Sunday, December 8, 2013

Famous Authors State by State

Business Insider recently published a list of the Most Famous Authors from Every State.  Here is the criteria they used to pick each one:

To qualify for this list, the esteemed wordsmiths had to be born in their respective states, but not necessarily live out their years there.  We considered the authors' fame in terms of ubiquity, literal acclaim, and financial success — and awarded bonus points if the author showed state pride by setting their works there.

Some of the picks are not too surprising.  Mark Twain was listed for Missouri, William Faulkner for Mississippi,  and John Steinbeck for California.  But some of the choices didn't seem to fit as well as others.  For example, they listed the most famous author for my home state of North Carolina as Thomas Wolfe.  Though he is fairly well known within the state (especially in his native Asheville), he isn't a name you hear thrown around very often in the literary world.  My own choice for us would have been the famous short story author O. Henry.  Though many of his stories are set out west or in New York, he is still a native son of NC and is even buried in Riverside Cemetery in Asheville (the same cemetery as Thomas Wolfe).

Another choice that confused me was the selection of Flannery O'Connor for Georgia.  Though anyone who has read my blog knows that I am a huge fan of her work, she didn't seem like she would be the "most famous" author from the state.  I'd say that distinction would have to go to Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind.  This is arguably one of the America's best known and most read works of all time.  It won the Pulitzer Prize, and even today it sells thousands of copies each year.  I can't help but feel that not choosing Mitchell was an act of political correctness on the part of Business Insider.

How about your home state?  Did they get it right in your opinion?  If you live outside of the US, who would you say is the most famous author from your city/county/province?


Hannah said...

I haven't read a huge amount of American literature but these picks aren't too surprising - with the notable lack of Edgar Allan Poe! Where is he?!

bookwormans said...

There were a lot of people asking the same question. Most assumed he would be the author for Maryland as Baltimore is the city he is most associated with (the pro football team in Baltimore is even called the Ravens after his famous poem).

But he was actually born in Massachusetts which pit him head to head against Nathaniel Hawthorne ("The Scarlet Letter", "The House of the Seven Gables", etc.). And while Poe is certainly more well-known, the website chose to bestow the honor on Hawthorne. This was probably similar to the NC selection in that they chose an author with more "literary" quality than real fame.