Authors for Posterity

I’m listening yet again to Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen/Nadia May) and I’m reminded that Austen’s works have held up admirably over a number of generations and are, to many, still as engaging as they were when first published.

And this calls to mind my conversation with My-Friend-the-Lawyer last night. He’s the one who dragged me into reading my first Neal Stephenson. I used to own a beautiful hardcover copy of Cryptonomicon which someone absconded while I was in graduate school. But Stephenson, I discovered through serendipitous Amazoning, has a new book out in September and I think we’re both planning to pre-order it. (At the very least, it’s on my wish list, feel free to order me a copy for a Hedgehog Libra Birthday.)

I have a healthy respect for the literary abilities of Mr. Stephenson which began when I waded through that first book. Sibling-the-Elder has been reading him for longer than I have, but I think I might beat her through the Baroque Cycle if I sit down and put my mind to it. He’s earned me street credibility with all kinds of people (“You read Stephenson? Okay, you’re allowed to sit with the cool kids.”), evoked numerous interesting conversations and–at the very least–he was able to picture the way our video games and technology was going a lot further in advance than I ever could. My first trip into Second Life oozed Snow Crash and the games of the future (360 degrees-full immersion/hologram deck/virtual reality type of things) only bring me more awe about him and his ability to see where we were/are headed.

Stephenson is an author who could be an interesting literary study on the collegiate level. I don’t think anyone is teaching his works just yet as an elective but, as MFTL and I were agreeing last night, I’d love to see them taught! And, perhaps more importantly, I think Stephenson’s works will stand up to the test of time.

My conviction of his durability as an author actually led to a presentation during college: looking at modern literature that we think will survive the ages. With all of the publishing and the thousands of books readily available to us, there are many books that will become irrelevant next week–let alone five or fifty years from now. So what are our Pride and Prejudices? Who do we have that will stand the test of time against Austen and Dickens? At the time I pointed to Crichton. Another attendee, a good friend at the time, considered bringing a then still rather new Rowling to the table. Whether or not she’ll be an author handed down to our grandchildren remains to be seen, but certainly we may see her as a study in literary phenomenon (the excessively long and must be a multi-book series type).

So I now ask you: Who do you think will be held up to our great-great grandchildren as “authors of the late 20th, early 21st century”? Who will they say were the authors worth preserving? Who will still be in print? (This, of course, making the assuming that “print” still means something in that day and age.)

P.S. If you haven’t read Snow Crash yet, RUN to your nearest library and grab a copy.