Greatest Writers

I performed a search to find out who the greatest authors of the world are and was somewhat marveled by the result. Since any list that could possibly document such a cause would be arbitrary, I simply went along with the first link I encountered. As the list is, indeed, arbitrary, this must explain why the list is so oddly contrived. That is to say, I’m not too sure I agree with the arrangement. The list is comprised of 100 authors, but I haven’t done any research as to the credibility of those who decided upon the hierarchy.

Initially, I had always thought Hemingway was supposed to be among the greats, so when I found him at #81, I thought something must be amiss. Later, to find that Geoffrey Chaucer is placed at #13, I began to understand how my perspective on great writing is obviously very different than others. In this case I can give a little since I have read more Chaucer than Hemingway.

When I discovered Edgar Allen Poe at #62, and learned of Lord Byron at #25 and Gertrude Stein at #5, my thinking really went askew. Lord Byron? He was a great poet, and writing story-plots in poetic form is very difficult. Even more so, he was the world’s first megastar, but why is he 37 places above Poe? . . . And Stein? She was an innovator, but has anyone ever read her work? It’s insane and nonsensical. She deserves to make the list, for sure, but at #5? Above John Steinbeck, who came in at a miserable #48?

Then we get to the Brontë sisters and here I begin to see how the list makers think. Charlotte and Emily are lumped into the same #58. Huh? Do they write identically to each other? Most definitely not, which means that here lies a case of gross stereotyping. To learn they are just a couple of places behind Nathaniel Hawthorne at #54 and Mark Twain at #42 doesn’t surprise me now, though learning that Franz Kafka is #2 returns me to that state of bewilderment. I realize the millions who believe Kafka to be some rhetorical genius with metaphor and symbolism running rife throughout his works, but in my honest opinion, his story about the boy who becomes a bug in his bedroom is plain silly and stupid. I couldn’t get through the first three pages of it and had to turn to Sparknotes to find out what happened. To think that this man is 52 places above the great Hawthorne is negligent. I don’t know if the fowl beast of political correctness is rearing its ugly head here, or if someone is trying to be funny, but I’m not laughing.

In truth, I was looking for a list on greatest authors to assure myself that Shakespeare would obviously appear as #1. Again, sheer astonishment took me by surprise. Kafka beat Shakespeare, who came in #3. What? William Faulkner came in at #1, which means that according to Will Hubbard and Alex Carnevale of, WilliamFaulkner is the world’s greatest author. I have not read any Faulkner, but I met a girl who said she liked him a lot. This is not, however, helping me to understand the results of this list. In addition, a writer named Vladimir Nabokov came in at #8, which is reminiscent of the tiny critical mass of Russian authors that put the greats Poe, Hawthorne and Twain beyond the 50 mark. Am I missing something about Russian authors? To be honest, there’s something about ultra-dense Russian authorship that is a little off-putting, but to complete my understanding of why this list is so out of touch, Jane Austen is not even mentioned, a complete and utter travesty in and of itself.

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3 Responses to Greatest Writers

  1. noranoir says:

    I don’t read much at all, but the last 3 books I have read were Palahniuk. AND I loved them. Books are time consuming. If I’m going to make the investment, it needs to be quite irreverent. I’d read more if I could get some recommendations from a like-minded warped individual. What I also enjoy about my lack of literary knowledge is that it doesn’t taint my writing. Influence and emulate are bordered by a very fine line.

  2. LK says:

    I wouldn’t consider you having a lack of literary knowledge as your ability to write with exceptional clarity and your vocabulary skills make up for any loss of historical background. Since you’re a poet, au contraire, I strongly recommend at least reading Poetry Foundation’s bio on Emily Dickinson–quite possibly the best bio I’ve ever seen written about her.

    The emulate/influence argument is always a difficult one. I always used to maintain the idea that if I didn’t know music theory or learn music of the past, I would somehow keep the key to originality. Fact is, nearly everything has been done, thus by not having knowledge of the past, chances stand that when people read a work, they can tell if a writer is well learned or not.

    At any rate, your intelligence blends well with your style and free verse is all the rage these days. As for irreverent and warped reading, I found Palahniuk to venture into the anarchist zone, which is out of my league. My own latest book buy is a collection of short stories called “Haunted: Dark Delicacies III.” The work features the very latest in horrorific delights and will keep me well occupied for the upcoming winter.

    I’m due back to your bloggy sometime soon, I think I’m finally up to around ’98/’99.

  3. noranoir says:

    Are you recommending it to me? I may plan to delve into something soon enough. Especially after the weather turns on me. The 3 poets I have read willfully are Poe, Dickinson and Baudelaire.
    I am currently in discussions with a man aged 78 who reaches no limit to the amount of poetry he recites. My memory fails me on nearly any topic. It astounds me to hear him deliver without fail. He suggests we read some classic works together and discuss our presumptions and opinions. I have also been attending poetry slams and got the courage to read a piece live for the first time last month. Hearing others read has already affected my creative process. Although I am quite unique and solid with my personality, I too, am prone to speaking with an accent when I visit Texas.
    But fear of taint is not only what keeps me away from reading. It’s also the time, which is why I am best suited for poetry than novels. If it ends up being lousy, I haven’t lost a month’s worth of nights laboring through something that never gets better. Even doing the research to find something up my alley is time consuming. No matter how well one thinks Jane Austen writes, I find the content to be a yawn. I need a well read someone to know me deeply and then spoon feed me suggestions. Also, why read when it takes away time from writing?

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