There are a lot of seriously skilled writers in the world who hardly get any attention, admiration, respect and praise and after reading their books you wonder why. Here are some of the most underrated authors today who need a bigger readership:
1. Mary Gaitskill
Mary Gaitskill has published in The New Yorker, Harper’s, and Esquire. She’s had three collections of short stories published, along with two novels. Yet she remains a relatively unknown author, beyond the realm of a relatively small literary circle, and she definitely deserves more attention. She is the master of the dark and moody short story, of plots that circle around themselves until they split open to reveal deep and introspective characters at their center. She’s one of the best modern American writers to have successfully captured the simultaneously pessimistic and ecstatic American affect. She manages to balance both an incisive criticism and dark celebration of the spiritual emptiness of materialism coupled with the pleasurable permissiveness of our modern hedonistic society. When it comes down to it, a lot of the times she’s just funny. She can somehow manage to make the reader laugh out loud in the middle of a story about violent male fantasies. That’s no easy feat.
2. Neal Stephenson
Fans of off-the-wall cyberpunk sci-fi that will crack your head open in a thousand ways need to seriously check out Neal Stephenson. Stephenson established himself as an author with his book Snowcrash, a crazy and hilarious postmodern concatenated cacophony of philosophy, capitalism, and computers. Since then, he’s written several novels that continue to explore important questions in Artificial Intelligence, nanotechnology, and Ancient Greek philosophy. Fans of William Gibson and Philip Dick would be wise to check this guy out.
3. Fyodor Dostoevsky
Including Dostoevsky on a list of the most underrated writers might seem ridiculous, but I feel that it’s justified. While Dostoevsky while always be a “writer’s writer”, he has started to fall out of favor, especially with the last few generations. Doubtless, there is only so much that can be said about any one author. But his prolific, brilliant, (admittedly lengthy) works have so much to teach us about the human condition that to ever call him overrated would be a crime. Everybody knows about Crime and Punishment, but really, all of his books are great, and should be required reading. The Brothers Karamazov was by far the most transformative book I’ve ever read, and I’m not the only one – Kurt Vonnegut said the book was solely responsible for turning him into a writer.
4. Jonathan Ames
Jonathan Ames has published three novels and a number of essay collections and novels. In my opinion, Ames is criminally ignored both by the mainstream and the literary establishment, which has a tendency to look down its nose at comic writers like Ames. But the fact is that Ames is a more daring, more honest, and more entertaining writer than almost any published author in America these days, or maybe ever. Everybody should read him. Now. Please.
The truth is that as much as people like to say literature is dead, it is still thriving. There are so many talented writers and so many publications that there’s no excuse not to stay updated on modern America fiction. Before you know it, you’ll find that you have a list of the most underrated authors of your own.