Houellbecq, and Colm Toibin. Terrific writers in the way that you're referring to, IMO.

Otherwise, though, I have to admit that the classics are classics for a reason. My personal cream of the crop would have to be Tolstoy, Flaubert, Chekhov, Virginia Woolf, and Faulkner. That's just in terms of pure writing ability (because plot, let's face it...). Yeah, those modernists really knew how to string a sentence together in a ridiculously talented way.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 5:13 am UTC
by darwinwins
haruki murakami and jack kerouac.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 5:15 am UTC
by blindaurora
I really like the way C. S. Lewis' prose goes along. I like the way he introduces concepts and ideas, whether it is his own philosophies, nonfiction, personal experiences, or ficticious plot points. He comes across as very kind on the page, even when the subject is harsh.

Tolkein's fiction prose, particularly that in LotR is also music to my eyes. There's just something about his loving description of mountain peaks and trees and stones that I love.

Jack London. Leave it to this man to change a room full of people complaining of heat over to chills and gooosebumps.

Also, Rudyard Kipling was quite skilled, but in the light of years, much of his prose and philosophy seem quite racist and bigoted. Things like The Jungle Book and his poem If are still worth reading though.

I could go on and on.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 5:15 am UTC
by Robin S
In my personal opinion, Dan Brown (at least, his writing style to plot skill ratio is extremely high).

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 5:59 am UTC
by Fossa
George R. R. Martin.

I will eagerly read any words he puts down on paper.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 6:10 am UTC
by OmenPigeon
Robin S wrote:In my personal opinion, Dan Brown (at least, his writing style to plot skill ratio is extremely high).

There may be some good things that can be said about Dan Brown. He certainly managed to write a novel that made him very famous, and that doesn't happen often.

That said, he writes some terrible, horrible, no good prose. Others have written about this more eloquently than I can, so I'll just link to that. The beginning of "The DaVinci Code" is poorly written. Every one of his books is the same. He's generally kind of incompetent. And, finally, He has kind of a weird thing with eyebrows.

It's become something of an intellectual fad to jump on Dan Brown for being a crappy writer who only became famous because the unwashed masses can't tell that he's hack, so sorry for continuing the trend. You also did mention that it was your opinion, and I suppose that you could just have a taste for his brand of writing. But, really? "learning the ropes in the trenches"?

Here are a few of my picks:

Jorge Luis Borges. God, this man writes beautiful words. He can say more in three sentences than most writers can in three hundred pages. His imagery is both immediately vivid and worth thinking about for hours.

Richard Brautigan. Trout Fishing in America is one of the few books I've ever read that's made me really proud to be American, based simply on the fact that there isn't anywhere else in the world that could have come from. He has a wonderful childlike simplicity that creates gleeful prose.

Virgil. For some reason, I've been thinking about the death of Laocoon in the Aeneid for the past few days. I'm not sure why, but I do remember I really, really enjoyed studying that particular passage.

Isabel Allende. Her writing evokes a sense of mystery thats very rare. Her characters have some of the same properties as Borges' images -- immediately evocative, deeply faceted and enduringly beautiful.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 12:39 pm UTC
by Malice
King has his moments. So does his son, Owen King. I'll second Murakami. Chuck Palahniuk. Nobody writes a great line of dialog like Dashiell Hammett. Nobody writes a great line of whimsy like Daniel Handler. Nobody writes "what the fuck did I just read?" like Faulkner. Nobody writes run-on sentences quite like Brett Easton Ellis. :p

Who else? uhh, Nick Hornby. EA Poe, not all the time, but occasionally he was spot fucking on (the Masque of the Red Death is simply flawless).

I know I'm thinking mostly of novelists and neglecting some short story writers... hmm... Peter Straub (check out "Julia" sometime, or the short story, "A Short Guide to the City")...

Oh, and David Wong.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:11 pm UTC
by Zohar
Jonathan Carroll, Isaac Asimov, both are authors that are extremely easy for me to read. Not sure if that's exactly what you mean.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:22 pm UTC
by tiny
Margaret Mitchell - reads without the slightest effort, even when the content is rather insignificant.
Robert Schneider - artificial style without flaws, great vocabulary.
Aldous Huxley - uses language and form very freely and effectively, bringing in lots of dynamics.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:51 pm UTC
by Bakemaster
Ursula K. LeGuin comes to mind, and Ray Bradbury. God, I wanted to write like Ray Bradbury when I was younger. I need to read some of his collections again.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 5:11 pm UTC
by George Orr
Don fucking DeLillo. Nobody writes words like this man - his prose is pure art, the poetry of reality rather than that of dreams. Especially his description of setting and his dialogue, which shifts between rambling philosophical treatises and brutally concise remarks.

