And so the last 4. Joyce Carol Oates, John Gardner, Robert Graves, and Gene Wolfe did not make my list because, although none of them are read nearly enough, they get more attention than the writers who have made my list. Now, on toward my conclusion...
10. Francine Prose
Like my choice of Halberstam, this is based on one book I really loved. Prose has done some superb writing over a 40 year career, but her Marie Laveau is one hell of an engaging novel. A New Orleans that does Anne Rice one better, or so I think. Haven't read it in 20 years, but I still think about it and its excellence.
11. Peter Straub
Most famous for Ghost Story and for his collaborations with Stephen King. It's too bad, because his mysteries are even better than his more preternatural stuff. I'd recommend Mystery, Koko, and The Throat. They are long, complicated, densely plotted and written. Straub is now becoming acknowledged more in the academy, and it's damn well time: I'd love to do a class on him someday.
12. Nathanael West
Oh, such a good American Modernist! Funny, dark, almost an exact contemporary of Fitzgerald, strikingly different, and (I think) better. Savage take on American society that does not take prisoners. Good to see American Library picking up his stuff: better to see a bunch of y'all reading him. Miss Lonelyhearts, Day of the Locust, A Cool Million and The Dream Life of Balso Snell. That's it, and all worth reading.
13. Garry Wills
Conservative writer, though slightly less conservative than he was 20 years ago. Read John Wayne's America, The Kennedy Imprisonment, Reagan's America, his work on St. Augustine and a brief book called What Jesus Meant. That I don't always agree with him, either politically or as a Catholic, makes him that much more good and provocative.
Well, there you have it. These names may come up again as the blog unfolds. I hope so, and hope to hear that you've read some of these writers. And even more, I'd love to hear about writers you think I should read. Let me know.