The Huffington Post has published this interesting article by Anis Shivani (yeah, me neither) about the 15 most overrated American writers working today. It's a fun article and bound to raise a few eyebrows, and what strikes me is how few of these people I have actually read (Amy tan, Jumpa Lahiri). Based on my limited knowledge, hey, this guy might be on to something...
Here's the link to the article:
And for you people who hate links, here's his list. Any thoughts?
1. William T. Vollman
2. Amy Tan -- I read something once. She seems to be one of these people who writes the same story over and over with minor variations, but that may not be fair.
3. John Ashbery -- I actually heard him read at the U of Arizona when I was in grad school. I had no idea what was going on. Shivani offers a quote that seems about right.
4. Mary Oliver
5. Helen Vendler
6. Antonya Nelson
7. Sharon Olds -- read her a lot in grad school when I was trying to date poets. She writes a lot about, like, sex and her father. Often in the same poem, if you get my drift. I used to like her stuff but haven't read it in ages. She had a book called Satan Says, which I thought was a killer title for a bunch of poems.
8. Jorie Graham
9. Jonathan Safran Foer -- a big gun among young writers but I've never read anything by him.
10. Jhumpa Lahiri -- yeah man, somebody explain this to me. I read a few stories from Interpreter of Maladies and was amazed at how poor some of them were. Never read The Namesake; it seems dull.
11. Junot Diaz
12. Louise Gluck
13. Michael Cunningham -- wrote The Hours, which I never read, but like everyone else I saw the movie.
14. Billy Collins
15. Michiko Kakutani -- apparently a reviewer for the New York Times, not a writer per se.
I realize this may come off as sour grapes, and maybe it is, but I also think it's an interesting list and something to think about. Shivani gives his reasons and has a historical perspective too in a discussion of Pulitzer Prizes awarded in the first half of the 20th century. It's interesting to see who was being recognized at that time (Julia Peterkin, Oliver La Farge) and who was overlooked (Faulkner, Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson). Willa Cather won for One of Ours but not for My Antonia. So it's nothing new, exactly, but the hype machine is, perhaps, operating at a greater pitch these days than in the past.