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Literature - Who is the greatest writer in the English language?


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Showing 1-17 of 17 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 29, 2008 7:43:14 PM PDT
Celeborn says:
Is it Shakespeare? Marx? Stephen King?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 1, 2008 3:55:07 PM PDT
blueroselyne says:
How can we compare Shakespeare and King? Perhaps both have the ability to touch the hearts of the common people of their respective time. Several times I could easily believe King had witnessed episodes from my childhood and inserted them into some of his novels. Shakespeare created an obsession in my heart with "Richard III".

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 1, 2008 4:02:49 PM PDT
This is a very subjective question. It really depends on your preference of writer.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 1, 2008 4:48:29 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Feb 16, 2010 4:11:18 PM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 2, 2008 9:37:09 AM PDT
A recent UK poll asked essentially the same question. Shakespeare placed out of the Top Three. No. 1?

Maeve Binchy.

Maybe we shouldn't ask the Brits about this English-language stuff.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 2, 2008 10:21:38 AM PDT
Which "English" -- Shakespeare's English is not our English. Marx wrote in German. King, well, at least it's in the English I think you mean.
But seriously, can you focus your question a little. As it stands now you will receive about 6 billion replies. What are you looking for? If you go, say, to Modern Library's Best 100 books of the millennium or some such thing it will give a pretty good idea the cream and the crud.
My answer is: Cervantes (but he wrote in Castilian Spanish) or Joyce (who wrote in so many languages at once you'd swear he was drunk).

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 2, 2008 11:42:13 AM PDT
blueroselyne says:
Some books are good reading, some are beautiful in prose, and some are important. I have two or three that I read over and over again. One is "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. Another is "The Far Pavilions" by M.M. Kaye. Kaye's novel is not as important as Lee's however captivating it may be.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 2, 2008 12:23:43 PM PDT
C. M. Griggs says:
It depends on what you mean by greatest writer. If not for Shakespeare, the English language would not be what it is today on either side of the Atlantic. Personally, for the ability to capture a moment and make it completely timeless, I think Jane Austen wins hands down. J.R.R. Tolkien had, perhaps, the most imaginative ability of all English writers although I think that he writes in such a style that the average reader either becomes bored or overloaded with information. D.H. Lawrence and Thomas Hardy show us the most passionate side of man's inner turmoil. This is a subject that will always be subjective based on the tastes and desires of the reader.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 2, 2008 2:04:42 PM PDT
Celeborn says:
I am an English teacher and just wanted to see what answers I would receive. Only thirty years ago I would have received only one answer. I can only surmise that in those days there were more stringest standards.
Isabella, Franscell, and Connolly: I was only joking about Marx and King.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 2, 2008 3:32:38 PM PDT
blueroselyne says:
Of course King isn't taken seriously, however he does appeal to modern readers. Almost everyone has read at least one of his books. I am not ashamed to say I enjoy a lot of his work. But then I do have a vivid imagination. Just curious, will anyone else admit to enjoying his books?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 2, 2008 4:09:09 PM PDT
The Walrus says:
Fiction...Greg Iles
Nonfiction...Howard Zinn
Science fiction...tie: Robert H. Hienlen and JRR Tolkien

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 2, 2008 9:37:07 PM PDT
What criteria? How about imagination combined with clarity of thought and expression

Greatest writer: Shakespeare

Greatest non-fiction writer: Thomas Hobbes and Samuel Johnson (tie)

Greatest 20th Century writer: James Joyce

Greatest American writer: Mark Twain

Greatest 20th Century American writer: James Baldwin

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 15, 2008 1:53:32 AM PDT
Eutychus says:
It is a broad question, yet worth considering. Since one usually doesn't find an opinion to be a mortal matter, I would probably say Shakespeare; but the comment about his style's being in a "different" English is well taken.

I will throw in a poser that narrows the field a bit, which I heard asked years ago and consider from time to time. Who do you think is the finest LIVING writer of English?

At the time, the suggestions were that past recipients of that "title" would be Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov. Interesting, in that neither had English as his first language. When Nabokov died, many of us felt that the contrived honor could easily have been that of John Fowles. Now that he's gone, who? For discussion's sake, I would offer the name of Mark Helprin.

For fun, it would be interesting to fill in the gaps with names of writers going back to, say, Shakespeare; or just after his time, perhaps beginning with Dryden, Swift, Johnson; or maybe as far back as John Donne, almost overlapping Shakespeare.

Maybe the only stipulation could be that it must be an unbroken chain of years, and that, once named, a writer would occupy the title until they died; and that their successor must be someone of an age to have been writing at the time.

Of course, we will still consider and discuss the original question.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 15, 2008 4:22:28 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 16, 2008 9:47:53 AM PDT
B. A. Dilger says:
Isaac Asimov. Though primarily known for his science fiction, Asimov wrote over 500 books on a variety of subjects, including: science, science fiction, the Bible, Shakespeare, literature, bibliographies, dictionaries, etc. Unfortunately deceased.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 20, 2008 8:54:25 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 20, 2008 8:55:36 AM PDT
Lientje says:
While I recognize the importance of Shakespeare in the body of English literature, and the
fact that he is very quotable, and is responsible for many then new words, I find a lot of his
work rather boring. I actually like to read Chaucer better than Shakespeare.

I also love to read Jane Austen. I can appreciate that she is far more a writer for females than
males, but that is fine with me. I also recognize that while she is an incredible resource
on the cultural level, she is the pits on the historical level. No one would know that Napoleon and
she shared the same decades if Austen were the only resource.

Dickens was the best of the later 19th Century and Faulkner is at least one of the best in
the past century.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 20, 2008 9:08:17 AM PDT
Lientje says:
Living author - Toni Morrison

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 21, 2008 2:10:50 PM PDT
Celeborn says:
This has turned out to be an interesting forum. I think some of you mistook my meaning, though. I used the word "great" advisedly so that the answers would, hopefully, not be about your personal selections but about what that author has contributed to the world in the generations since he wrote. I was particularly intrigued by what several writers had to say, especially C.M. Griggs, Eutychus and Lily White.
I think that Griggs has it right on. And Lily, did you notice the respect given to Jane Austen? She is not just a writer for females. I have known several male college professors who adore her work. I will admit, though that she has a special appeal to the girls. My youngest daughter claims she has read Pride and Prejudice seventeen times.
Eutychus, Your points are very well taken, but I didn't say "finest" but "greatest" writer. There is a difference. I might agree with you that Tolkien was the greatest writer of the 20th century, but might perhaps give my opinion that Patrick O'Brian is the finest.
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Discussion in:  Nonfiction forum
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Initial post:  Sep 29, 2008
Latest post:  Oct 21, 2008

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