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Big Other’s 50 Pillars, compiled

Me being me, I see vast amounts of data, and I want to analyze it! So here is something of a meta-list, compiled from all all the posts from 30 July. (Essentially, I made one big list, then saw who came up the most.)

Which authors, then, were most mentioned? Upon which literary pillars does Big Other rest?

First, a few words of warning. There was a lot of data, and I could have made mistakes. And the data was hardly “complete”—there were 34 posts in all. (Not 50, quel dommage!) But I figured that, right here right now, this is a decent enough indicator of who Big Other and its readers have been most influenced by.

My method: I counted each mention of an author—each time a poster gave them one of their 50 spots—as a point (essentially). I deleted mentions of specific books or works, because compiling that, too, would have taken forever (and in any case, their best known works tended to be the ones most frequently invoked). And some posters listed more than 50 authors/works, but since no one went insanely crazy over, I didn’t bother weighting the lists or anything.

So without any further ado, here are the results!

25 mentions: William S. Burroughs

… Right away, though, we need an asterisk, because most of these mentions come from Davis Schneiderman’s post. (Davis, in case you didn’t know, was really influenced by Billy B.)

After that we have:

20 mentions: Samuel Beckett

19 mentions: James Joyce, Virginia Woolf

18 mentions: Vladimir Nabokov

15 mentions: William Faulkner

14 mentions: William H. Gass

After that, names start regularly tying:

13 mentions: Jorge Luis Borges, William Shakespeare

12 mentions: Cormac McCarthy, Gertrude Stein, Italo Calvino

11 mentions: Denis Johnson, Donald Barthelme, Don DeLillo, Flannery O’Connor, Herman Melville, Robert Coover

10 mentions: Ben Marcus, Franz Kafka

9 mentions: David Markson, Gabriel García Márquez, Toni Morrison

8 mentions: Alice Munro, David Foster Wallace, Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens

7 mentions: Barry Hannah, Brian Evenson, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Guy Davenport, Jacques Derrida, Samuel R. Delany, Thomas Pynchon

6 mentions: Carole Maso, Djuna Barnes, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Gary Lutz, J. G. Ballard, Laurence Sterne, Leo Tolstoy, Lewis Carroll, Marcel Proust, Philip Roth

5 mentions: Emily Brontë, Friedrich Nietzsche, George Orwell, Henry Miller, John Barth, John Crowley, Kathy Acker, Margaret Atwood, Mary Gaitskill, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Bradbury, Raymond Carver, Thomas Mann, Walter Benjamin, William Carlos Williams, William Gaddis

4 mentions: Alain Robbe-Grillet, Albert Camus, Amy Hempel, Clarice Lispector, Dante Alighieri, Dennis Cooper, Edgar Allan Poe, Eileen Myles, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Flann O’Brien, Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari, Gustave Flaubert, Harold Pinter, Henry David Thoreau, Jayne Anne Phillips, Jean Genet, Jean Rhys, Jeanette Winterson, Miguel de Cervantes, Søren Kierkegaard, Stanley Elkin, T.S. Eliot, W. G. Sebald, William Golding

3 mentions: Alan Moore, Anne Carson, Annie Dillard, Anton Chekhov, Bachelard, Beowulf (work, not author, obv), Bret Easton Ellis, Christine Schutt, David Mitchell, David Ohle, Doris Lessing, E.L. Doctorow, Elizabeth Hardwick, Ezra Pound, Georges Bataille, Graham Greene, Guy Debord, Henry James, Hunter S. Thompson, Isak Dinesen, Jack Kerouac, James Baldwin, Joan Didion, John Cheever, John Hawkes, John Updike, Joseph Heller, Juan Rulfo, Julio Cortázar, Junot Díaz, Kurt Vonnegut, Leslie Scalapino, Lorrie Moore, Louise Erdrich, Marguerite Duras, Marilynne Robinson, Marquis de Sade, Mary Shelley, Michael Martone, Michael Ondaatje, Milan Kundera, Pablo Neruda, Patricia Highsmith, Patrik Ourdenik, Paul West, Philip K. Dick, Plato, Renata Adler, Robert Gluck, Roland Barthes, Sam Lipsyte, Shel Silverstein, Shelley Jackson, Stanley Crawford, Steve Erickson, Tim O’Brien, W. B. Yeats, Walt Whitman, Willa Cather

