Do you think any current author is of the same caliber as Dickens, Austen, Bronte, or any of the classic authors? If so, who, and why do you think so? If not, why not? What books from this era might be read 100 years from now?
I think about this question from time to time, particularly as I peruse the best seller shelves in my local bookstores. After all, the authors we refer to as “classics,” were often not recognized as such in their own time. Dicken’s novels were first published as serials in the newspapers, what we might even refer to as “potboilers.” Seen in that light, we might compare his work to popular authors such as Grisham and King. Austen’s work never find true popularity until after her death, and while Bronte’s novels sold well commerically, she published for many years under a male pseudonym.
The 20th century brought to light the works of many distinctive writers – Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, Woolf – to name only a few. I think the work of 21st century authors such as Richard Russo, Jhumpa Lahriri, and John Irving have the potential to become part of the canon of “classic literature,” literature that captures the concerns of a particular generation while illuminating truths about life in general.