Me? I like to think that my ladder is still very much in tact, that my life's work will always be a work in progress. After all, masterpieces are for latter years. Youth is for experimentation.
And without further adieu: My ladder...
This is the man that made me want to write. I wrote a bit about him on medium.com a few months ago. You can find that article here.
Though his work is mostly in a serious vein, it is John that taught me how to laugh with literature. I spent most of my nights in college laughing as I read and reread The Cider House Rules--one of the best titles of all time. That book was also the first since Harry Potter to make me cry at the ending.
Everybody who's anybody wants to be a somebody, and that isn't necessarily the somebody that they are in the present. They want to be an icon. That's Woody.
I came late to the Woody Allen game. He was already well into his winter years, and I was still yet to see Annie Hall or Manhattan or even The Scoop, which came out when I was a teenager...and idolizing Hugh Jackman, so how could I miss that, right?
But what came from my exposure to Allen was the work ethic that it takes to be an icon. It doesn't just happen overnight. Image is cultivated to practice and hard work. In many ways becoming an icon is like writing yourself as a novel. Your body is the text, main and supporting characters. And it is exhausting.
There are good writers. There are great writers. There is Truman Capote.
If only you glance at his short stories, you will feel that you are in the presence of a writing genius. Capote's prose are the cleanest, most precise, and most labored of all the 20th Century writers. And that's saying a lot considering all the greats in the 20th Century. But when asked why I think Capote is so good, I need only give you three words: Breakfast. At. Tiffany's.
or: In. Cold. Blood.
or four words: Other. Rooms. Other. Voices.
I love short fiction. I especially love Hemingway's. (I also love beards and fancy hats, of which Hemingway has in spades.) I also love his work with the Toronto Star. If ever you wish to see how a news article should be written, you need only look to Papa for an example. He serves as the standard of what 100% useful words represents. Even when his prose run on the flat side, Hemingway's work is still a wonder to behold.
THE HONORABLE MENTIONS
Neil Gaiman--enchanting prose, enchanting fantasy
J.K. Rowling--moved me in ways I never could have imagined
Patrick Rothfuss--only time and his next two books will prove if he is truly a thing of legend
J.D. Salinger--great writer, though I still haven't gotten through "Catcher in the Rye"