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Sunday, August 8, 2010

15 Overrated American Writers

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.


Nicole Del Sesto said...

The only one I've read is Junot Diaz, and CANNOT agree more about the overration factor. (I know, it's not a word.) I HATED Pulitzer Prize winning novel "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" so much that I took it personally.

Awful, pretentious, unreadable, unpunctuated, blather.

Phew ... Thanks for that. Every few months I need to go off on another Diaz tangent.

jdavid said...

i can't agree with everything on this list, but it is incomplete and/or void by it's omission of jonathan franzen. anybody waste their time with the corrections? if not, good, don't. not one good reason to read the piece of sh*t except to expand your vocab with the pretentious and needless terminology he uses. booo!

Susan M. Schultz said...

John Ashbery rocks!