Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway Lead John Steinbeck in Search for Single-Author Websites

Screen shot of the official Mark Twain website

If author websites are any indicator of continued popularity in American literature, Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway are the current winners. According to my count of websites devoted to 82 American authors represented in panel titles at this week’s meeting of the American Literature Association, just a handful of writers come close to Hemingway or Twain in the number of author websites with their name in the URL. Happily, John Steinbeck is among them. Like Mark Twain (at six sites), Ernest Hemingway (nine), and John Steinbeck (four), William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Jack Kerouac are the subject of at least four sites each, including one or more blog sites connecting their life and work to contemporary issues.

Just a handful of writers come close to Hemingway or Twain in the number of author websites with their name in the URL. Happily, John Steinbeck is among them.

By my count, 65 writers in this year’s American Literature Association lineup are the subject of single-author websites of one kind or another. Most are societies, study centers, or collections devoted to the author’s writing. Some are houses or museums associated with the author’s life, and 28 are blog sites that foster popularity by recording reader passion and encouraging public conversation about the author’s ideas. Steinbeck, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Kerouac have sites representing each category, but with four separate blog sites devoted to his life and writing, Ernest Hemingway holds the record for blog volume about an American author. Uniquely (but unsurprisingly) among the American authors I checked, Mark Twain is also the subject of a website representing the interests of an author’s estate.

With four separate blog sites devoted to his life and writing, Ernest Hemingway holds the record for blog volume about an American author.

But if blogging also equals attention span in American literature, at least a quarter of the writers on the American Literature Association marquee continue to have meaning in the lives of readers. Besides Twain, Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, and Kerouac, the list of American authors with an active blog site in their name includes Louisa May Alcott, Elizabeth Bishop, E.E. Cummings, Emily Dickinson, Theodore Dreiser, Margaret Fuller, Cormac McCarthy, Carson McCullers, Toni Morrison, Flannery O’Connor, Charles Olson, Edgar Allan Poe, Gertrude Stein, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut, and August Wilson. Another, Thornton Wilder, is the subject of a blog site started by family members—an idea for John Steinbeck that is, due to circumstances, unlikely to see the light of day.

About William Ray

William Ray is a Steinbeck scholar living in Santa Clara, California. He received his PhD in English from the University of North Carolina.

Comments

  1. I wonder why Twain’s estate has a website. Everything but the posthumously-published autobiography is now in the public domain. Maybe his heirs are interested in protecting his likeness.

    • The popularity achieved by Hal Holbrook performing “Mark Twain Tonight,” which I first saw as a college student and again some years later, suggests that Twain’s brand had financial value beyond that of other writers from the perspective of estate heirs and assignees. Compare Oscar Wilde, who is also impersonated with some frequency, and the varying rules that govern brand use under copyright law in the US and elsewhere.

  2. Steve Hauk says:

    I don’t have access to the list, but I would certainly hope it includes Ken Kesey – a lot of people are walking around who might have been abandoned in asylums if not for his “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” – and Willa Cather, the great author of the Great Plains. I’d also expect a site or two to be dedicated to James Baldwin, and what about playwrights Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams? And hopefully we have a few great poets in there, say Dickinson and Frost.

    Or Langston Hughes, who, by the way, was in Carmel, California in 1934 when Steinbeck’s family had a cottage in Pacific Grove, California, a few miles away. I’ve always wondered if they met. Hughes knew the Carmel poet Robinson Jeffers and his wife Una, as did Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts. Hughes reportedly was also considering working on a dramatic adaptation of “Blood in the Fields,” but was driven from the Monterey Peninsula by rightwingers. Hughes felt his life was in danger.

    • I searched only websites with the names of authors featured in the titles of panels on this week’s ALA conference program in San Francisco. That included Willa Cather (the Cather society has a website), but it excluded Kesey, Baldwin, and Hughes. Another omission with a connection to Steinbeck’s California also surprised me: Upton Sinclair. A separate post for another time, perhaps, though the absence of any website devoted by name to Upton Sinclair, as far as I can find, tends to confirm the inference that website frequency is one index of current popularity in American literature. Odd in Sinclair’s case right now, however, given the issues around Bernie Sanders’s socialist insurgency and Sinclair’s similarly premised campaign for Governor of California in 1934.

      • Thanks, Will. Yes, Upton Sinclair is important, and timely. This is good information! On vacation I try to visit author homes or museums and learn what I can about them. Theodore Roethke Foundation has a site in Saginaw, Michigan, if anyone is interested: Roethke House / P.O. Box 20362 / 1805 Gratiot / Saginaw, MI 48602

  3. A great update, William. Thanks.

    Recently, I was looking for a site about E.B. White. No real luck, through. https://clevelandbusinessreview.org/2016/05/16/complexity-through-joy/

    Joe

  4. Steve Hauk says:

    Upton Sinclair of course suggests Sinclair Lewis, and he’s certainly out there, including a Sinclair Lewis writing society. I’m pretty sure there’s a Ray Bradbury or two.

  5. Herb Behrens says:

    Please add Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker.

  6. Herb Behrens says:

    3rd add: Thorne Smith

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