Okay, I don't care what background, what degree, or lack of anything you possess. I want to start a literary debate. And we will start easy, which Lost Generation writer was the best?
Hemingway? Fitzgerald? Stein? Cummings? Eliot? Joyce? Miller? Nin? Anyone whose fame was between the end of WWI til the Great Depression.
The only stipulation is that back up your answer. Don't just name him/her. At least state why you came to your conclusion.
Hmm tough question, I collect books about the Lost Generation.
I think I have to agree with Fitzgerald, although he was basically on the outside of the Lost Generation in my opinion. The same with Joyce, although he is in my collection he was more an inspiration that part of the Lost Generation. I don't think it was Hemingway that is for sure, while he was an excellent craftsman I'm not a fan of most of his writing. I do enjoy A Moveable Feast, I consider it Hemingways best work.
Wow, never thought I'd see a discussion about the Lost Generation here. I love it
Uninvited Writer said,"Wow, never thought I'd see a discussion about the Lost Generation here. I love it".
I'm surprised too. And glad.
I used to read thru Hemingway's short stories and novels each spring. And I recall a non-stop reading of Joyce's Ullyses (sp?)at my English professor's home. Fitzgerald, I could never read. I'm sorry but I hated his voice; the tone and demeanor of it. For me, Gatsby was never great and I felt no sympathy for him.
Maybe I could have overcome the author's voice. But that is not my job as a Reader. It's his. If he had made me care for his characters it might have won my interest, kept my attention. A work based on swift-moving action can rely on plot to carry the day. But the best plot is just a poor relation when you're writing a character-driven novel.
Can I make a comment about the original question?
I understand the value of comparing things. But the question itself emphasizes "what's best". It's a lovely technique to spur our competitive nature, to root for our favorite. But the question reminds me of a story told by Seinfelt.
"He grew up beside Wrigley Stadium. His father, uncles and grandparents took him to every baseball game and he loved it. Here he is, just a young boy. And he knows every players name, their stats, who got sick and what they ate that made them miss the game.
Well, as he grew older he began to notice a very disturbing thing. Some of these players he loved so much...they were leaving. They went to another town, another team. And he was shocked. More than that, he hated those guys, those, those, whataya call someone like this? Those traitors.
So he gets older and the players leave still. And the new ones come from another team..It's a problem! Cuz they used to be the guys he booed and now they're on HIS team! Ya can't win with these guys coming and going and...Suddenly, it just hits him. The players all come and go. The ones I love are all now a bunch of bums wearing some other team's jersey.
And then I knew. All the time. -I was just rootin for the laundry". (end of Seinfelt)
Love and loyalty. Maybe it changes as we grow older. Who we love, why we remain loyal; it all can change over time. And then we, the Readers, the ones who love literature and writing and authors...what about when we change teams? You know. When we move away from our earliest storybook heroes and find new authors, with new subjects. Aren't we being just a little like Seinfelt's baseball players? Just in it for ourselves?
Well YE-AH!! That's the Reader. He's changing teams, puttin on the new jersey at Barnes and Noble right now!
Why's he doing it? Maybe it's because THE best is not what they're looking for. I may be wrong. (I'm married, so I must be wrong. ALOT.) But I think the best is like a mountain peak higher than any other. It's a one time thing to climb it. But I think that readers want the same wonderful reading experience...only over and over again, each time in a new way.
The climb and the experience of getting lost in the story, the characters, the times, the dialogue...until it's not reading words anymore. It's living an experience.
So let me ask everyone who's still reading. Which of your body parts is best? The nose, the knee, the...
So I understand the value of a comparison. And I personally believe that I have the BEST knees in my household! ...but a man without a nose? It's sad but true...without the one, the other doesn't matter all that much.
So Today. I talk. I give you length. So tomorrow I'll give you quality already. And I thank you for your time.
