Every now and then, a writer or writers come along who become representative for their time. Sometimes that designation fades, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes the top authors of their time, authors whom everyone thought would be instantly eternalized as symbols of an era, fade into the out of print or at least obscure netherworld of the literary imagination.
I can think of a few writers in that latter category, like James T. Farrell. Farrell had a long and productive literary career that began and peaked in the 1930's. His Studs Lonigan Trilogy was required reading in college English courses in the 1950's and 1960's. These days, you probably won't find a Farrell book on the syllabus for anything other than an upper level or graduate course dedicated to the 1930's or Social Realism.
On the other hand, it's pretty easy to identify authors who have stuck evocatively to their times, at least after half a century has passed. F. Scott Fitzgerald comes to mind immediately. Jack Kerouac. Jane Austen. I'd argue for Steinbeck as well. This exercise could continue: Edith Wharton, E.M. Forster, Chucky Dickens.
It's immeasurably harder to identify these writers in our times, in part because it's harder to tell who will last and who will be a mere flash in the pan. It's also harder to tell because very few authors do get designated as top of the pile representatives of their time. Faulkner for instance remains an immensely respected author, but I would suspect that no one reads him because they identify him so closely with the 1920's or 1930's. Zora Neale Hurston's output doesn't establish her as the voice of the 1930's rural South either.
Again, this isn't about great writers, favorite authors, etc. It's about figuring out who has written the literature that will be understood in the future to be about the latest fin-de-siecle. I mean, I absolutely adore Jeanette Winterson's work, but will those texts be the touchstone for the late 1980's and 1990's UK?
So I'm asking, who is evoking our era (considered roughly as 1990-present, exceptions allowed) in ways that are not only extremely powerful now, but also likely to continue to retain that power for future generations?