And The Answer Is…
NOT LONG AGO SOMEONE ASKED ME who I thought was the best writer. Of course, that is an impossible question to answer – even if you are going for just one man’s opinion. A question like that is like asking who is the prettiest woman, or what is the best tasting thing to have for dinner.
Talk about your subjective questions. Sheesh!
But he asked me about writers, so…
Rather than take up the rest of the day with my answer I turned it around and asked him what he thought. I think that’s what he wanted all along – a chance to voice his opinion.
His answer about “The Best” writer was Stephen King.
Also fair enough.
The hard part of the title of Best Writer is defining the “Best” part.
I like Stephen King’s work – sometimes. Some of his fiction is outstanding in my opinion, but some of his other work leaves me cold. That’s not to say it isn’t well crafted, but that it just doesn’t appeal to me. His novels like “Cujo” and “Christine”, which have been big sellers, don’t entertain me and that’s what I read fiction for. On the other hand, his book about the craft of writing is superb and should be obligatory reading in every school in America.
So much for Stephen King. Is he “The Best?”
Yes and No.
At one time I was absolutely transported by John Steinbeck’s writing. I read everything he ever had printed. At another time it was Robert Heinlein, then Shakespeare, then Ayn Rand, then Dashiell Hammet. Lately I’ve been deep into Raymond Chandler and Chuck Palahniuk. Which one of them is ‘Best?”
The answer is All of Them and none of them.
If I am writing short detective fiction then I would probably answer with Hammett or Chandler. If I’m working on something that has more of an element of Fantasy to it – then Heinlein or even Stephen King might be the proper answer. I’ve even gone back and read some old Max Shulman for the sheer silliness and joy of it.
If you asked someone else the same question I guarantee that you’d get a different set of answers. That person might not know who Max Shulman was, or care and his answer would be just as valid/invalid as mine or anybody else’s.
From the moment the fellow asked me for my opinion until the time he threw up his hands and admitted that there is no answer was about ten minutes. I didn’t mind taking the time for this. I learned a bit about him and where he is in his life, and he about mine.
I do a lot of my writing while slumped over a coffee down at St. Arbucks and, somewhat understandably, people get curious when they see a guy scribbling away. Contrary to popular opinion, I can be civil with people when they ask me about it. I’m certainly not the only person who goes there to write. I can point out several who use that spot as their office. It is neutral territory and holds fewer temptations than working at home, so when someone asks me things like “Who is the best writer?” I’m willing to take the time to talk about it with them. You never know, someday they may say my name when answering that question.