Other than that, I'll second a few who have already been mentioned here. Jorge Luis Borges and Haruki Murakami are both excellent, but to some extent I think the potency of their writing is diminished by its translation. Not that the translators aren't good. On the contrary, they're excellent. It's just that translated words don't have the same palpable reality as words in their native language. Ray Bradbury is excellent, I agree, but his stuff can get a bit repetitive after you've read a large amount of it. The first 15 or so books were good, but at this point I don't pick his stuff up anymore - I feel like its a bit redundant.

Also, Gene Wolfe writes excellently literate SF, especially the book of the new sun series. He may be a bit dense, but with people mentioning Faulkner and Proust here, I don't think that's a huge problem.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 5:35 pm UTC
by Nath
I noticed a few non-English writers in some people's lists. Are you reference to the original versions, or translations? Can you really judge the quality of prose of a work from a translation?

I find it hard to compare different writing styles, as they have different objectives. I think Kurt Vonnegut, O'Henry, Douglas Adams, Mark Twain, Roald Dahl, PG Wodehouse and Bertrand Russell all succeed at doing what they set out to do.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 5:46 pm UTC
by Mighty Jalapeno
Rod Serling.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 6:41 pm UTC
by pinkgothic
See, this is why I like Ayn Rand.*

I view authors, first and foremost, as crafters, in the same way that a good visual artist is probably primarily recognised by the visual quality of his images. Both of them have the potential to create new ideas, but I've always felt this to be secondary... mainly because getting a new, original idea is such enormously much work (and I have ridiculous amounts of respect for those who come up with stunning new ideas), and it can't be expected.

Anyway, I'm easily suckered by descriptive sentences. I just like that sort of thing. :) So, for me, style > content, any day, thought of course style + content > style. My preference of style to content is also why I can read through Otherland (by Tad Williams) as excitedly as I do... it's a very simple story spanning four huge books, but it's written exceptionally nicely... rivetting.

* I now fully expect to be clobbered. All I ask is that you please be gentle and avoid striking my head.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 6:51 pm UTC
by Bakemaster
You won't be clobbered for saying you like Ayn Rand's writing style. You may be clobbered if you say she writes good prose.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 8:24 pm UTC
by pinkgothic
*opens mouth*

...

*closes again*

I value my life, kthxbye. :P

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 8:38 pm UTC
by Izawwlgood
Rage.
Sing, O Muse, of the rage of Achilles, of Peleus’ son, murderous, man-killer, fated to die, sing of the rage that cost the Achaens so many good men and sent so many vital, hearty souls down to the dreary House of Death. And while you’re at it, O Muse, sing of the rage of the gods themselves, so petulant and so powerful here on their new Olympos, and of the rage of the post-humans, dead and gone though they might be, and of the rage of those few true humans left, self-absorbed and useless though they may have become. While you are singing, O Muse, sing also of the rage of those thoughtful, sentient, serious but not-so-close-to-human beings out there dreaming under the ice of Europa, dying in the sulfer-ash of Io, and being born in the cold folds of Ganymede.
Oh, and sing of me, O Muse, poor born-again-against-his-will Hockenberry – poor dead Thomas Hockenberry, Ph.D., Hockenbush to his friends, to friends long since turned to dust on a world long since left behind. Sing of my rage, yes, of my rage, O Muse, small and insignificant though that rage may be when measured against the anger of the immortal gods, or when compared to the wrath of the god-killer, Achilles.
On second thought, O Muse, sing of nothing to me. I know you. I have been bound and servant to you, O Muse, you incomparable bitch. And I do not trust you, O Muse. Not one little bit.


Epic. Dan Simmons knows how to write hooks, finishes, drama, and just flat out epic. If you haven't read anything by him, you haven't yet been exposed to what good writing is capable of.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 9:08 pm UTC
by Masuri
Argh!

Dan Simmons is a fraud. (It took me several tries to come up with a word bad enough and I simply could not get there.)

That whole intro thing that is so great in Ilium? Read Book 1 of the Odyssey. He's simply aping Homer.

Few books have made me as angry as Olympos and Illium. Write a derivative work - fine. Amalgamate your books from the writings of five different masters and throw in some gadgets - dandy. Pass off their dialogue word for word as your own? Not fine. Not dandy.