John Dos Passos and in particular his USA trilogy and the manner in which it is written transforming it from an "ordinary book" to a literary collage. His style had a major influence on amongst others some of the European greats, including Sartre, Camus and Malraux, to name but a few (and only the French one at that...)
I would say that Nin was more of a "female" thing and not a lot of people have read her material simply because of what she wrote.
So leaving her off your list, I would say Hemingway simply because of his writing is taught in classrooms.
I love e e cummings but he is a poet while the others are not.
Oh, Fitzgerald, hands down. Based solely on The Great Gatsby. Incidentally, Hemingway felt the same way...and although the two men were friends, there was a lot of jealousy involved between the two of them--especially on Hemmingway's part.
Of course, Gatsby was the only great work that Fitzgerald ostensibly produced. He drank himself to death over his other works and Hemmingway kinda laughed.
Hemmingway way was good, yeah. But there is a bit too much of that stark/minimalist thing involved in his 'journalistic-like' writing that will never make me say he was the best. I personally think he knew that, and that's why the animosity with Fitzgerald.
I am Swanney Lee and i cannot say who is the best because they call delivered their wisdom in a unique form. Wisdom is wisdom.The best writer is the next writer. we all have something to offer. I would certainly invite you all to read my hubs. IT is very insightful and wisdom love company.
Beckett. Through Waiting for Godot Beckett has been recognised as a pioneer of the modern era. Through one play he has captulated so many minds and I'm sure that this piece of art will out live any other pieces of work that was written in the 19th century simply because of it's modern notions of absurdism and humanism etc
Great answers so far, but a couple things, SwanneyLee, this is a group of writers from a given era that heavily influenced each other. It is obvious that some had better talent than others. It is not a slight to any of the endeavors to say one is better to the other and there has been many after this generation with far less talent, who get credit, and do not deserve it. And Jackson, I think Beckett was a post WWII writer. I know he clerked for Joyce, but I think Waiting For Godot came out in the late forties. With that aside, you may have a point. It was extremely groundbreaking. And with current trends in media, hundreds of years from now it might be reproduced where a copy of Fitzgerald's The Alcoholic might have been lost. And wsp2469, I wouldn't discredit Nin for her femininity. That entire generation owes a great deal of its success to Gertrude Stein. Despite her utter hatred of Hemingway, her parties and support in Paris opened many doors for him. And her writing is still eons ahead of what many people are attempting today when it comes to form and style. And I did include poets. I think Eliot was the best of the period, but he gets so highbrowed and impossible to figure out that I go back to the prose writers. But that is a personal preference.
In my opinion though, I am a bigger fan of Hemingway. I agree with Lita about Gatsby and a lot of the two writer's animosity comes from Hemingway’s' review of Tender is the Night (and the review was probably driven by Papa's feelings of inferiority). Yet, there is a hidden deep quality in Hemingway's short fiction. Fitzgerald's prose is truly poetic, but there is something about reading a Hemingway story and his ability to show the reader multiple perceptions with dialogue. He implements weather to create the same effect music does in film today. He was unafraid to attack the role of faith during war and what happens to soldiers when they are broken and finished.
Well, to be honest, twalker, it has been a while since I read Hemmingway. I've read more ABOUT him in recent years than read him. And there is that whole Hemmingway macho-ish persona thing that somewhat destroys it for me, as well as the fact he didn't actually spend much time as a soldier--or a journalist. All of course, incorporating my personal prejudices. You asked personal favorite, haha, and not, I think, for a thesis, so...
Hands down it is still Great Gatsby for me, as that work has influenced my own life most. But I am of the opinion that there are 'great' writers; perhaps not necessarily (and thank God) no one great writer of a period. I know it sounds a bit post modern of me, but not really.
Anyway, thanks for the good discussion! Gotta run.
