The best American writers have come from the hinterlands -- Mark Twain, Theodore Dreiser, Jack London, Hemingway, Faulkner, Wolfe, Steinbeck. Most of them never even went to college.
HB: Yes, it is quite right. But after all there is nothing mysterious about the daemon. The great inspiration behind my study is a book by my late good acquaintance E. R Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational, a profound and permanent influence upon me and upon my book. There is a peculiarly American sense of the demonic. My book is about twelve writers, I do not say they are the best American writers, though I myself believe they are, but I am not presenting them as such. They are certainly among our best. And I don't think their contribution to American literature has been matched by anybody born in the twentieth century. I think our two greatest figures are Walt Whitman and Herman Melville, so I give a more fullscale account of Whitman's poetry and then provide with a pretty close reading of that magnificent book called Moby Dick by Melville. I proceed from there to Emerson and to Emily Dickinson, one of the greatest poets and probably a poet with more originality than anyone in the language except William Shakespeare himself, all the way to Crane, a poet I have a special passion for who unfortunately committed suicide at 32 and who remains an extraordinary figure in lyric poetry.
100 Best American Authors (578 books)