1. Back in August Anis Shivani published a half-baked and perfectly dissmissible essay on the Huffington Post called The 15 Most Overrated Contemporary American Writers. There were responses to this, of course, there was handwringing, all of it equally half-baked and forgettable and happily, for my part, forgotten. Until, much more recently, like yesterday, Jason Jordan self-confessed to his nursing a bit of an obsession over Shivani’s article over the last six months and blogged his own much abbreviatedÂ version of the overrated, whittled down to 5. In a matter of hours, John Madera blogs a take down of Jordan’s take down over at Big Other. Facebook and twitter madness ensues. At the same moment, my wife posted as her status update “the children are bickering.” The children she referred to are 7- and 3-years-old. Ahem.
2. People like what they like, or they don’t. Some people have big platforms, some little. Some opinions are grounded in reasoned argument, some in jealousy, some in rage, and some are just off the cuff expressions of a mind with a little too much time and technology on its hands at any given moment. Some opinions come with experience or erudition or some other form of pedigree or power to back them. Some don’t. Some opinions are important. Some aren’t. Some are gratifying, others hurtful. We know this, right? And we know it’s our job to sift through all it like it’s somehow all equal because we also know there no longer exists any authority in whom we all look to, all share, all trust to help us in the task. We like what we like and we believe what we believe, damn the evidence, and it’s our right to broadcast ourselves regardless of how little we have to add to the conversation. Fine. Here we are. Huzzah for us.
3. But when it comes to cultural consumption, particularly with books and authors, why do we waste our words writing about what we don’t like when there’s so much that we do like that needs our attention? Why do we insist on rabidly spotlighting the already overrated and overhyped? Isn’t that bizarre? Do I really need to learn about a bad book that I shouldn’t read? Do I really need my attention drawn to a poorly written blog post that I shouldn’t link to? Have you ever arrived to a party to have someone run up to you all excited and say, “Hey, man, come over hear and listen to this asshole tell a totally boring story!” No, or at least I would hope not. Can we, instead, allow the bad to slink away to die its quiet death in oblivion (we do this with most books and authors already, don’t we? so we’re already good at it). I’m not saying we should all just be a bunch of Pollyannas and cheerleaders. Madera points out that he’s hungry for insight, criticism, and rigor and I am, too. But being hungry for something is a lot different than serving something up and I, for one, am growing tired of the former and wishing for a little more of the latter. Tell me what needs to be seen, read, heard, if you’re so damn smart. Tell me what you’ve found that’s awesome because I probably haven’t found it yet myself. Tell me something I don’t know, something I need to know, because I’m sure I don’t know much. I need you. I love you. Stop leading me astray.