This list is ridiculous. Some of the folks on the list: Jonathan Saffran Foer, Junot Diaz. Serious. Really, Anis Shivani? Who the fuck are you? When you write anything half as good as anyone one your list, then talk shit. Being a foreigner, living in America, writing about the exploits of impoverished nations, might get you nominated for awards, but it's been done by people better than you, it's played out. Yawn. Instead of focusing on people you are jealous of, why not focus on contemporary writers who really are puffed up? People who can't write a lick? There are plenty, but Junot Diaz isn't one of them. I'm so sick of haters concentrating on ripping apart people who have found success, who have accomplished something great. Why not write your own novel that's so much better and more original than The Bonesetter's Daughter, instead of a bullshit column used to get attention? I guess if you could, you would.

The rest of the list is here:


  1. Well Anis, enjoy your 15 minutes, you fucking hack. Something tells me this will pretty much be the highlight of your career. And as far as dissing a former Dogzplot contributor? Don't even speak to me if you ever see me because on a personal level, I don't back down easy. Talking about how high you get and all that crazy space shit that don't even make no sense. Alright, if you wanna retaliate you can guest blog using my account. I'm done.

  2. I want to care about lists, but I can't. I want to get pissy about lists, but I can't. I read what I read and don't care what goes on.

    This makes me ridiculous, but see, I can't make myself care about that either.

  3. I'm with you, Lynn, kinda. I mean, I sorta love Shivani's fightin' words, not b/c I agree w/ his list or all of his ideas but b/c he is at least willing to critically challenge the day's dominant views on contemporary writing and writers. Most importantly, he backs up his criticisms with examples and clear arguments. Whether or not we agree is besides the point. At least he's not giving every single "literary" book published in America today a free pass as an instant classic and a Significant Work of Literature. Personally, I can't believe much of what's written about books in the bloggysphere anymore b/c it all sounds like so many handjobs. At least Shivani's fingers were clearly on the keyboard when he wrote his post.

  4. "clearly on the keyboard" really? you don't think he has an agenda? i'm not against lists. im against constructing lists to devalue what other people have accomplished. by saying that you dont agree with people's assessments and they are giving "handjobs," indicates that you think somehow you or shivai or anyone else is the standard setter. what is great to one person doesn't have to be great to another. its all subjective. all of it. so to make a list of what is overrated and what isnt doesnt make you a critic. it makes you an asshole who beleives your standard of judgement is superior to someone else's.

  5. It seems Shivani's idea of "good criticism" is "na na na boo boo I don't like you." I want to submit a rebuttal to Huffington that just says "You're rubber and I'm glue."

  6. That is pretty much my attitude about lists and standards, I am not against opinions.

    I am against gatekeepers and barriers.

    A list is an opinion, and those are nice, they provide fodder for thought. I just don't care much beyond that and don't like to legitimize clique culture.

  7. @Barry -- I don't know this guy's agenda, but it sounds like he's just tired of books and writers getting more props than he thinks they deserve, and he's letting his voice be heard b/c he (ultimately, I'm guessing) wants other works to get more attention. So what? Isn't that his prerogative?

    Re: lists -- I don't have an opinion on lists one way or another. I mean, was Lincoln Michel's Faster Times list of top litmags devaluing the ones that didn't make it to the top? I didn't think so. He explained his motives and his methodology and indicated the (inherently subjective) flaws and limitations in any listmaking from the outset. Also, don't GoodReads and Amazon employ a star system for readers to rank stuff and compare notes (aka make lists and cast value judgments and encourage dialogue or debate)? I don't necessarily agree w/ these systems, but they're everywhere, and everyone uses them at some point, I'm sure.

    I also don't see how one guy's assertion of his opinion means he's automatically the standard setter. Who says he's the standard setter? Not me. He's just a writer/critic w/ one opinion. At least he's not saying -- "This book is AWESOME, go buy it" -- without backing up his claims with meat on the bone. That's the handjob stuff that devalues not only the intelligence of the reader but also the work and the writer being talked up.

    Lotsa stroking going on in the "literary" world w/out a lot of CONVINCING analysis/argument to back it up. Lotsa people shit-talking every day -- "That's a fuck of a good book... I'm buying that... You have to read this book" -- with very little follow-through, which makes all of these kinds of statements ring hollow. Haven't you ever read the blurbs on the back of a book or on a web site and then read the book and said to yourself, "WTF?!" It's all the same, a false-face marketing game (aka a wank fest), no?

    Really, man, this thing was just one guy's list -- on a blog, no less, which encourages comments (i.e., dialogue/debate). If you don't like his assessment, why not make your own? Isn't that what countless folks did after the New Yorker's Top 20 under 40? Some good alternatives came out of that, I thought.