2 mentions: Alfred Jarry, Alphonso Lingis, Alyson Hagy, Anais Nin, Ander Monson, André Breton, Andy Warhol, Angela Carter, Annie Proulx, Antonin Artaud, Aristotle, Arthur Rimbaud, Audre Lorde, Black Elk & John G. Neihardt, Blake Butler, Brion Gysin, Bruno Schulz, Céline, Charlotte Brontë, Chris Ware, Christina Stead, Coleman Dowell, Comte de Lautréamont, David Mazzucchelli, Diane Williams, Edward P. Jones, Evelyn Waugh, Frank Stanford, George Konrad, George Saunders, Grace Paley, H.G. Wells, Harlan Ellison, Harry Matthews & Alastair Brotchie (the Oulipo Compendium), Hart Crane, Hélène Cixous, Henri Bergson, Homer, Immanuel Kant, J. D. Salinger, J. M. Coetzee, James Salter, James Tate, Jane Austen, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Paul Sartre, Joe Wenderoth, John Cage, John Donne, John Keats, Jonathan Franzen, Jonathan Swift, Joseph Conrad, Joyce Carol Oates, Joyelle McSweeney, Katherine Anne Porter, Kenneth Goldsmith, Kenzaburo Oe, Laird Hunt, Lance Olsen, Lee K. Abbott, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Lyn Hejinian, M.F.K. Fisher, Malcolm Lowry, Mark Twain, Mark Z. Danielewski, Mary Caponegro, Matt Bell, Michael Cunningham, Michel Foucault, Mina Loy, N. Scott Momaday, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Nicholson Baker, Nikos Kazantzakis, Norman Lock, Ovid, Paul Auster, Paul Bowles, Percival Everett, Peter Markus, Primo Levi, Raymond Federman, Richard Brautigan, Richard Ford, Richard Yates, Rick Bass, Rick Moody, Robert Graves, Robert Lopez, Salman Rushdie, Sherwood Anderson, Stephen Crane, Stephen Dixon, Stephen King, Steve Tomasula, Susan Howe, Susan Sontag, Sylvia Plath, Thalia Field, the Bible, the Brothers Grimm, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Thomas Bernhard, Tom Phillips, Tom Wolfe, Truman Capote, Twin Peaks, Unsaid IV, Ursula K. Le Guin, William T. Vollmann, Yoko Ono, Zora Neale Hurston

… After that, barring mistakes, any author or work mentioned was mentioned only once.

Finally, here are some authors I didn’t see mentioned at all, and whose omission surprised me (italics indicates a name on Gass’s original list):

Agatha Christie, Amiri Baraka, Ann Beattie, Anne Sexton, Anthony Burgess, B.S. Johnson, Bob Dylan, Camilo José Cela,  Charles Bernstein, Charles M. Schultz, Charles Olson, Chinua Achebe, Christine Brooke-Rose, Colette, Confucius, Danilo Kis, David Mamet, e.e. cummings, Edward Said, Ford Maddox Ford, Friedrich Hölderlin, George Oppen, Georges Perec, G. W. F. Hegel, Herman Broch, Howard Zinn, Hugh Kenner, Italo Svevo, James Thurber, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jack Spicer, John Berryman, John Lennon, John O’Hara, José Lezama, Joy Williams, Kōbō Abe, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Leonard Cohen, Loriene Neidecker, Louis Zukofsky, Nicholas Mosley, Nikolai Gogol, Noam Chomsky, Oscar Wilde, Paul Metcalf, Philip Larkin, Pierre Klossowski, Rae Armentrout, Robert Creeley, Ronald Firbank, Ron Sukenick, Rudy Wurlitzer, Rumi, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sappho, Steve Katz, S. J. Perelman, Tao Lin, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Hobbes, Thucydides, Viktor Shklovsky (sob!), Villon, Wallace Shawn, Witold Gombrowicz, Woody Allen, and Yusef Komunyakaa.

OK! Hooray! Go read something now!

(And happy belated birthday, Mr. Gass!)

Update: I’ve added John Domini’s data, and corrected an error that John M. pointed out. Thanks, guys!

  • A. D. Jameson is the author of five books, most recently I FIND YOUR LACK OF FAITH DISTURBING: STAR WARS AND THE TRIUMPH OF GEEK CULTURE and CINEMAPS: AN ATLAS OF 35 GREAT MOVIES (with artist Andrew DeGraff). Last May, he received his Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the Program for Writers at UIC.

