“The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.”
– Chuck Palahniuk, Diary
Chuck Palahniuk, author of the award-winning novel Fight Club, which was very famously adapted into a feature film, is an American novelist and freelance journalist. Palahniuk describes his work as “transgressional” fiction.
Palahniuk often wrote his books with distinct similarities. The characters represent people who have been marginalized in one way or another by society, and often react with self-destructive aggressiveness. Beginning with Lullaby, the style of his novels changed to mostly satirical horror stories.
Palahniuk is the recipient of the 1997 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award and the 1997 Oregon Book Award for Best Novel both for Fight Club) and the 2003 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award for Lullaby. He was also nominated for the 1999 Oregon Book Award for Best Novel for Survivor and the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel for Lullaby in 2002 and Haunted in 2005.
“Green was the silence, wet was the light, the month of June trembled like a butterfly.”
― Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets
Born Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto, Pablo Neruda became known as a poet at 10 years old. Neruda wrote in various styles including: surrealist poems, a prose autobiography, and passionate love poems like his 1924 collection, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair.
Neruda was regarded as “the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language,” by Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez and “one of the 26 writers central to the Western tradition” in The Western Canon by Harold Bloom. Neruda received numerous accolades including the International Peace Prize, the Lenin Peace Prize, and the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Neruda was a close advisor to Chile’s socialist President Salvador Allende and in fact, Neruda was nominated as a candidate for the Chilean presidency in 1970, but ended up giving his support to Allende, who later won the election as the first democratically elected socialist head of state. Allende then appointed Neruda as the Chilean ambassador to France from 1970–1972.
A bust of Neruda stands on the grounds of the Organization of American States building in Washington, D.C.
“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”
–Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist
Oscar Wilde, an Irish playwright, poet, and novelist, became one of London’s most popular playwrights during his time with plays such as The Importance of Being Earnest.
Wilde spoke highly of aestheticism and made attempts at several forms of literature including publishing a book poetry, lecturing on the new “English Renaissance in Art” in the United States and Canada, and became a journalist when he returned to London. Wilde became one of the best-known personalities of his day, known for his wit and flamboyant dress.
While The Importance of Being Earnest was still running in London, Wilde had the Marquess of Queensberry prosecuted for criminal libel. The Marquess was the father of Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred Douglas. The trial revealed evidence that caused Wilde to drop his charges and led to his own arrest and trial for gross indecency with men. After two more trials, Wilde was convicted and imprisoned for two years. After he was released, Wilde left to France and began his final work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, a long poem commemorating the harsh realities of prison life.
“I am going to leave you to make my entry into the world; — I shall be very much astonished if I enjoy myself there as I have in school.”
—Colette, Claudine à l’école (Claudine at School)
One of the greatest avant-garde authors of the 19th century, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette—most commonly referred to as simply Colette—was a French novelist, essayist, and performer. Collete made herself into a famous creative and feminist icon by writing for a female audience, evoking passion and sensuality in her works, and for being unapologetically proud of her sexual and personal agency in a time where such a point of view was not common for women.
Her first husband took the credit for the first four books Colette wrote, the Claudine series, which were based on her own life experiences. Fortunately, though she never profited in her lifetime from her stories, she was later recognized for writing them. Colette was also able to get full-credit and copyright of all the books that she wrote after, such as her best known novel Gigi, L’ingenue libertine (The Innocent Libertine), and Cheri. Her most critically acclaimed novel is La Vagabonde (The Vagabond). She is the second woman to have ever been given the title of grand officer of the Legion of Honor, which she earned for her great influence in France.
“And remember: you must not overwork your body, or your soul. You must not enslave yourself, as you would not enslave any other person. You must be the custodian of your self.”
—Joyce Carol Oates, Mudwoman
Joyce Carol Oates is one of the most recognized and respected American literary writers of our time. With an extensive history of writing and reading since her childhood, Oates has published over 40 novels, memoirs, plays, and poetry. She’s been honored for her contributions to the writing community by receiving the PEN Center USA Award for Lifetime Achievement, the National Humanities Medal, PEN/Malamud Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Short Story, the Bram Stoker Award for Life Achievement, the Pushcart Prize, and many others awards.
The first widely acclaimed story Oates published (as well as her most popular work) is her 1966 short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” which was famously dedicated to Bob Dylan for inspiring the story with his song “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” Other remarkable novels from Oates includes National Book Award Winner them, Oprah Book Club title We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, Black Water, and The Widow’s Story.
“Whether we change our lives or do nothing, we have responded. To do nothing is to do something.”
—Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals
Jonathan Safran Foer is an American novelist and activist with Polish roots. Foer began to seriously pursue writing as a career after working closely with his thesis advisor, Joyce Carol Oates, during his time at Princeton. His thesis won him Princeton’s Senior Creative Writing Thesis Prize, which he then expanded and made into his first novel, Everything is Illuminated. Foer followed this up with what is perhaps his most well-known book, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which incorporates visuals to tell a story surrounding the 9/11 tragedy. His most recent novel, Here I Am, is a fictional retelling of a family inspired by his own life. Other projects he’s worked on include his nonfiction animal rights activism book Eating Animals, and his play on Bruno Schulz‘s book The Street of Crocodiles by blocking out text to create a new story in Tree of Codes.
“But unless we are creators we are not fully alive. What do I mean by creators? Not only artists, whose acts of creation are the obvious ones of working with paint of clay or words. Creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living. Creativity is not limited to the arts, or having some kind of important career.”
—Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water
Charged with powerful themes that inspire the reader to question their own morality, the power of love, and humanity’s purpose, all the stories written by Madeleine L’Engle are as memorable for their plots and writing as they are their emotional impact. L’Engle had a long and prosperous career in writing, winning a plethora of awards and honorary degrees over her career for her published novels and poetry collections (of which she wrote over 50). She wrote up until the end of her life in 2007, at the age of 88.
L’Engle’s most famous science fiction series is The Time Quintet, which was lead by Newbery Award Winner A Wrinkle in Time and followed by its sequels A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Wind in the Door, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. A Ring of Endless Light and The Austin series are also a good collection of hers to explore. Many of her books also cameo or use spin-offs of characters starring in her other works, giving her books a feeling of an wholeness in the worlds she creates.
“[Publishing] is a collaborative enterprise… you have to surround yourself with good people and help them to do what they do well, as opposed to micromanaging.”
—Roberta “Robbie” Myers, “Face of Elle,” Forbes Magazine
Robbie Myers has been the editor-in-chief of Elle since 2000, and she’s forged her way to the position after an extensive career in many other areas of magazine publishing. From being an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone, assisting Andy Warhol at Interview, and working in editorial departments at InStyle and Seventeen among countless other magazines, Myers has earned the reputation of an industry leader and fashion icon.
Myers prides herself in how well she works with an supports her staff. Since working at Elle, she’s also made it her goal to ensure that content is on multiple media platforms and can survive in other mediums outside traditional printed magazine publishing. Myers is also not afraid to address serious political and social issues at Elle and has rather famously addressed an article from The New Republic that challenged the idea that women’s magazines could not do ‘serious journalism’ or write ‘literary articles,’ further gaining her much deserved respect.
“I cannot tell the truth about anything unless I confess being a student, growing and learning something new every day. The more I learn, the clearer my view of the world becomes.”
—Sonia Sanchez, “Ruminations/Reflections,” I’m Black When I’m Singing, I’m Blue When I Ain’t and Other Plays
Influential as an artist and an activist, Sonia Sanchez is an accomplished and well-respected poet, teacher, and advocate for political and social change.
Most of Sanchez’s academic and publishing career has roots in her work with the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Arts Movement, motivating her to travel and talk about her activism and read the poetry that was inspired from her experiences in workshops around the world. She’s also credited with starting the first class in America on black women and literature. She is the recipient of many awards, such as the National Endowment for the Arts, The 1985 American Book Award, The PEW Fellowship in the Arts, the Langston Hughes Poetry Award, and the Robert Frost Medal, among others.
When not writing or campaigning for causes she believes in, Sanchez works as a poet in-residence at Temple University. The melodic quality of writing found in her most recent poetry collection, Morning Haiku, is also captured in works that proceeded it: Shake Loose My Skin, Does Your House Have Lions?, Homegirls and Handgrenades, A Blues Book for a Blue Black Magic Woman, and We a Baddddd People.
“Be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf—seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life. Find out what makes you kinder, what opens you up and brings out the most loving, generous, and unafraid version of you—and go after those things as if nothing else matters. Because, actually, nothing else does.”
—George Saunders, Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness
A highly accomplished literary writer with award-winning essays and short story collections, George Saunders shows off his experimentation with language, witty humor, and thought-provoking material in all of his published works.
Despite his unconventional jump into an MFA at Syracuse University (where he teaches today) from a past of studying and working in geophysical engineering, Saunders sites this early career shift as a helpful tool that allowed him to think differently about the way he approaches his writing projects.
His first short story collection CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, was a critical success, as were his follow-up works Tenth of December, Pastoralia, and The Braindead Megaphone.
His recent publication and first full-length fiction novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, has gone on to be a New York Time’s Bestseller as of February 2017.