This is an idle question, but perhaps an entertaining one too. I was thinking to myself, while reading a biography of Ivy Compton-Burnett, which authors I would place among the Truly Greats. There are thousands of authors who are good, hundreds who are very good, but I could only come up with a list of five whom I consider to be Great. That is, their writing is not only better than other authors’, but different somehow – and so different that even imitators seem to belong to another world, or perhaps another plane.
On that list, after careful consideration, I put, in order that they wrote:
I doubt anybody would put together this same list. I am limited to the authors I have read and that, in turn, is limited to writing in modern English. Some people might only have one name on their list; a lot would put down many more. I have not necessarily chosen my favourite authors (although three of these – the women – would qualify for that too.) That would be a substantially longer list. I have chosen the only writers whose work resonates (to me) with something extra, something special, something which sets them enormously apart from anybody else.
As I say, in some ways this is an artificial question – but I suspect some of you might have answers. And I’d be intrigued to hear them.