Some days you feel like a hater

November 15, 2007

But a righteous one, a useful one, a friend that doesn’t let friends read any more Ian McEwan!

Over on Incertus, a lovely hateful meme has caught on, so I’m going to cross-post my reponse in the comments here. Regular readers of this blog/knowers of SJ will find a lot of repetition here, but I hope that just encourages you to respond with your own answers in the comment field, so we can keep a record of our overratings for once and for all.

Here’s the questions:

1) Who would you say is an overrated actor?

2) What would you say is an overrated movie?

3) Who would you say is an overrated author?

4) What would you say is an overrated book?

5) Who or what else needs to be taken down a peg?

And my take:

1) Who would you say is an overrated actor?

Sean Penn. At least Sean Penn in Mystic River. Him winning an Oscar for doing nothing but yelling was just unforgiveable when Bill Murray did such a consistently wonderful job in Lost in Translation that same year. He does more acting with one of half an eyebrow than Mr. Penn did with his whole vocal register in that movie.

2) What would you say is an overrated movie?

Magnolia. I get no love for this view, but that movie is the narrative equivalent of 52 pick-up and nothing more. No credit for randomness for randomness sake, no matter how many Aimee Mann sing-alongs you have in your movie.

3) Who would you say is an overrated author?

Ian McEwan!!! See the first chapter of Saturday on The New Yorker. Clear case of “Hmmm, why use one adjective when I can use three!” disease. No, I haven’t read the rest of it, b/c after Atonement I vowed that no more of my life would be wasted on Ian McEwan.

4) What would you say is an overrated book?

Special Topics in Calamity Physics. This is old news in my personal blogosphere, where my friends and I came to the conclusion that this book is a collection of derivative ticks posing in the voice of a hottie wunderkind.

5) Who or what else needs to be taken down a peg?

James Wood. I am sick of the term “hysterical realism,” and I’m especially sick of people using this term who haven’t read any of his half-assed thinking behind it. It’s a casually patriarchal way of dissing people who don’t write like he wishes they would, not a useful or insightful critical term no matter that Zadie Smith got cowed into saying she agreed–it’s just irresponsible to use the word “hysterical” first in relation to a female writer. If that kind of style didn’t bug him enough to coin the phrase when DeLillo and Pynchon did it, why use it on someone less established first? B/c it’s easy, and their reputation is vulnerable, and you don’t have the stones to criticize anyone people know already. Why is this man so famous and well-compensated?

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