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'50 Greatest Postwar British Writers'

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  • John D Rateliff
    A friend in England sent me this link, which I thought I d share. Seems to be an interesting mix of literary and popular. Glad to see Tolkien made it in the
    Message 1 of 16 , Jan 15, 2008
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      A friend in England sent me this link, which I thought I'd share.
      Seems to be an interesting mix of literary and popular. Glad to see
      Tolkien made it in the top ten.
      --JDR

      http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/
      article3127837.ece
    • Lynn Maudlin
      It *is* an interesting list, John-- HERE is a tinyurl for the page, in case your browser (like mine) has a hard time putting the URL back together:
      Message 2 of 16 , Jan 15, 2008
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        It *is* an interesting list, John--

        HERE is a tinyurl for the page, in case your browser (like mine) has a
        hard time putting the URL back together: http://tinyurl.com/ytydg7

        -- Lynn --

        --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, John D Rateliff <sacnoth@...> wrote:
        >
        > A friend in England sent me this link, which I thought I'd share.
        > Seems to be an interesting mix of literary and popular. Glad to see
        > Tolkien made it in the top ten.
        > --JDR
        >
        > http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/
        > article3127837.ece
        >
      • David Bratman
        It s a fascinating list, especially because of the enormous number of genre writers on it - at least five, possibly more, of the top ten can be fairly
        Message 3 of 16 , Jan 15, 2008
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          It's a fascinating list, especially because of the enormous number of genre writers on it - at least five, possibly more, of the top ten can be fairly accounted as purveyors of science fiction or fantasy, and similarly down the list. I own books by at least 19, and only eight, I think, out of the entire fifty are names I'm completely unfamiliar with. Not only are Tolkien and Lewis both prominently featured, but so are two of the four other eligible fantasy authors I most cherish (Mervyn Peake and Alan Garner; the other two are Richard Adams and Diana Wynne Jones).

          I'm a little puzzled by the eligibility criteria: they omitted Graham Greene, who's partly a pre-1945 author, but so are CSL and Orwell, yet they made the list. A friend of mine with the credentials to write for the Times Literary Supplement herself was very critical of the list's omissions, particularly of more experimental writers, but I'm just amazed at what it did include. Can you imagine an American newspaper publishing an equivalent list including, say, Ursula Le Guin and Gene Wolfe and Michael Chabon, and maybe Patricia McKillip and Peter Beagle? Because that's about the sort of thing we're looking at here.

          I showed the list to my mother, who said there were 21 authors she had never heard of, and among them (besides Peake and Garner) were two of the top ten, Angela Carter and the #1, Philip Larkin. Unlike Carter, Larkin was not a fantasist, but can he really be that obscure in the US?
        • Jason Fisher
          ... Thank God somebody else remembered Alan Garner -- one of my favorites growing up! ... (With the caveat that I have no idea what their criteria might have
          Message 4 of 16 , Jan 16, 2008
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            > Not only are Tolkien and Lewis both prominently featured, but so
            > are two of the four other eligible fantasy authors I most cherish
            > (Mervyn Peake and Alan Garner; the other two are Richard Adams
            > and Diana Wynne Jones).

            Thank God somebody else remembered Alan Garner -- one of my favorites growing up!

            > I'm a little puzzled by the eligibility criteria: they omitted Graham Greene,
            > who's partly a pre-1945 author, but so are CSL and Orwell, yet they made
            > the list.

            (With the caveat that I have no idea what their criteria might have been:) I have to say the omission of Graham Greene is just shameful. He's another of my favorite writers, but setting aside my own personal tastes, I don't see how one can ignore his contribution to English letters.
          • William Cloud Hicklin
            It s interesting and refreshing to observe that in not one of the 118 reader comments as of this writing, not one tries to put down Tolkien and claim he
            Message 5 of 16 , Jan 16, 2008
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              It's interesting and refreshing to observe that in not one
              of the 118 reader comments as of this writing, not one
              tries to put down Tolkien and claim he doesn't belong
              (although one Moorcock fan does reference 'Epic Pooh.')

              I can't disagree with those upset over omissions in three
              cases: Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene and Terry Pratchett. I
              would throw in Wodehouse, but acknowledge that all his best
              work was pre-war.

              However, eligibility for this list is rather odd: novelists
              and poets (apples and oranges), but not playwrights; and a
              definition of "British" which includes those foreign-born
              naturalized long after their best work (e.g. Rushdie)- but
              no Irish need apply.
            • Mike Foster
              Lists like this are created in order to be quibbled with, both in the order of the elect and in those unelected, but I agree that Greene and Waugh certainly
              Message 6 of 16 , Jan 16, 2008
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                Lists like this are created in order to be quibbled with, both in the
                order of the elect and in those unelected, but I agree that Greene and
                Waugh certainly belong here.

