April 22, 2016
TIME includes a few writers among their “most influential”
by Julia Fleischaker
George Saunders has been chosen. So has Haruki Marukami. Ditto John Green and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. And this year, TIME magazine found space for four more writers in their annual feature of the 100 Most Influential People.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is called “America’s essential author,” and in his tribute Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, writes that Between the World and Me was just Coates getting started.
It’s the soulful writing that makes the work a classic, prompting Toni Morrison to herald Coates as America’s new James Baldwin and the MacArthur Foundation to announce his genius. He claimed the National Book Award for best nonfiction this year, but don’t think that this is the culmination of his work. He has much more to say, and we will all be the wiser for reading it.
Elena Ferrante, the mysterious (and pseudonymous) author of the Neapolitan Novels, gets a write-up from Fates and Furies author Lauren Groff. Groff calls the series “knife-sharp, swift and disquieting…an epic masterpiece, a Künstlerroman of sustained passion and fury.”
Elena and Lila grow up in macho mid–20th century Naples, fight for education, class and respect, become mothers and wives and lovers, incited by and resisting their own fiery friendship. Ferrante is a subtle subversive; the domestic, in her brilliant books, is a time bomb that ticks too loudly to ignore.
Lin-Manuel Miranda has revitalized American theater with Hamilton, and then released a behind-the-scenes book, Hamilton the Revolution (charmingly referred to by Miranda as #hamiltome). J.J. Abrams does the honors:
Like Alexander Hamilton, Miranda is a powerful reminder that greatness comes from unlikely places… There is no recipe for genius, but one can see the disparate elements that Miranda has miraculously seized and synthesized, embraced and celebrated, to create something profoundly moving and wholly original. He has redefined the musical and made us see anew the origins of the remarkable experiment called democracy.
Colm Toibin wonders at Marilynne Robinson‘s ability to “be serious without being solemn.” The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gilead (and one half of a memorable conversation with President Obama) is celebrated as one of the most treasured authors writing today.
In her essays, in which she displays a questioning spirit, she is concerned with belief and tradition, with the relationship between God and the mind and the word. Robinson is determined to be as intelligent as possible, but also to offer images and impressions that are rich in their implications, which allow for the mysterious as well as the concrete, the uncertain as well as the sure.
Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.