    Finally, what I've learned from working at newspapers and magazines over many years is this: if you're a critic or editorialist or whatever, you have to present your argument not only with authority but also with attitude (meaning: a strong opinion). You have to TAKE A STAND and you do this by SUPPORTING whatever you have to say with evidence. This guy does this. Of course, there's ALWAYS another side to anyone's arguments, and that's the challenge to other writers/critics/commenters: essentially, "Prove me wrong." I don't see what the problem is with this. It's just one critic's opinion. If you don't like it, why not counter his arguments with your own? Calling him an asshole doesn't contribute to a dialogue and it doesn't let anyone take your ideas seriously b/c you're not presenting arguments to counter his; you're just name-calling b/c you don't agree, and I'd argue, that's not the best way to let your voice be heard.

    @m.lady - Not sure "You're rubber and I'm glue" is gonna cut it as a rebuttal, but you could try.

    @Lynn Alexander - Re: gatekeepers and barriers -- Who gives whom the power of gatekeeper? Not me.

    Re: clique culture -- Seems to me, this HPost writer is trying to dismantle the cliqueish celebrity built up (unjustifiably, in his opinion) around some of these writers. I dunno. That's how I read it.

  8. jesus. i agree with most of what you're say. sure, people do say, fuck of a good book, this book is the shit, and other such things. i think the reason they do that is because i think there is this idea (and maybe its a misconception and maybe it isnt) that people in the online lit world know each other. you know whos opinion to trust, who's not to, who agrees with your sensibilities and who doesnt. if you said to me, wow man this book kicks ass, i would, based on what i know of you and your literary tastes, pick up the book and read it, if someone else said that to me, maybe i wouldnt. i think that argument is valid.

    and about huffington. i think its odd that the large majority of his list is made of women and minority writers. i also think its odd that the people who chose to pick on were, safe, in the sense that nothing is at stake for him saying it. i dont see dave eggers on the list and he is the most overrated writer of the decade. i dont see francine prose on the list. why, because they have clout. its like if i make a list of the 3 most overrated poets of all time... allen ginsburg, ts eliot, robert frost. what does that mean. nothing. nothing is at stake. and if you read his explainations, he attacks some of the writers on personal levels that dont necessarily have anything to do with their work. why would you do that unless your "opinion" was about something else?

  9. Barry, I also noticed that many of the writers chosen were women and minorities, which isn't to say he's a dick-wad because of that (he's a dick-wad because he's a dick-wad and I'll leave it at that because, apparently, that lives up to his high standard of criticism support and, duh, the guy is a minority) but because it seems to fit into his view that these are token choices? Maybe? Maybe I'm putting my own shit in there. But, seriously, saying Safran Foer is overrated? Really? Like no one has ever said that before? Wow, thanks Anis, for illuminating that fact. And choosing Ashbery for the list? That's just throwing a name in to try to get a reaction. There's been a lot of discussion about his list, but what I've seen and read isn't so much people discussing the choices or the critiques (which would be SUPER interesting had it been a well conceived list and concept and execution) but more that people are criticising the way he went about it. In a, as I said, na na na boo boo way. Which is to say, there's nothing wrong with lists or even saying "this is what I think is wrong with contemporary critique," but acting like he is the grandmaster flash of all the literary history of the world is annoying. And I get to say he's annoying. Why? Because this is the Internet and it was made for porn and people acting like their opinion means shit. I'm going to make a list of annoying bloggers and he's the only one on the list. Not because he's the only annoying blogger, but because I'm following his pattern of critique based on arbitrary personal opinion. Also, this is the only piece of writing by Anis Shivani that I've read and I think it's enough.

  10. oh shit, now I'm one of those people who writes long annoying tangent comments on posts.

  11. Long annoying tangential comments are what blogs were made for.... Speaking to Barry's first point above, I dunno. If almost everyone's writing for other people they know -- and not for an audience they perhaps do not know but wish to inform or enlighten -- then that reinforces the popular criticism that the online lit world is an insular (cliquey, high schoolish) community, which, I believe, is not living up to its potential as a valuable alternative to corporate media. Whatever. Arrested adolescents still like to play in the sandbox. OK. But still.... Re: point #2 -- Foer, Ashberry, Vollmann, Cunningham... those are White Men. If more women and people of color (lumped together?) are on the list, so what? Maybe we can interpret this as equal-opportunity, no? Or... because Shivani's a "person of color" (Indian) then maybe that explains it. But some secret agenda? I doubt it. I don't know this guy, and I'm not defending him. My point is if you want to diss him, I would take you more seriously if you did it by arguing point by point against whatever he says, not by creating hypothetical scenarios of international espionage (though I do think M.Lady's comments above are cute). Know what I'm sayin'? I mean... for my money, "The Hours" was one of the tightest novels I've ever read. I think it blew away Woolf's original (and I love "Orlando" and greatly respect Woolf). Its multiple narratives are cleanly executed and its portraits of pain deeply moving. But do I care that Shivani thinks the book is bad? Not really. It just means we read it differently. Who cares? My gripe with "The Hours" is that, based on the lengthy credits and my understanding of contemporary publishing, I don't think Cunningham really wrote it. I'm pretty sure it was a group project, like a typical Hollywood movie. Que sera... I'm done. Bottom line: I'd like to see more analysis and less name-calling. That's just me, and I do realize I'm not captain of the football team.

