Fun way to start an argument —

Create a list of the ten best English writers of all time.

Who’s on it, do you suppose? I haven’t looked yet; just saw the link at the Passive Voice blog and clicked through.

Shakespeare, Jane Austen and who else? Charlotte Brontë? Are we including poets? Let’s see . . . oh, they excluded Shakespeare as too clearly at the top to need inclusion. It’s the ten best who aren’t Shakespeare.

Yep, Jane Austen. Then William Blake — so poets are eligible — and Chaucer, Dickens — I should have thought of Dickens — John Donne, George Elliot, John Milton, George Orwell — interesting choice! — Harold Pinter, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Gosh, I’ve never heard of Harold Pinter, as far as I can remember. Oh, and I notice Charlotte Brontë isn’t there included. Well, I did not very much like Jane Eyre personally, so that’s fine with me. But who’s Pinter?

Ah, Nobel Prize for literature, a playwrite …

Harold Pinter was first and foremost a writer. The distinctive style and quality of his dramas inspired the epithet ‘Pinteresque’ to describe a use of language that expresses a strange and mysterious situation smouldering with underlying, indefinable, menace.

Interesting! But looking through a list of his plays, nope, none of them ring a bell. Well, he lived practically yesterday — just died in 2008 — not really time-tested compared to most of the others, is he?

I really sort of had the impression Orwell only wrote two novels. You all probably knew he wrote more than just Animal Farm and 1984.

So, anyway, I can think of some English authors I wouldn’t mind seeing on a list of this kind:

JRR Tolkien

CS Lewis

Georgette Heyer

And you know, I’m sort of wondering where Jonathon Swift is, now that I think of it. And Edward Gibbon, too.

Well, of course a list of The Ten Best anything is going to cause a lot of disagreement. If you’d like to check out the disagreement, click through and scan the comments. I don’t believe a single person mentions JRR Tolkien. Fantasy doesn’t count, no matter how important a work, I guess.

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