Lita, you are correct on many fronts, especially for this period. There is so much wonderful talent. It becomes more a matter of taste than technique, innovation, or savvy. Henry Miller, for example, was so apposed to the Hemingway crowd. He violently opposed them, which explains the opening to "Tropic of Cancer." Yet, he did not do as much to change the art Hemingway. They took such drastically alternative approaches. Moreover, if I had to pick one book, Gatsby is easily the best. Personally, I do not think this is a matter of debate, but I understand my limitations as a scholar (very limited, haha), so I would not insist.
In addition, when it comes to Hemingway, I think more people read about him today, than read him. I always remember that he was a writer. What he was outside of that helps us to understand why he wrote the way he did (if that matters to a person). I believe, and this is only opinion, is that Hemingway's women lack depth because he of how bad he was hurt in his youth. Many times this has either been romanticized, but I think it is just another example of scorn. I have it. It is special to me, but it is hardly original. Then you throw in his journalistic "manner" (because he wasn't that great a journalist) and mix in his real talent--the talent for understanding alternate perceptions. Isn't an important aspect of literary genius, the ability to create unique, believable character? You never confuse characters or names when you read "Papa" (sorry, couldn't resist). He understands his own limitation and focuses on what he knows, the male perspective.
I could really write a join you with a drawn out analytical paper...eeeek! It was a good discussion and thanks to those who weighed in. Maybe when I have time this weekend I'll work on something around this topic.
I don't think we yet know, even so many years later, the full extent of the relationship between Stein and Hemingway. We know about the incident of 1926, and the tremendous influence she had on his writing, but to say she had an "utter hatred" of him is I think innacurate.
Any writer worth his salt, such as Hemingway, would compliment the competition when he was thinking clearly.
Also, I was sticking to the examples given in the original post.
Maybe some might find my process of elimination as sexist but there truly is nothing wrong with keeping the genders separate in a debate. Both have their own unique and therefore incomparable points-of-view.
I was also separating writers according to genres.
I like Beckett and cummings but can't compare apples to oranges.
I eliminate Joyce not because he was not memorable but because I was a bit disappointed with the way a couple of his works seemed a bit too difficult to read to be enjoyable. That is just a personal observation though.
My initial response was based on my experiences as both student and teacher in various schools and colleges on two different coasts.
I didn't intend on separating genders, but you make some valid points. Since they era is generally split by gender it might make a pointless argument to add them. The women did purposefully separate themselves during the period and their works show it. And I agree with Joyce. Maybe the most brilliant as far as intellect, but Ulysses is a bit to swallow for any reader.
I vote for Ernest Holms. He lived as he preached and died as he lived. His life's work, the Science of Mind, still lives on to the benefit of the many who choose to study it.
This is slighlty off-topic but can someone write something that can be classified to be in an era that has passed. Example, if I were to write something abstract would that be defined as a modern piece of work (something which was written in the early 20th century) or would it be a contemporary (if I was to give the 21st century a name) piece?
I do not believe that they would classify you within that era. The Neo-classical period in Europe came about because the entire literary body wanted to restructure their contemporary style after the Greek and Romans. If you are the only one, a critic qwould most likely just say you are heavily influenced or that you write in that style, not classify you with that period
Hey, twalker. If you have a chance, check out your Neruda post. I critiqued it for you (it has been a while...but there are other reasons, I'd imagine, besides poetry being small scale that I ended up working primarily in that mode).
As far as Hemmingway--you realize I've never read "A Movable Feast?" lol It says something to me. Anyway, yes. A post post-feminist look needs to be done on Hemmingway. If it can be so with women artists/writers, it can be so with male authors.
We must be polar opposites in this regard. I'm not a big fan of Gatsby, but I've worn out several copies of Moveable Feast.
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Manby James Joyce was fantastically written and is more accessible than Ulysees.
Hemingway's A Moveable Feasttaps into the whole mindset of the time - the buzz that was happening.
I think that many factors have to come into play here. If you're speaking of genius - in terms of creating something lasting and experimental and important - Joyce probably wins hands down. However, I say that and say it with great reservation because I don't LIKE Joyce's work, apart from his collection of short stories "Dubliners."