                As to Larkin, I enjoy and admire his work, most recently the book of
                poems with jazz trumpeter Don Cherry on the cover, but I'm not sure he
                belongs at the top of the queue.

                Jonathan Gould's -Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America-
                employs this Larkin excerpt as epigraph for Ch. 12:
                "Sexual intercourse began
                in nineteen sixty-three
                (Which was rather late for me)
                Between the end of the Chatterly ban
                And the Beatles first LP"


                -----Original Message-----
                From: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com [mailto:mythsoc@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf
                Of William Cloud Hicklin
                Sent: Wednesday, January 16, 2008 8:41 AM
                To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                Subject: [mythsoc] Re: '50 Greatest Postwar British Writers'

                It's interesting and refreshing to observe that in not one
                of the 118 reader comments as of this writing, not one
                tries to put down Tolkien and claim he doesn't belong
                (although one Moorcock fan does reference 'Epic Pooh.')

                I can't disagree with those upset over omissions in three
                cases: Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene and Terry Pratchett. I
                would throw in Wodehouse, but acknowledge that all his best
                work was pre-war.

                However, eligibility for this list is rather odd: novelists
                and poets (apples and oranges), but not playwrights; and a
                definition of "British" which includes those foreign-born
                naturalized long after their best work (e.g. Rushdie)- but
                no Irish need apply.



                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • WendellWag@aol.com
                In a message dated 1/16/2008 9:41:09 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, solicitr@mindspring.com writes: However, eligibility for this list is rather odd: novelists
                Message 7 of 16 , Jan 16, 2008
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                  In a message dated 1/16/2008 9:41:09 A.M. Eastern Standard Time,
                  solicitr@... writes:

                  However, eligibility for this list is rather odd: novelists
                  and poets (apples and oranges), but not playwrights; and a
                  definition of "British" which includes those foreign-born
                  naturalized long after their best work (e.g. Rushdie)- but
                  no Irish need apply.

                  Rushdie wrote all of his novels after coming to the U.K. (although who knows
                  where he is at any particular moment these days). The list includes Isaiah
                  Berlin, I notice, who never wrote any fiction.

                  Wendell Wagner




                  **************Start the year off right. Easy ways to stay in shape.
                  http://body.aol.com/fitness/winter-exercise?NCID=aolcmp00300000002489


                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • David Bratman
                  ... You do need the caveat: they didn t omit or ignore Greene, they decided he was ineligible by their date criteria. Same for Waugh. (See the explanation by
                  Message 8 of 16 , Jan 16, 2008
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                    Jason Fisher wrote:

                    >(With the caveat that I have no idea what their
                    >criteria might have been:) I have to say the
                    >omission of Graham Greene is just shameful.
                    >He's another of my favorite writers, but setting
                    >aside my own personal tastes, I don't see how
                    >one can ignore his contribution to English letters.

                    You do need the caveat: they didn't omit or ignore Greene, they decided he was ineligible by their date criteria. Same for Waugh. (See the explanation by clicking on the article's link reading "Do you agree with the selection?" I find that questionable, but because of the dates of the bulk of Greene's work, not because he's important.


                    Mike Foster refers to Larkin's work, which I like also. He wrote some of the most splendidly misanthropic poems of all time. One of the best is on the web at <http://www.tetrameter.com/larkin.htm>, but WARNING, do not click on this link unless you are willing to read a very naughty word. And in case you're wondering, no, he never married, had no children, did have romantic relationships with women but always lived alone,
                    and by profession he was ... a university librarian, and by all reports a very good one.

                    Re Wendell Wagner's comments on eligibility, nonfiction writers are explicitly eligible, and besides the philosopher Isaiah Berlin, include the historian A.J.P. Taylor - who was a Magdalen College colleague of C.S. Lewis's.

                    But if nonfiction writers are included, there's a whole host of other candidates. I'd want to put in a word for the now-deceased newspaper columnist Bernard Levin, whose work I discovered when I found a collection of his pieces, including one praising cats over dogs, in a Welsh bookshop with several store cats. Levin was also a Tolkien fan, and mentioned Middle-earth in his book on utopias and imaginary worlds, _A World Elsewhere_.
                  • David Emerson
                    Glad to see Doris Lessing and A.S. Byatt in that company. Most surprising to me was Michael Moorcock at #50. I m a Moorcock fan myself, but he tends to be
                    Message 9 of 16 , Jan 16, 2008
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                      Glad to see Doris Lessing and A.S. Byatt in that company. Most surprising to me was Michael Moorcock at #50. I'm a Moorcock fan myself, but he tends to be overlooked by the literary establishment.

                      emerdavid

                      ________________________________________
                      PeoplePC Online
                      A better way to Internet
                      http://www.peoplepc.com
                    • Sarah Beach
                      My eyebrows got raised by the fact that Philip Pullman made the list and P.D. James did not. *THAT* seemed very much in error, to me. I think she s a far
                      Message 10 of 16 , Jan 16, 2008
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                        My eyebrows got raised by the fact that Philip Pullman made the list
                        and P.D. James did not. *THAT* seemed very much in error, to me. I
                        think she's a far superior writer than he is.


