The 15 Most Overrated
Contemporary American Writers by Anis Shivani
Because slideshows are a PITA:
William T. Vollmann (Prostitutes and Pornography)
Exemplary Sentence: "A squat black telephone, I mean an octopus, the god of our Signal Corps, owns a recess in Berlin (more probably Moscow, which one German general has named the core of the enemy's whole being).
Amy Tan (Mothers and Daughters and Dirty Laundry)
Exemplary Sentence: "'A mother is best. A mother knows what is inside you,' she said above the singing voices. 'A psyche-atricks will only make you hulihudu, make you see heimongmong.'"
John Ashbery (Self-Portrait in a Broken Mirror)
Exemplary Lines: "The sheiks protest use of / aims. In the past / coal has protected their / O long, watchful hour. / the engines had been humming / stones of March in the gray woods / still, the rods, could not they take long / More anthems until dust / flocks disguised machine."
Mary Oliver (Porcupines and Toads and Opossums and Turtles)
Exemplary lines: "My right hand / was holding my left hand / which was holding the tree / which was filled with stars // and the soft rain-- / imagine! imagine! / the long and wondrous journeys / still to be ours."
Helen Vendler (Technicalities and Architectonics)
Exemplary sentence: "No new generalizations about [George] Herbert are proposed in this book."
Antonya Nelson (Alcoholics, Abusers, Addicts, and Adulterers)
Exemplary Sentence: "It was impossible to imagine her cousin having sex with her father--a man with porkchop sideburns whom Edie had met just once long ago--without also imagining herself having sex with her father."
Sharon Olds (Tampons and Lactation)
Exemplary Lines: "If anyone had ever told me / I would sit by him [her father] and he'd pull up his nightie / and I'd look at his naked body, at the thick / bud of his glans, his penis in all that / sparse hair, look at him / in affection and uneasy wonder / I would not have believed it."
Jorie Graham (The Dream of the Unified Field)
Exemplary Lines: "[suddenly] / [breathless with excitement she] / [best not to] / [is different now] / [crown the color of] / [hearing the wild birds in their] / [although it's early morning, I] / [dark forelock combed back, damp] / [days]."
Jonathan Safran Foer (Idiot Savants and Suave Idiots)
Exemplary sentence: "I read the first chapter of A Brief History of Time when Dad was still alive, and I got incredibly heavy boots about how relatively insignificant life is, and how, compared to the universe and compared to time, it didn't even matter if I existed at all."
Jhumpa Lahiri (Nationalities and Meritocracies)
Exemplary Sentence: "He [Gogol] recognizes a few familiar faces tonight: Edith and Colin, who teach sociology at Princeton and Yale, respectively, and Louise and Blake, both Ph.D. candidates, like Moushumi, at NYU."
Junot Diaz (Abuelos and Hijas)
Exemplary Sentence: "Negro, please." OK, a longer one: "He wore his semi-kink hair in a Puerto Rican afro, rocked enormous Section 8 glasses--his "anti-pussy devices," Al and Miggs, his only friends, called them--sported an unappealing trace of mustache on his upper lip and possessed a set of close-set eyes that made him look somewhat retarded."
Louise Gluck (Odysseus and Ostracization)
Exemplary Lines: "This, this is the meaning of / 'a fortunate life': it means / to exist in the present."
Michael Cunningham (Cakes and Ale)
Exemplary Sentence: "There's just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we've ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult."
Billy Collins (Angels on Pins and Walking Across the Atlantic)
Exemplary Lines: "I woke up this morning, / as the blues singers like to boast, / and the first thing to enter my mind, / as the dog was licking my face, was Coventry Patmore."
Michiko Kakutani (Chekhovian and Forsterian)
Exemplary Sentence: "Junot Diaz's Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a wondrous, not-so-brief first novel that is so original it can only be described as Mario Vargas Llosa meets Star Trek meets David Foster Wallace meets Kanye West."