Under or over?

Usually I don’t post bookish links, but these ones are rather interesting…

There was a recently article on The Huffington Post about The 15 Most Overrated Contemporary American Authors (predictably Jonathan Safran Foer is on the list, along with a lot of poets, which is a bit silly since it’s not like *that* many people go around raving about Mary Oliver and Louise Gluck even though, yes, their work may be at times too simplistic…), which inspired a Guardian article, taking the game to the world, followed by another piece, asking for ideas on who the most underrated authors are. The article on underrated authors is my favourite (and Elizabeth Bowen is my first nomination), because yes, I do get bored of the same old people getting all the book awards and chat and hype, but I’d rather sing the praises of better books, lesser known books that are more interesting. Dorothy Whipple was mentioned more than once on the underrated lists, so that’s something for Persephone Books!

And in other bookish news, the BBC is making a miniseries based on Winifred Holtby’s novel South Riding! I actually considered reading this when I was getting down with the early 20th century, so I’ve gone ahead and requested it from the library, they make the plot sound quite interesting. I do love 19th century period dramas, but it’s also very exciting to see the BBC do something new and hopefully this will get more people interested in other  underrated early 20th century novels written by women besides Virginia Woolf! Just like they raised Elizabeth Gaskell’s popularity immensely, I’m sure.

And they’re still doing stuff with the Victorians, only now it’s the racy Victorians… there are also plans to adapt The Crimson Petal and the White! I have been meaning to read this, I even started it, there it sits on the shelf, giant, red and slightly accusing. Yes, I do find watching the movie version helps me get going with books sometimes, I only finished my one Dickens, Bleak House, because of the excellent miniseries of it.

Any books or authors you think are over or under-rated? Does the movie version get you reading the book?

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17 thoughts on “Under or over?

  1. Claire (The Captive Reader) says:

    Georgette Heyer came up over at The Guardian when they were naming under-rated authors and I enthusiastically agree. I’d have to add D.E. Stevenson and Elizabeth von Arnim as well – they seem to have small, devoted followings but most people aren’t familiar with their works.

    If you’re a Bowen fan, have you read Love’s Civil War? It charts the romance between Bowen and Canadian diplomat Charles Ritchie through their love letters and his diaries. I’m a big fan of Ritchie’s writing so this title has been on my TBR list for a while.

    • Carolyn says:

      I still haven’t read any Georgette Heyer this year, even though I did buy a used copy of Black Sheep a few months ago… And I started Elizabeth and her German Garden a few months ago and didn’t finish that either! I’m not sure why, as it was lovely writing.

      I haven’t read Love’s Civil War, but I have heard of it. I’ve been meaning to read all her novels first and I think she wrote some nonfiction too, about her family home in Ireland. I almost feel like reading an author’s letters is snooping or cheating somehow… (although I have no problems like that with diaries, strangely!)

  2. Penny says:

    I’m glad to see Dorothy Whipple is being recognised as under-rated. I’ve been a big fan of hers for many years.
    It was thanks to one of these lists that another of my favourites, Barbara Pym, came out of the publishing wilderness. David Cecil and Philip Larkin both named her as the most under-rated writer and people began to realise how good she was. Publishers had decided that her books weren’t the kind that people wanted…

    • Carolyn says:

      I will have to get around to some Dorothy Whipple, my library has one of her out of print ones. And I’ve meant to try some Barbara Pym for a while too, I tried Quartet in Autumn, having heard she was like Jane Austen, but found it much darker and bleaker… are there any funnier or lighter ones?

      • Penny says:

        They’re ALL funnier and lighter than Quartet in Autumn, which is known to be her darkest and bleakest book! Try Some Tame Gazelle or The Sweet Dove Died next, I think… I hope you enjoy them. There’s also a Barbara Pym Yahoo group and a club, with meetings and a newsletter, called Green Leaves after another great one, A Few Green Leaves.

  3. Aarti says:

    Funny, because I DEFINITELY think Crimson Petal and the White is overrated. I also tried to read that book and then just gave up when, after 200 pages, there was still no real plot as far as I could tell… But to each his own!

    • Carolyn says:

      I really liked the beginning of The Crimson Petal & the White, I thought it was very well written and innovative for a Victorian historical, but perhaps it was a bit slow to get going as I did put it down. I do mean to finish it though!

  4. Tamara says:

    I don’t know enough about authors, overrated or not, but I like your question aboout the movie version of books. I would usually only do one – book or movie, rarely both. Although, if recommended to, I would read a book before seeing the movie, but not the otherway round.

    • Carolyn says:

      I’ve read many Victorian novels after seeing the movie, but then somehow I often like knowing the spoilers, so I don’t get too worried about what’s going to happen next!

  5. Thomas at My Porch says:

    You may not like doing bookish posts, but I love reading them and you collected some great links and ideas here. Doesn’t the writer of the overrated list on HuffPost seem just a little cranky? The odd thing is I only recognized about five of the names on his list, which suggests to me, that the list’s creator, as a writer himself is a little too close to his subject. Which would also explain his inclusion of the poets you mention. And he breaks no new ground when noting that awards don’t always capture the best. And why he would think that a jury bestowing awards could somehow predict what might hold up over time is even sillier. Plus I also wonder about writers and critics who seem to believe that what constitutes good writing can be the determined by an objective analysis–and that “good writing” is synonymous with “good book”.

    • Carolyn says:

      Oh, I’m not against bookish posts, I just find that I don’t do them regularly, despite spending plenty of time at the library information desk reading the Guardian when it’s not busy!

      I’m amused when people get grumpy about ‘the state of literature today’ (my husband has an eternal hatred of David Eggers, so I hear about this often!) I certainly don’t read many contemporary novels, just because I prefer older books and wish there were more of them in bookshops and fewer big name hardcovers cluttering up the shelves!

      Interesting point, that good writing isn’t always synonymous with a good book. Some books seem to be overwritten, to the point of being boring and plotless. Reading the Victorians lately, they have more depth and yet Trollope and the Brontes weren’t sitting around in their writer’s cottages fussing over every comma and adjective…

  6. Hannah says:

    I don’t think Dickens is overrated but I think the stories make better movies than books… or maybe it’s not that they’re better but the stories are so melodramatic that they work so well as movies.

  7. m says:

    Would be lovely if the BBC ever did anything new … but I remember there was a very good serialisation of South Riding, admittedly many years ago.

  8. diane says:

    I LOVED Crimson Petal and the White and think it would make a good movie.

    I am one who will read a book if I hear a movie is in the works. Shutter Island was a recent example.

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