Archive | April, 2013

What does it mean to be a great writer?

Is Piers Anthony a good writer? That’s how it all started. A friend and I were discussing one of our favorite authors, Piers Anthony. My friend pointed out that he is not a perfect writer. True, a comparison between Anthony and someone like Dostoevsky,  for instance, might not be particularly kind to Anthony.

So, is Piers Anthony an ideal writer? No. But it turns out that the question of whether a writer is good is actually a very complex one.

The works of Piers Anthony were very important to me at the time I read them. They were positive, witty, uplifting, and a little bit on the naughty side, but not so naughty as to be positively vulgar. Who doesn’t remember the classic Xanth stories with fondness? For me, The Blue Adept series was also very formative.

This conversation got me thinking about other authors whose writing might not be described as “good” but who were similarly influential in my life and in my art. John Christopher’s Tripod series comes to mind. I recently began reading these aloud to my children at night. Remembering the strong feelings evoked by The White Mountains and sharing that, now, with my children is amazing.

Returning to the question, is Piers Anthony a good writer. My answer is “Yes.” He did exactly what he set out to do and did it masterfully. Meanwhile, if everything was The Brothers Karamazov, we would all go mad.