The few pieces in there that are not directly raped from the masterworks of other authors and poets are okay. But it chaps my ass to see him lauded for Robert Browning's imagery, Homer's introduction, and Shakespeare's plot.

*deep, calming breath*

Read Browning's Caliban Upon Setebos. Read The Tempest. If you're feeling froggy, take on some Proust or Homer. A good translation of The Odyssey is fascinating.

Random thread tangent - is an author like Simmons able to pull off such a stunt because science fiction fans tend to lean toward more math/science curricula and are thus less likely to have studied classic literature and poetry?

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 9:27 pm UTC
by Izawwlgood
Dude, Simmons isn't trying to mask the fact that he's writing fan fiction. he's retelling the story with a sci-fi slant! Wait! *GASP!* You mean... this MUSE character isn't his creation?!

Sorry... That was snarky... I LOVED the Odyssey, only read excerpts from the Iliad... Then read Ilium (Olympos is kinda crappy, but whatever) and was FLOORED! My favorite heroes of yore, NANOTECH ENHANCED?!

His Nebula award winning novel Hyperion was a retelling of the Canterbury tales. And he's not a fraud, as he's written a number of non-fan fiction esque tales. But seriously, critiquing Simmons for ripping off Homer is completely missing the forest for the trees.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 10:10 pm UTC
by Masuri
But that is precisely the point of this thread.

You are praising his writing here and he didn't write those beautiful phrases or come up with that style of prose, but he puts his name on it and profits from it. I find that completely reprehensible.

So, no. You don't like Dan Simmons' writing. You like the writing he stole and rebranded as his own.

Edit: I thought that intro was lame and contrived, but I knew it for what it was trying to be and let it go. It's the wholesale theft from Browning of everything Caliban says that ticks me off.

Edit2: Why do I always confuse Browning and Frost as the author of that poem? I'm getting old.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 10:25 pm UTC
by Izawwlgood
It is my understanding that Homer did not use the phrase "On second thought O Muse, I do not trust you, you incomparable bitch", but hey, maybe we read different translations.

You trying to say I like the SUBJECT matter he borrowed? Sure.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 11:44 pm UTC
by TheAmazingRando
I've probably said it here before, but Thomas Pynchon could write utter nonsense and I would still read it just because it sounds so beautiful. The same goes for Faulkner, Melville, and Hawthorne.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Sat Feb 02, 2008 12:26 am UTC
by Ended
James Joyce, in Dubliners (haven't read Ulysses or Finnegan's Wake, so can't really comment on them). But:

Araby wrote:When the short days of winter came, dusk fell before we had well eaten our dinners. When we met in the street the houses had grown sombre. The space of sky above us was the colour of ever-changing violet and towards it the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns. The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed.

Yes, Joyce. Yes, you do get a cookie.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Sat Feb 02, 2008 1:13 am UTC
by une see
Ray Bradbury.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Vladimir Nabokov.
Sandra Cisneros.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Sat Feb 02, 2008 6:48 am UTC
by Charlie!
Okay, so here's my list:

People I like for their style:
Ray Bradbury kinda
Kurt Vonnegut
Renée Fleming (a bit lesser known touchy-feely author with hella style)
Neil Gaiman to some extent
Oh, and with a loose definition of "style," Spider Robinson, who made puns do EVERYTHING.

That list excludes people I like for both substance AND style, since that might be a little crowded. As Terry Pratchett would say (sorry, just read his new book and it's still in my head), these guys sell the sizzle, not the sausage. But damn, they're good at it.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Sat Feb 02, 2008 4:55 pm UTC
by Jesse
Glad to hear Don DeLillo being mentioned, because he is possibly the best writer of prose I've ever read. Underworld may well contain my favourite prose.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 4:03 am UTC
by darwinwins
i forgot Italo Calvino.

i don't care if murakami and calvino were translated -- their translators did a phenomenal jobs of translating not just the words but the feelings of those words.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 4:57 am UTC
by Malice
Definitely forgot Bradbury. His stories aren't always the best, but his prose is astoundingly original, and frequently quite beautiful. (See "Something Wicked This Way Comes" for an example.)

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 2:15 pm UTC
by Narsil
TheAmazingRando wrote:I've probably said it here before, but Thomas Pynchon could write utter nonsense and I would still read it just because it sounds so beautiful.

Exactly. I read 730 pages of nonsense in Gravity's Rainbow just because it sounded good.

