It by Stephen King
Big Bill is the leader of the Losers Club. As a kid, he’s intelligent and thoughtful, although he suffers from a debilitating stutter. He grows up to write “horrorbooks” (as another character calls them) very similar to a bestselling author you might have heard of in real life…
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Bilbo’s tale of “There and Back Again” starts with him snuggling up in an overstuffed armchair with Hobbiton’s equivalent of guilty-pleasure junk food for a cozy night in, and ends with him fighting—and vanquishing—a gigantic brutal dragon for a mountain of gold. If you’re one of the few people in the world who has not yet read The Hobbit, you need to. Like, now. Go! Read it! We’ll wait.
Benno von Archimboldi
2666 by Roberto Bolano
Bolano’s behemoth masterpiece 2666 begins with four academics who are obsessed with the mysterious writer, Benno von Archimboldi, as they try to track him down through Europe and then Mexico. Archimboldi remains an enigma until then end of the book when the reader finally gets to meet him up close and the mystery is slowly and satisfyingly revealed.
Portrait of the Artist as Young Man and Ulysses by James Joyce
If you’ve ever felt like the label “tortured artist” was invented just for you, I suggest you get acquainted with Stephen Dedalus. He’s confused, he’s bitter, he’s sensitive and interesting, and he’s very, very well-read. By the time you travel with him through the beginning of Ulysses, the mind of his friend Leo Bloom will be a walk in the park in comparison.
Breakfast of Champions, Slaughterhouse Five, and others by Kurt Vonnegut
Kilgore Trout might actually be as famous or more than Kurt Vonnegut. He appears in so many of Vonnegut’s books that readers start to think of him as an old friend and wonder where he is when he’s not around. And yes, he’s a thinly veiled representation of Vonnegut’s alter ego—but does any character exist who’s not a thinly veiled representation of a writer’s alter ego? I rest my case.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Kerouac pushes “thinly veiled” into the territory of “all names have been slightly changed.” Sal Paradise is less a narrator than a wild and rollicking camera eye that records everything, hell bent on taking the reader with him on the adventure. And of course, who can resist his partner in crime, the incomparable Dean Moriarty? But that’s a whole ‘nother story…
Lestat de Lioncourt
The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice
Interview with the Vampire was one vampire sitting down in front of a tape recorder and letting it all hang out. The Vampire Lestat is Lestat himself making his rebuttal against the not-so-flattering tell-all that resulted from it. During the course of his tale, Lestat explains how he killed a pack of wolves single-handedly, became a vampire, and managed to live as a bloodsucker in inimitable Oscar Wilde-like elegance and style. A must read for vampire fans, and even for some who aren’t.
Gustav von Aschenbach
Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
Mann set out to write this book as an exploration of the concept of passion as “degradation and confusion.” And by the end of this story, it really couldn’t get any more degrading or confusing for his protagonist, the respectable and uptight writer Gustav von Aschenbach. It’s not surprising that Mann ended up winning the Nobel Prize in Literature because this is one of the best banned books of all time.
Henry “Hank” Chinaski
Post Office, Factotum, Women and Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski
Whether he’s drinking, betting on the horses, or making-and-breaking-up with yet another new woman, the charm of Henry Chinaski is utterly irresistible. No, he can’t hold a job. And he drinks a little too much. But his life really sucks. In his place, you would have problems with steady employment and would drink a lot too. If you’re having a bad day—or worse, a bad year—Chinaski is the way to go.
Saint Gut-Free, Director Denial & Comrade Snarky
Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
I know, I know—it’s technically three writers rolled under the heading of one. But the cast of aspiring geniuses that populate Palahniuk’s fictional writers’ retreat in Haunted are all so disgusting and hilarious that I couldn’t choose just one. Each character tells a story: Saint Gut-Free’s makes you feel queasy, Director Denial’s makes you feel icky, and Comrade Snarky’s might make you lose hope in humanity in general. Classic Palahniuk at his finest.
Who’s your favorite fictional writer? Tweet at me and let me know!
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