  12. "the online lit world is an insular (cliquey, high schoolish) community, which, I believe, is not living up to its potential as a valuable alternative to corporate media. Whatever. Arrested adolescents still like to play in the sandbox." that's cool. then why attempt to place yourself inside a world that you have so much disdain and disrespect for? that just seems silly. i never suggested that people write for each other, only that they have worked hard to develop a readership and their audience trusts their judgement.

    foer is jewish if that means anything. so i guess thats something. his entire list isnt women or minorities, only 80 percent. im not suggesting a conspiracy or espionage or that he's trying to make some grand statement. to even say thats what i suggested is ridiculous. i just said that he has an agenda. everyone has an agenda. why is it difficult to say that he does as well.

    haha. i dont care who takes me seriously as a critic. why would i? my opinion is barely worth the space it takes up and im ok with that.

  13. Barry, I don't have disdain or disrespect for this world. I'm fascinated by its potential and inspired by its achievements, but I'm also sometimes disappointed by its self-imposed limitations.

    I don't think we're talking about the same thing re: readership. If you build a readership, then you keep that readership by writing things worth reading, no? What I'm hearing from you is that once you build a readership, then you can say whatever without backing it up and your judgment is trusted. I don't personally follow that logic. For example, just b/c Roger Ebert, widely acknowledged as a top film critic, gives a film a thumbs up, I'm not going to see it based on his rep. I may, however, see it if what he says in his review compels me to do so. Know what I mean?

    Finally, if our opinions are barely worth the space they take up, then why post them in a public forum at all?

  14. i know what you're saying about readership and i agree, all im saying is, if certain people that i trust and respect and who i know i share a similar aesthetic with, told me to check out a book because it kicks ass, i wouldnt need an essay to confirm it. i would believe them based on what i know of their sensibilities. and come on man. if you and roger were friends and he was like, hey jesus, check this movie out, its pretty great. you would say, no, im gonna hold out until i see you break it down on the show. come on man. i know what you are saying and i DO believe in it. i just also think that a community of people attempting intimacy isnt a bad thing.

    also, i didnt say OUR opinions, i said MY opinion.

  15. this is what i hate about the limitations of communicating through the internet, blog comments may be the worse. its so hard to understand what anyone truly means.

  16. Yes, yes, of course. If Roger and me... but then if we write to each other like this -- in blog posts, not in the comments but in the posts -- then aren't we perpetuating a kinda chummy insider's thing (like I was talking about before) rather than a more inclusive approach that informs, enlightens, entertains... everyone, not just our buddies? That's all I'm trying to get at.

    Yeah, online intimacy... the attempt may be noble, but the upshot? I dunno, man... actually, I do. I tried to write a bad book about it.

    Your MY is my OUR. We're all in this together, no? Still... you didn't answer my question, hombre: Why, oh why???

  17. Jesus, I'm kind of annoyed that you called my comments "cute." Why don't you pat me on the head and tell me to go watch tv while we're at it?

  18. i cant really answer the question that you pose because, as i said, i was only referring to myself. i think everyone's opinion is important. i just think its ok to be foolish sometimes and babble.

    i dont think its necessary that you have to address the world at large in order for people to get something beneficial out of your commentary. i just like revealing my thoughts and if they mean something to someone thats good and if not thats good too. i see blogs as a place where people can say what they wanna say without worrying about who is judging them. if people are coming to a blog to discover the secret to life or to find some great insight that will change america and the world, thats their perogative, its just not my agenda.

    if anything i am pro intimacy no matter whats at stake and if the ultimate outcome of any blog means that one person can give one other person one genuine hug, then i have succeeded

  19. Hey M. - No offense intended. I just thought your statement -- "I get to say he's annoying. Why? Because this is the Internet and it was made for porn and people acting like their opinion means shit" -- was cute. Or maybe it was the earlier one -- "You're rubber and I'm glue" -- influencing my read of this one. Either way, apologies. Besides, I don't know you well enough to pat your head, and I would never recommend TV (unless it was True Blood).

    B. Dawg -- I love it that you're pro intimacy and that you believe in the power of the Internet as a vehicle for authentic emotional connection. Ya know, I'd be up for a roundtable GTalk-style or something sometime on this very subject. You invite some peeps, I'll invite some peeps, and we all share ideas about intimacy in e-culture. What d'ya say? It would likely make a great multi-part blog post, no?

  20. True Blood was SO GOOD this week. When we meet in person we'll talk about it.

  21. Don't know about writers, but one of the most underrated POETS of all time? Ronnie James Dio. And I am fucking serious.