The other day, I admitted on Twitter that I've never gotten around to trying any Pynchon, that it was a "hole" in my reading record, and Roman Tsivkin teased, "Jesus, Tom, that ain't no "hole" in your reading, it's a black hole! Quick, read some Pynchon before you destroy us all :)"
Of course, it is embarrassing. But I wanted to say, "But I am reading someone I'm supposed to read, right now! I'm reading Mumbo Jumbo by Ishmael Read."
The whole business of reading writers that one is "supposed" to read fascinates me. I asked a friend of mine a few years ago if he had read anything by Don DeLillo. He answered, "No, and don't tell anyone." I loved that answer. I didn't tell anyone. I haven't read DeLillo, either. But I've read a lot of Richard Powers; does that count for anything?
Also, although I know I need to try writers that are new to me, and I do, my instinct is to keep exploring the authors I love. I have a Vladimir Nabokov at the house I haven't gotten around to reading yet! (Ada.)
For me, it's not just a matter of Great Writers, it's sticking up for writers who are maybe great and definitely in danger of being forgotten. I love underdogs. I view Robert Anton Wilson as a kind of underdog, someone who never seems to have gotten his due from literary critics. Illuminatus! does have an audience, but not as large as I would like. But at least people mention it. How come nobody but RAW fans talk about The Widow's Son?
I count RAW as a favorite writer, but it's not like he's the only writer I like. But many of my other favorites don't need any help from me. Neal Stephenson, Iain M. Banks, Vladimir Nabokov ... they don't need a blogger sticking up for them.
I did a fan page for George Alec Effinger a few years ago. He was a really good writer, quite an original one, and I'll bet most of you have never heard of him. Maybe instead of Roman Tsivkin trying to get me to read Pynchon, I should be trying to get Roman to read George Alec Effinger.
Who is your favorite "underdog" writer?