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Who's the best author of the twentieth century?

One of the changes Dana Cain made to this year's Rocky Mountain Book & Paper Fair was beefing up the Friday, August 6 launch party from 5 to 9 p.m. (the $10 ticket includes admission to the actual fair on Saturday). There will be live jazz, wine and a challenge panel actively debating a very important question: Who was the best author of the twentieth century?

Three panelists will argue for their pick, after which the audience can assert opinions via applause or by challenging any one of the panelists for his or her seat by lauding an alternative author. Which got us thinking: Why not host a digital version of the panel and see how the results compare?

"I honestly think I would go with Ray Bradbury," Cain said when we asked. "In fitting with our theme, he wrote Fahrenheit 451. I'm a sci-fi girl, I won't deny it, but his stuff was so poetic. He wrote like a poet, and is just so fantastic."

However, Cain had a hard time arguing with my pick when I told her who it would be: Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Come on: Slaughterhouse-Five, The Sirens of Titan, Welcome to the Monkey House, Galapagos, Timequake ... I could keep going. If he'd penned only one of these classics, he'd be a contender; as it stands, he's one of the most prolific, consistent authors of the twentieth century, and (I would argue, and am arguing) his books transcend most literary works with their delicate balance between comedy and tragedy. Vonnegut managed to portray the worst aspects of humanity in ways that make his readers smile, and I believe he will be a relevant author for many decades down the road.

Where do you stand on the Bradbury/Vonnegut divide? Got another author you think is a contender? Let us know in the comments who you would pick as the best author of the twentieth century, and we'll announce the results -- ours and those of the Book Fair panel -- on Monday. Happy debating!

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