                        --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, John D Rateliff <sacnoth@...> wrote:
                        >
                        > A friend in England sent me this link, which I thought I'd share.
                        > Seems to be an interesting mix of literary and popular. Glad to see
                        > Tolkien made it in the top ten.
                        > --JDR
                        >
                        > http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/
                        > article3127837.ece
                        >
                      • Deidre
                        ... If one puts angle brackets around URLs, they should then work as a clickable link in most email programs.
                        Message 11 of 16 , Jan 16, 2008
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                          At 06:57 AM 1/16/2008, you wrote:
                          >2a. '50 Greatest Postwar British Writers'
                          > Posted by: "John D Rateliff" sacnoth@... sacnoth32
                          > Date: Tue Jan 15, 2008 4:55 pm ((PST))
                          >
                          >A friend in England sent me this link, which I thought I'd share.
                          >Seems to be an interesting mix of literary and popular. Glad to see
                          >Tolkien made it in the top ten.
                          > --JDR
                          >
                          >http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/
                          >article3127837.ece

                          If one puts angle brackets around URLs, they should then work as a
                          clickable link in most email programs.

                          <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article3127837.ece>

                          I did try copying and pasting the link, but that did not work.
                          Hopefully the angle brackets will.

                          It's an interesting list, but I must confess to being surprised that
                          some of the better mystery writers were let off. I would have
                          thought that P. D. James might have made the list, as her Adam
                          Dalgliesh novels are so wonderfully written and many have been
                          adapted for the small screen. I was pleased by the inclusion of
                          Rosemary Sutcliff, as her Arthurian works are some of the best
                          historical works for the Romano-Celtic period in Britain that I have
                          ever read.

                          Deidre



                          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        • John Davis
                          Hi, Another real omission would seem to be Julian Barnes. I may be biased in wanting him to see him right at the top (well, with Tolkien and Larkin, maybe),
                          Message 12 of 16 , Jan 17, 2008
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                            Hi,

                            Another real omission would seem to be Julian Barnes. I may be biased in
                            wanting him to see him right at the top (well, with Tolkien and Larkin,
                            maybe), but even so, he must be one of the few contemporary non-genre
                            writers consistently hitting bestseller lists in many different countries,
                            he has won many awards, and, for my money, is both technically and
                            imaginatively a more competent writer than nearly everyone else on the list.

                            (Oh, and the best way I've found to deal with links over two lines that
                            don't paste properly into IE7+ is to click the link, then paste the extra
                            bit into the end of the address and hit refresh.)

                            John

                            ----- Original Message -----
                            From: "Deidre" <deidre@...>
                            To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
                            Sent: Wednesday, January 16, 2008 7:24 PM
                            Subject: Re: [mythsoc] '50 Greatest Postwar British Writers'


                            > At 06:57 AM 1/16/2008, you wrote:
                            >>2a. '50 Greatest Postwar British Writers'
                            >> Posted by: "John D Rateliff" sacnoth@... sacnoth32
                            >> Date: Tue Jan 15, 2008 4:55 pm ((PST))
                            >>
                            >>A friend in England sent me this link, which I thought I'd share.
                            >>Seems to be an interesting mix of literary and popular. Glad to see
                            >>Tolkien made it in the top ten.
                            >> --JDR
                            >>
                            >>http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/
                            >>article3127837.ece
                            >
                            > If one puts angle brackets around URLs, they should then work as a
                            > clickable link in most email programs.
                            >
                            > <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article3127837.ece>
                            >
                            > I did try copying and pasting the link, but that did not work.
                            > Hopefully the angle brackets will.
                            >
                            > It's an interesting list, but I must confess to being surprised that
                            > some of the better mystery writers were let off. I would have
                            > thought that P. D. James might have made the list, as her Adam
                            > Dalgliesh novels are so wonderfully written and many have been
                            > adapted for the small screen. I was pleased by the inclusion of
                            > Rosemary Sutcliff, as her Arthurian works are some of the best
                            > historical works for the Romano-Celtic period in Britain that I have
                            > ever read.
                            >
                            > Deidre
                            >
                            >
                            >
                            > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                            >
                            >
                          • David Bratman
                            John Davis wrote, ... It _would_ seem to be, except that he s no. 44.
                            Message 13 of 16 , Jan 17, 2008
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                              John Davis wrote,

                              >Another real omission would seem to be Julian Barnes.