27 thoughts on “Big Other’s 50 Pillars, compiled

  1. Thanks for this compilation, Adam! (I imagine it must have been a lot of work. Bravo!)

    I’d say that the tribute serves more as a sketch of a blueprint rather than the literary pillars upon which Big Other rests. That said, I was surprised, too, by a number of the omissions, often pleasantly surprised, I have to admit, but I also feel that these lists are useful and engaging not only because of what they include but also because of what they idiosyncratically omit, deliberately or otherwise. In other words, the lacunae are just as necessary, and thus as instructive, as the inclusions, and might be thought of as the negative space that any object, arguably, necessarily creates. Also, as I’d mentioned to Matt Bell, “each of the listed works, and often the writers themselves, directly and indirectly point to other works, the lists necessarily implicitly proliferating.”

    By the way, I did include Marianne Moore (#41 on my list), whose collected poems is massive for me.

    1. I knew I made mistakes! I’ll try and correct it…

      Yeah, I view it as a snapshot, too. Not anything definitive…

      MS Excel makes doing this kind of thing surprisingly easy… Which I guess is the point of this kind of thing.

  2. Tao Lin and Thomas Aquinas–two names I’ve never seen next to one another before. You know, I was THIS close to including Baraka. Thanks for putting this together and crunching the numbers–really interesting to see the foundations of Big Other, so to speak.

  3. Great project, the original and this compilation. Thanks John Madera & A.D. Jameson.

    Noticed, though, here, lots of dudes up there at top of list. (Throughout, to be honest.) More, it takes a while to get any real diversity in variety of other areas (race, nationality, etc.). Things don’t really open up until around the “4 mentions” section. Illuminating, but expected maybe, all things considered.

    Probably silly even to comment on it.

    But: Taken that these all seem to be honest portraits, I would be interested to see a similar list like this 50 years from now. Would it be different and how?

    Suppose this is what Madera is alluding to in his own nicely phrased comment: the lacunae.

    1. One possible thing to do: count all the men and all the women, and multiply them by their respective mentions. See what the totals are.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if mail authors were mentioned, because literature was very male dominated for a long time. And I think that, in this case, we’re discussing influences, and influences tend to be older than newer. So you figure there are many more male authors out there to influence, as opposed to female authors, who have been playing catch up for some time.

      I’m not trying to excuse the situation, mind you, but account for why it might be the way it is. (If it is that.)


      1. Oh, and John really deserves the credit for soliciting and publishing all the lists. All I did was compile the results, which took me only a couple hours.

        Thanks also of course to everyone who participated! John asked me to submit a list, and I even wrote one, but I’ve been traveling the past week and neglected to send it in time. I’ll try and post it within a week….

      2. I’m betting it is that. Who knows what a 2062 list might look like?

        (Btw, I use your Dark Knight Returns essays each semester I teach Graphic Literature. They are just some of the most fascinating & thorough pieces on comics I’ve come across. A rhizome of connections. It doesn’t hurt that the images all look great projected in front of the room. Great, great, great. Thx.)

        1. Oh, thank you so much! That’s very nice to hear. Thank you!

          I just got back from seeing The Dark Knight Rises. I’ll be reviewing it soon, though probably at the other site…

          I even wore a Batman Returns T-shirt to the theater…

      3. I should add, though, that I don’t want to imply that I think people should have balanced their lists in any way. I think it’s great if people are honest about what their inspirations are. I tend to think that politics belongs to the present moment. If the publishing industry is still sexist, or if books by men are considered more important than books by women, then that’s something we should be addressing in the hear and now.

        I don’t know if that’s entirely clear, but basically what I’m saying is, I think it’s great if people are just honest about what their influences are, rather than trying to craft their lists for political effect…

        1. I felt very uncomfortable at how few women were on my list, but these were influences and mostly they were books and writers first encountered as much as 40 years ago.

          I did come close to including Agatha Christie on my list, because I read an awful lot of her books when I was in my teens, but it seems none of them stuck.

          And yes, like others I would like to see what a similar list looks like in 50 years time, but that’s at least partly because I’d like to still be around to see it in 50 years.

      4. I actually was intentionally shooting for older influences. To make the task more manageable, I gave myself the restriction of only listing dead writers (and I think I only broke it once or twice).

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