TheAmazingRando wrote:The same goes for Hawthorne.

I will fight you to the death on that one. The Scarlet Letter was agonizing. I'm pretty sure all 200 pages were just one long sentence.


In terms of modern authors, I will also say that I quite enjoy Neil Gaiman's writing. Sure it's silly and all, but god damn that guy knows how to write.

Oh, and Susanna Clarke is amazing as well. She's the author of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Up until reading that book, I never quite understood why people regarded good writing so highly and what they meant when they said "beautiful prose". Then I read this. Clarke has a way of weaving these incredible images and commenting on them without detracting from the story. Her characters are never labeled "good" or "evil", always this eerie moral gray area. Even the "villain" of the story would be hard to call evil. More than anything, her stories evoke that childlike sense of wonder at hearing a good tale, and the end of each chapter is like Ms. Clarke telling you, "And you'll hear the rest of the story tomorrow."

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 2:20 pm UTC
by darwinwins
it saddens me that gaiman is about as deep as thumbelina's bathtub cos he does write beautifully.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 3:11 pm UTC
by Izawwlgood
Burroughs. For making the virginian gentleman WARLORD OF MARS. No seriously, the sense of bravado is captivating. Early sci-fi writers did a wonderful job of grasping at the poorly understood and instilling it with a sense of excitement.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 12:01 am UTC
by Ebeth
darwinwins wrote:it saddens me that gaiman is about as deep as thumbelina's bathtub cos he does write beautifully.


"deep as thumbelina's bathtub," while funny, doesn't really describe neil gaiman at all (in my opinion).

but he does write beautifully.

I also love Vaclav Havel's writing style. He is one of the few writers that can make even a memo to his staff interesting, funny, and well-written. I'm a big Chaucer fan too, but you have to read the original, not the crappy translations. Asimov is, of course, brilliant. de Lint is a fantastic writer, i always feel really caught up in his stories, like it's happening right there in front of me.

There are probably more, but i'm not going to bother thinking of them right now...

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Wed Feb 06, 2008 2:05 pm UTC
by Firnagzen
Does anyone agree with me that Matthew Stover's style is pretty good too? Read his novelization of Star Wars Episode 3 to see what I mean.

Or is it just me? :roll:

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 3:46 am UTC
by Little Richie
Douglas Adams
Michael Crichton in "Prey" and many others, inspired me to work on a collective inteligence program, eventualy.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 2:01 pm UTC
by wery67564
Wow, didn't think I would be the first to say it, but the numero uno is Hunter S. Thompson, followed closely by Kurt Vonnegut, Dostoevsky, Twain, Aldous Huxley, and the magnificent e.e. cummings for his novel and his novel poetry (point for wit!)...

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Sun Feb 10, 2008 8:00 am UTC
by Nyarlathotep
Firnagzen wrote:Does anyone agree with me that Matthew Stover's style is pretty good too? Read his novelization of Star Wars Episode 3 to see what I mean.

Or is it just me? :roll:


I totally agree. He's got this beautiful, almost floating prose... it's stunning. he shoudn't be writing Star Wars books XD

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Sun Feb 10, 2008 8:24 pm UTC
by Pathway
Narsil wrote:I will fight you to the death on that one. The Scarlet Letter was agonizing. I'm pretty sure all 200 pages were just one long sentence.


Heh, maybe this is why David Foster Wallace gets no love on this board. I've mentioned him before.

He wrote 1000 pages and I gulped it down. Infinite Jest. Amazing book.

http://web.archive.org/web/200406060419 ... ookworm96/

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Sun Feb 10, 2008 9:10 pm UTC
by TheAmazingRando
Pathway wrote:
Narsil wrote:I will fight you to the death on that one. The Scarlet Letter was agonizing. I'm pretty sure all 200 pages were just one long sentence.


Heh, maybe this is why David Foster Wallace gets no love on this board. I've mentioned him before.

He gets my love, if that's worth anything. I haven't finished the novel yet, I like to take it in short doses, but when I'm in the mood I can just drift through 100 pages like it's nothing.

Re: Writers you love for writing

Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2008 12:20 am UTC
by darwinwins
Ebeth wrote:
darwinwins wrote:it saddens me that gaiman is about as deep as thumbelina's bathtub cos he does write beautifully.


"deep as thumbelina's bathtub," while funny, doesn't really describe neil gaiman at all (in my opinion).

he doesn't exactly force you to strain your brain when reading.