By request, a list of 15 living writers who I would consider ‘towering literary artists,’ even though that phrase itself comes with the baggage of being a little silly, but still. These men and women all spit fire line by line, and have been doing so for many years, and continue to do so, as we speak.
This list, of course, is somewhat arbitrary in its compiling, as I just jotted down the first 15 towers that occurred to me, and there are many others that could have, should have appeared on this list, a list that likely could go to at least 30, maybe 50, and especially had I included authors with smaller yet still growing bodies of work. Here I stuck to people who mostly have published at least 8 books so far (I think here only one of them has less than that) (and if I opened beyond that this list would be easily twice as long right off the bat), and with a dearth of poets as I am not quite as done up in that area as in fiction, and therefore this list also clearly reflects my taste more than would a neutral and objective list of towering authors (i.e. a lot of people would easily switch out Lish for, say, John Ashbery, etc., or perhaps Diane Williams for J.M. Coetzee or Cynthia Ozick or John Barth): this therefore is more those who I feel towering among my own mind, in my history, but who also clearly have made their mark across the world at large. Feel free to comment and let me know all of those I left out, or make your own list, etc.
William T. Vollmann