Top 10 Overrated Contemporary Writers

Dave Eggers
Dave Eggers Photo by Ed Ritger
Dave Eggers
We’ve read something by all of the authors on this list.

For the most part, we’re into whatever they’ve published, whether it’s a novel, short fiction or an essay collection.

Which means this list isn’t some sort of Spanish Inquisition-ish and tearing down of these scribes. It’s just that these authors get a little too much love and perhaps a lot of blind praise.

Basically, we actually like, or can at least deal with, all of these writers.

Oh, except for Chuck Klosterman.

Jonathan Safran Foer

Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close were enjoyable enough, though critics have trashed Foer as the most gimmicky scribe living today. (We’re on the fence.) But then Eating Animals, Foer’s sojourn into nonfiction, happened.

The memoir/investigation into the business of meat production is bunk. Foer, inspired by “fatherhood” (UGH) to become a vegetarian and write this dissertation, lays out a played-out argument about why meat is the worst thing in the world.

In a video promo for Eating Animals – which won a Moby Award for “Most Annoying Performance by an Author in a Book Trailer” – Foer constantly tells the camera that he lives in Park Slope in Brooklyn. We guess it could’ve only been more annoying if he had said “Williamsburg” over and over.

Houston Press
Joan Didion

The 82-year-old writer has been lofted as a great writer to such a degree that she’s now a brand and a so-called legend.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem is an okay collection of essays and magazine articles penned by Didion. The lofty, ceaseless praise of the book? Don’t get it.

Same goes for her more recent memoirs, Where I Was From and The Year of Magical Thinking, which seem as if she wrote for the literary elites and the Didion superfan and not for the “normal” reader.

Billy Collins

Poetry is generally underrated. Does that make Billy Collins less overrated among the overrated canon?

No way.

Collins’s poetry is light and fluffy, kind of like Froot Loops, a recipe that appeals to the masses.

To boot, Houston-based writer and poet Anis Shivani calls Collins a “one-trick pony.”

Houston Press
David Foster Wallace

The author of Infinite Jest and The Broom of the System was a tour de force. Then he killed himself, which sucked so hard.

Contrary to American author Bret Easton Ellis, we’re no douche for liking Wallace. “Anyone who finds David Foster Wallace a literary genius has got to be included in the Literary Doucebag[sic]-Fools Pantheon…,” Ellis wrote in a 2012 Twitter screed.

Wallace also isn’t a “fraud.” Anyone who cranks out a complex, nuanced book that measures nearly 1,100 pages will never fit that definition.

However, since Wallace’s 2008 suicide, there have been a The End of the Tour full-length movie, at least 12 dissertations (marketed as monographs) on DFW pitched to university presses, a book of essays, a reader’s guide to Oblivion and a reissue of Signifying Rappers.

There’s more to come, writes Mike Moats in Fiction Advocate. “I think it’s a real possibility that we will see a book of Wallace’s letters, a Portable David Foster Wallace reader, or another collection of unpublished short fiction. Comparisons to Tupac’s posthumous catalog will endure.”

Which is cool, but also kind of overdoing it?

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Steve Jansen is a contributing writer for the Houston Press.
Contact: Steve Jansen