July 6, 2011

It's 3AM! Why am I awake?! Oh, have you read this article?

Good Lord!

It's 3:30 in the morning . Usually, I'm curled up in bed and dreaming about literary greatness but right now I'm awake. (And curled up in my bed with my laptop!)

Good news is: Justin has returned home for two weeks from Afghanistan!
Bad news is: He has jet lag! Which means I tend to wake up when he does!

Haha. That isn't exactly funny but it's 3AM. Everything seems pretty hilarious to me this early in the morning.

Anyway, have you guys read this piece in the Huffington Post about "The 15 Most Overrated American Contemporary Writers"? Good Lord! My jaw seriously dropped open when I read it. In the article, a literary fiction author blasts American writers who he finds utterly and wholly undeserving of their acclaim. Yep, such writers include:

Jhumpa Lahiri (What?! She completely deserves her Pulitzer!)
Junot Diaz (And he has a Pulitzer too!)
Billy Collins (One of my most beloved poets!)

And the kicker:

Amy Tan (Chinese-American author of "The Joy Luck Club")


Amy Tan writes to my soul. I really mean that. I read "The Joy Luck Club" in high school and it was the very first book that made me go, "Now, this, THIS, I can relate to." As much as I loved Scout Finch and Tess Durbeyfield and other literary heroines, I could only admire their stories at arms-length. But with Tan's book? Man. She got me. She nailed my life as a Chinese-American girl raised by Chinese-Chinese parents. Even now, nearly 15 years later, this book still speaks to me in ways that no others can.

So yeah. Me not happy with the author of the HuffPo article. I mean, literary criticism is one thing. It's quite an important thing too. But what this guy is doing isn't literary criticism. He's basically ripping apart his fellow authors, saying that they are "shtick peddlers" and have "no clue about the rhythm of language." At one point, I kid you not, he even calls out one writer as "perhaps our greatest example of mediocrity ascending to the very top."

Whoa, dude! Whoa, whoa, whoa.

Look, he passed the line between criticism and shit-throwing. As an author, it's okay to review books. (Although it may not be the best idea professionally. Burning bridges and all that.) But it is decidedly not okay to label another author as a "shtick peddler" or "dull craftswoman" or "court jester." That's unprofessional. It's rude. And it's kind of douche-y.

I'm interested to see how this all plays out. Will this writer receive any fallback from publishers over this article? Or is all PR good PR?

Either way, I think we can learn an important lesson here: Don't be a douche bag, yo!

And with that, I'm going back to sleep.


  1. I adore The Joy Luck Club. Funnily enough I just watched it again last night and sobbed. my. eyes. out. I bought a copy for 10c at a market in San Francisco over ten years ago and I've read it so many times. Definitely one of my favorites. The "best quality heart" gets me EVERY time.

  2. "Best quality heart"! Ahhhh, that part KILLS me! It brings the waterworks every time.

    I'm so glad to meet another fan of The Joy Luck Club! It's seriously one of my favorite books.

  3. Okay, one more comment on The Joy Luck Club!

    My sister read it for the first time this summer and I asked her what part she liked the most. She said: "The part about the crabs and the 'best quality heart.' It made me cry."

    Ah, I love Amy Tan!

  4. Caroline: I'm Korean-Australian (not exactly Chinese-American lol, but can still relate!) I pretty much love all the women's stories. I love Rose's story, too -- how she learns to find her voice through the spirit of her grandmother. And how Lena finds the strength to leave her "lopsided" marriage.

    And Jing-Mei's dad in the movie is so sweet. :)

  5. 3:30AM? Good lord, you're even crazier than I thought you were when I got your e-mail this morning!

    Also, I'm not overly familiar with a lot of those writers (I don't read literary or contemporary fiction often, if at all) but Billy Collins is fierce and flawless and I got to see him perform several times at the Dodge festival many (many, many) years back.

    So on his behalf alone, I am indignant.

    Also, pretty sure he was the National Poet Laureate for a time, so I have a feeling he doesn't give a ---- what some random HuffPo writer is saying about him.


  6. I am so glad to hear you get Justin home for a while!! :)

    As for the article, I'm guessing that guy is loving all the attention his nasty remarks are getting him.

  7. I'd not seen this article, but grrrr!

    OMG! I loved The Joy Luck Club.

  8. This makes me want to readThe Joy Luck Club all over again. It's been so many years.

    It seems like there's always some literary fiction writer who's bashing other writers. I think there's a new one with every season. Sigh. Middle school really, truly never ends.

  9. I never read the Joy Luck Club but I saw the ovie and loved it! :-D

  10. I adore Amy Tan! I'm not of Chinese background but I remember her books as speaking to my experiences as well when I read them way back.