4 Famous Male Writers’ Writing Styles

Every author has his/her own distinctive writing style.  My own evolving writing style utilises dry humour, satirical observations and concise prose.

This week’s blog post is dedicated to 4 famous writers’ writing styles:


James Joyce

James Joyce

(February 2nd 1882 – January 13th 1941)

Notable works: Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, A, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. 

Ireland’s most famous author is remembered as being one of the most influential writers of the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century. Joyce embraced an experimental, stream of consciousness writing style. His seminal work Ulysses contains more vocabulary words (30,030) than the entire Shakespearean canon of 38 plays.

The former poet took his experimental style a step further with his final book, Finnegan’s Wake (1939). Written in Paris over a period of 17 years, Finnegan’s Wake utilises a stream of consciousness style, idiosyncratic language and literary allusions. The book is regarded as one of the most difficult works of fiction in the English language.


William S. Burroughs

WilliamBurroughs (February 5th 1914 – August 2nd 1997)

Notable works: Junkie, Queer, The Soft Machine, The Naked Lunch.

William S. Burroughs was at the forefront of the Beat generation, influencing the likes of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.  His often-controversial works (c.f. drugs and homosexuality) include 18 novels, in addition to a number of novellas and short stories, many of which are semi-autobiographical in nature.  Burroughs’s writing is characterised as being sardonic, dark, humorous and confessional.

Burroughs was the pioneer of the collage technique, which entails cutting up text with a pair of scissors and then rearranging it to create new text. His seminal work, the non-linear and highly controversial Naked Lunch was created in this manner.

Click on the links to read my reviews of Junky and Queer.


Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway

(July 21st 1899 – July 2nd 1961)

Notable works: The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man & the Sea.

Ernest Hemingway won The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1953) and The Nobel Prize in Literature (1954). Hemingway embraced the minimalist style of writing that he had been required to use when he had been a journalist. This style, known as The Iceberg Theory (Theory of Omission), utilised short, terse sentences, which was in stark contrast to the ornate prose of the literati of the time. It is this simple and direct writing style that has endeared Hemingway to so many readers down the years.

Click here to read my review of The Old Man and the Sea.


Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac

(March 12th 1922 – October 21st 1969)

Notable works: On the Road, The Dharma Bums, Big Sur.

American novelist, poet and artist Jack Kerouac was a member of the Beat Generation.  Kerouac primarily wrote autobiographical novels.  His most famous book, On the Road, is set against a backdrop of poetry, jazz and drug use. It was the defining work of the post-war Beat Generation.

Kerouac typed On The Road over a period of 3 weeks in the spring of 1951, on a 3-inch thick, 120-foot long scroll. Through attempting to omit periods from his work and improvising words he created his own innovative, spontaneous prose writing style – a style that was influenced by Jazz music and Bebop.

Click on the links to read my reviews of Maggie Cassidy and On The Road.


Leave a comment
  • Burroughs – my favourite! The later non-linear stuff went way over my head. Love his earlier writing especially Junky. On The Road is overrated, at least I think so. Never understood what’s so great about it. Maggie Cassidy sounds interesting.

  • Very interesting Guy. James Joyce is too difficult for me, although I rate his Dubliners as one of the best collection of short stories I have read. Does anyone really enjoy Ulysses and Finnegan”s Wake? I’ve been rereading Hemingway recently and think his work will become classic in centuries to come. I cant appreciate Burroughs’ writing style but your blog reminds me to try Kerouac again. Going to do 4 females in a later blog-that would be worth waiting for!

    • Thank you Sue. 4 female authors is a good idea, there was a bit of a gender imbalance with this post. I’ll give it some thought over the coming weeks. Finnegan’s Wake sounds like the perfect read for Lent. I will add Dubliners to my to-read list. The only Joyce I’ve read is a small section of Ulysses. I appreciated his spontaneous prose style, but it wasn’t my kind of book. I would recommend Maggie Cassidy by Kerouac. Have a good weekend.

  • Everyone says James Joyce is a great writer. I don’t think so. I read his work and found it difficult to understand. May be there is something am missing. But i really want to enjoy him the way other people do. Any tips?

    • No tips I’m afraid Madu. I also didn’t much enjoy what little Joyce I’ve read. The Dubliners (his short story collection) has been recommended to me (see previous comment), so I might give those a try. Thank you for stopping by.

  • Very interesting article. I had not heard of The Iceberg Theory, so I probably need to read more Hemingway in general. Anthony Burgess wrote some enthusiastic books on Joyce that are quite enlightening. I also like William Gaddis’s style – tomes of dialogue from unidentified speakers interspersed with oblique descriptions of the physical world, and yet a very funny world is created.

    • I am yet to read any William Gaddis or Anthony Burgess – planning to read A Clockwork Orange this year. Perhaps I’ll do another post on this subject at some point. Thank you for reading.

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