Like is a factor, like it or not; meaning, what style sounds best to your ear? What do you enjoy? I enjoy Fitzgerald's work far and away more than the others listed. However, whoever said or implied that "The Great Gatsby" is the only worthwhile thing he wrote must never really have read him. His short stories - especially "Babylon Revisited" - represent 'the lost generation' as well as anything ever written. In that story alone, Charlie's frustrated quest for redemption is indicative of the spiritual waste of the 1920's and the stark realities of the encroaching depression. Charlie must pay for his sins, without redemption. Fitzgerald, if nothing else, understood the human condition better than the others on the list; Hemmingway was a great writer but he has little sympathy for anyone who sees things differently from himself.
I wish you had made the time-frame just a little wider and included the tail end of Twain's career, and O.Henry, and others who wrote just prior to WWI. These figures, in my opinion are as great or greater than any who have followed.
Late on the train in another interesting conversation. Too bad. But. I've really got to add my two cents. Djuna Barnes hasn't been mentioned, and I feel she deserves some credit. She gets my vote, anyway. If we maintain a timescale that allows for things written /in/ the Depression, then I nominate Djuna Barnes for best, and evidence it with /Nightwood/.
I'm a huge Hemingway fan if we're talking about prose - he captures the sense of loss, confusion, disillusionment, and angst of the lost generation (plus, I think he was the one Stein was speaking to - so to be the guy that got the label going, well... case closed in my book)
Poetically, I love Eliot - "The Waste Land" and "The Hollow Men" are both textbook Modernist - as is "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."
I really like Ezra Pound, and I've always seen him lumped with Modernists like Hemingway, Eliot, Fitzgerald, and such. He's more of an "imagiste," I realize, but this poem, titled "The Garden" captures the Lost Generation's feelings of barrenness and confusion.
by: Ezra Pound (1885-1972)
Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall
She walks by the railing of a path in Kensington Gardens,
And she is dying piece-meal
of a sort of emotional anemia.
And round about there is a rabble
Of the filthy, sturdy, unkillable infants of the very poor.
They shall inherit the earth.
In her is the end of breeding.
Her boredom is exquisite and excessive.
She would like some one to speak to her,
And is almost afraid that I
will commit that indiscretion.
T.S. Eliot's work moves me like none of the others. This is all very subjective, but it seems that no one else has Eliot's tender, sensitive, and mystical soul. His imagery ("like a patient etherised upon a table," "I have measured out my life in coffee spoons") invoke clear pictures and paint them with emotion. His musings about time and action (especially in the Four Quartets) are mind-bending.
Works like Murder in the Cathedral and The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock have moved me to tears. This line: "I have heard the mermaids singing each to each/I do not think they will sing for me" breaks my heart every time.
The Waste Lands, of course, captures the ennui of the modern day; it's epic, and hardly needs to be mentioned.
Eliot's minor works are consistently wonderful as well; "Eyes that last I saw in tears" is a short, but exceedingly moving bit of verse; "The Hippopotamus" is absolutely hilarious, and "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" (upon which the show "Cats" is based) is a jaunty poetic romp through the mysterious world of alley cats (great for kids).
All this doesn't even begin to touch on the great lot of his critical work and prose.
Eliot, in my opinion, managed to capture the soul of his generation as well as the essence of a new age.
"The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."
from "A Farewell to Arms"
While I agree with you that Eliot's imagery is some of the best poetry has going.. "lips that would kiss / form prayers to broken stone" oh that gets me. BUT, I still love Hemingway's directness - the above from A Farewell to Arms.
are you guys forgetting C.S Lewis? Come on Chronicles of Narnia? Fantastic read. He did not only have a completely unique and fasinating storyline to his books but he also is a fantastic author, very intellegent and good at wording things in a way that makes the boring seem interesting.
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