                              It _would_ seem to be, except that he's no. 44.
                            • John Davis
                              Well, consider me thoroughly embarrassed. I read through the list twice and didn t see him. My eyes must have rebelled at seeing Pullman at no. 43 and skipped
                              Message 14 of 16 , Jan 17, 2008
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                                Well, consider me thoroughly embarrassed.

                                I read through the list twice and didn't see him. My eyes must have rebelled
                                at seeing Pullman at no. 43 and skipped ahead!

                                I'll get my coat.

                                John
                                ----- Original Message -----
                                From: "David Bratman" <dbratman@...>
                                To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
                                Sent: Thursday, January 17, 2008 3:16 PM
                                Subject: Re: [mythsoc] '50 Greatest Postwar British Writers'


                                > John Davis wrote,
                                >
                                >>Another real omission would seem to be Julian Barnes.
                                >
                                > It _would_ seem to be, except that he's no. 44.
                                >
                              • Adam Smith
                                An interesting list, though of course these lists are made simply to be argued with. There were some important omissions that others have noted - Richard
                                Message 15 of 16 , Jan 21, 2008
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                                  An interesting list, though of course these lists are made simply to
                                  be argued with.

                                  There were some important omissions that others have noted - Richard
                                  Adams, Graham Greene, W.H. Auden. The criteria for inclusion on the
                                  list seems a bit cloudy.

                                  Larkin, though a talented (and at times downright depressing) writer
                                  and poet, is a surprise at #1.

                                  I was rather surprised to see John Fowles & AS Byatt so far down the
                                  list - I think "The French Lieutenant's Woman" and "Possession" are
                                  two of the better postwar English novels.

                                  I also think a case could be made for Robert Holdstock - certainly
                                  more so, IMHO, than Moorcock.

                                  Just my two cents (or less).

                                  Adam
                                • John D Rateliff
                                  Personally, I was delighted to see Larkin at the top of the list. His reputation only took off late in life, just before his death in 1985, but in the years
                                  Message 16 of 16 , Jan 22, 2008
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                                    Personally, I was delighted to see Larkin at the top of the list. His
                                    reputation only took off late in life, just before his death in 1985,
                                    but in the years since it's pretty well been the consensus that he's
                                    the best English poet of the second half of the twentieth century.
                                    The big surprise was to see a poet -- any poet -- beat out Orwell (a
                                    perennial favorite) and Golding (a Nobel Prize winner) for the top spot.
                                    Moorcock of course I'd have left off altogether: even fiftieth
                                    place is too generous for an opinionated hack. I don't much like
                                    Mieville, but surely he's a better writer and deserves the spot more
                                    than Moorcock. I'd also have bumped up Fowles about twenty places,
                                    sunk Carter to the very bottom (or removed her altogether), and taken
                                    Rushdie out (a publicity stunt gone horribly awry doesn't make him
                                    one of the greats).
                                    The person I'd most want to see added is Richard Adams: he
                                    deserves it for WATERSHIP DOWN alone, while GIRL ON A SWING shows he
                                    can write just as well in a completely different mode (turning
                                    PORTRAIT OF JENNIE into a creepily effective modern horror novel). I
                                    also think Gaiman shd be there, not for his novels or (God knows) his
                                    screenplays but for his short stories and young adult fiction:
                                    there's no one this side of Ray Bradbury who can equal him there.
                                    Congratulations to the list-makers anyway for including Tolkien
                                    in the top ten, and for making room for Rowling and (especially)
                                    Pullman, though I think he shd have ranked higher than he did.
                                    --JDR


                                    On Jan 21, 2008, at 8:44 AM, Adam Smith wrote:
                                    > An interesting list, though of course these lists are made simply to
                                    > be argued with.
                                    >
                                    > There were some important omissions that others have noted - Richard
                                    > Adams, Graham Greene, W.H. Auden. The criteria for inclusion on the
                                    > list seems a bit cloudy.
                                    >
                                    > Larkin, though a talented (and at times downright depressing) writer
                                    > and poet, is a surprise at #1.
                                    >
                                    > I was rather surprised to see John Fowles & AS Byatt so far down the
                                    > list - I think "The French Lieutenant's Woman" and "Possession" are
                                    > two of the better postwar English novels.
                                    >
                                    > I also think a case could be made for Robert Holdstock - certainly
                                    > more so, IMHO, than Moorcock.
                                    >
                                    > Just my two cents (or less).
                                    >
                                    > Adam
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