Tuesday, January 08, 2008

From The Times
January 5, 2008

The 50 greatest British writers since 1945

What better way to start the year than with an argument?

The Times has decided to present you with a ranking of whom they consider the best postwar British writers.

1. Philip Larkin (pictured left)
2. George Orwell
3. William Golding
4. Ted Hughes
5. Doris Lessing
6. J. R. R. Tolkien
7. V. S. Naipaul
8. Muriel Spark
9. Kingsley Amis
10. Angela Carter
11. C. S. Lewis
12. Iris Murdoch
13. Salman Rusdie
14. Ian Fleming
15. Jan Morris
16. Roald Dahl
17. Anthony Burgess
18. Mervyn Peake
19. Martin Amis
20. Anthony Powell
21. Alan Sillitoe
22. John Le Carré
23. Penelope Fitzgerald
24. Philippa Pearce
25. Barbara Pym
26. Beryl Bainbridge
27. J. G. Ballard
28. Alan Garner
29. Alasdair Gray
30. John Fowles
31. Derek Walcott
32. Kazuo Ishiguro
33. Anita Brookner
34. A. S. Byatt
35. Ian McEwan
36. Geoffrey Hill
37. Hanif Kureshi
38. Iain Banks
39. George Mackay Brown
40. A. J. P. Taylor
41. Isaiah Berlin
42. J. K. Rowling
43. Philip Pullman
44. Julian Barnes
45. Colin Thubron
46. Bruce Chatwin
47. Alice Oswald
48. Benjamin Zephaniah
49. Rosemary Sutcliff
50. Michael Moorcock

Let the arguements begin! Glad to see a good smattering of children's writers in the list. I'll give this some thought but meantime feel free to comment/agree/disagree.
One initial thought though is that I would have Philip Pullman higher up the list than number 43. And certainly would have him ahead of J.K.Rowling.


Graeme K Talboys said...

Wow. This is one weird list. Larkin at No 1? A writer of spiteful doggerel and mediocre verse.

Salman Rushdie, who writes some of the dullest prose on the planet (and is probably only there because he is 'controversial' or has chums on the panel that chose the books).

Ian Fleming? Are they joking? Have they actually read his stuff? It's awful. How about Len Deighton or Anthony Price? Far better writers of much better spy thrillers.

Martin Amis - spiteful, racist who hasn't had an original idea in years and writes in such a sterile fashion his books could be used to clean hospitals.

Ian McEwan, another of those writing school clones who pollute literature and crowd out the really original stuff.

Neither Pullman nor Rowling should be anywhere near this list. They are only there because they are in the news. Rowling is a truly dire writer who has ripped off goodness knows how many ideas and built up an entriely spurious rags to riches mythology about herself. And Pullman is pretty much the same. Tired, hackneyed rip-off books in turgid prose. If you want good British children's fantasy writers, what's wrong with Diana Wynne Jones who has produced some really high quality material over a long period of time (not seven poorly edited piles of dribble), or Jenny Nimmo?

We have Ballard (well deserved) but we don't have Mike Harrison. And I'm glad to see Mike Moorcock made it on to the list, but down at number 50? Come on people, he is not just prolific, he is a far better writer than people in the top 20 and has done more to encourage and promote quality writing in the post war period than most of the rest put together.

Anonymous said...

Hi Graeme K - yes Diane Wynne Jones and Jenny Nimmo should be there instead of JK Rowling but what is "Tired, hackneyed rip-off ... turgid..." about Philip Pullman's books?
Lee Rowe

Kebabette said...

This isn't a bad selection - good to see Angela Carter on the list.

Peter Ackroyd should be in the top 50.

Other names: Magnus Mills, Rose Tremain, Irvine Welsh, Dan Rhodes

The Terry Pratchett fans are roaring in the Guardian comments section - power to them.

Lee said...

I see that part of the criteria for the list was commercial success (along with quality of writing etc) so yes agree Pratchett should be there. These kind of lists are great to get everyone going! The NY Times blog Paper Cuts piece about the list has got the commies going too...

pjkm said...

Not sure how Ian McEwan could be one "of those writing school clones" as he was never a student in a creative writing programme; his MA at UEA was in literature.

booklover said...

This list is like a snapshot of this readers life, yes there are plenty more photos in the album and lots more pages to look back through but as an image of what sticks with you this is pretty good.
The slim edition of Jill by Larkin and all of Kingsley Amis but particularly Lucky Jim.Barbara Pym who was Joanna Trollope and more before she even picked up her pen, Burgess writing Enderby, a book about about a man in a toilet and then messing with your head with Clockwork Orange. Bainbridge who wove Hitler and a local theatre into her stories, dark but always enchanting. Ballard with the brilliant Empire of the Sun. Mr Fowles for more than the Magus.Discovering an incredibly young Ian McEwan with In Between the Sheets and following him for thirty years and more to On Chesil Beach. Julian Barnes with Before I She Met Me, moving into pedantry in the kitchen while continuing to write so succinctly and the wonders of Eagle of the Ninth from a writer whose manuscripts need no editing and who brought history alive for young readers before Terry Deary thought of the Horrrible Histories.I would have had Leslie Thomas for Virgin Soldiers, possible Drabble over Byatt and the play script of Look Back in Anger to accompany Sillitoe in his Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and the beautifully underplayed David Storey just because. Rushdie, yes for scaring the pants off the booktrade- have you tried having a signing session with an author you can't promote? And Ted Hughes yes, yes, yes,
These are the writers who put into words what was happening around us who taught us to widen our horizons and take a leap of faith with a book and who made your head whirl like no reality television programme can ever in a million years hope to achieve.
The great thing about this list is there are any number of versions of it all all of them valid, all of them a piece of a well read life.