June 30, 2021

There are quite a few things in the world of literature that make me cross. For the life of me – and I’ve read it several times (because I had to!) – I cannot see what some people find to rave about in The Great Gatsby. It’s always struck me as being about superficial, trivial, privileged people who I couldn’t care less about and the narrator puts me off right from the start.

Equally, I fail to see why some think so highly of Lolita. I’ve had it recommended to me a number of times, by people whose opinions and tastes I rate highly. I’ve tried to read it at least three times, have never got beyond fifty pages or so. I’ve found it dull, and I’ve also found it toe-curlingly creepy, in a perverted sort of way. I shan’t be bothering again.

I shall also confess that I find Wuthering Heights grossly overrated. I read it, unravelled the complex plot at the time, and could now tell you almost nothing about the book or its characters, so deep an impression it didn’t make on me. Emily Bronte I can do without; her sister Charlotte, on the other hand, I rate very highly: the ending of Villette is an absolute master-stroke.

At least I’ve made the attempt with those books. There are writers I haven’t really bothered with – Dickens, and Hardy for instance: I had to read Hard Times in my first year at university, and Tess of the D’Urbervilles too. The former I quite enjoyed, the latter I found rather silly because of the leaden hand of fate that rested on the heroine’s shoulders throughout. Certainly, I’ve never felt called to use up any more eyeball time on those writers.

I have quite a large blind spot about British and American fiction of the last few decades: I haven’t read very much of it at all, because very little of it has recommended itself to me, and quite honestly, I don’t think I’ve missed much. My general feeling has been that writers in other countries and continents have found much more interesting stories to write. No recent English language writer has, for me, reached the heights of Gunter Grass, Umberto Eco or Amin Maalouf, for example.

I’ve enjoyed having a bit of a gripe here, and I can imagine some of my readers thinking, “Well, I never saw anything in Philip Pullman, or, what has Josef Skvorecky got to say to me?” So, what are the books or writers you consider overrated?

7 Responses to “Overrated”

  1. The Reading Bug Says:

    OK I appreciate you may have been being deliberately controversial, but I think Lolita is a staggering piece of work – disturbing, without question, but an extraordinary insight into a broken mind. And not even written in his first language!! Dickens is one of the great English novelists, up there with Austen. He can be long-winded (a result of writing for serialisation) but definitely worth revisiting. Writers I think are over-rated – Coetzee for me. Just haven’t enjoyed anything he wrote, and I found Disgrace as offensive as some people seem to find Lolita.


    • litgaz Says:

      Well, as I said, I have made several attempts at Lolita, with as open a mind as possible. I do count it as a real failure that I was unable to read it. I think Dickens is too wordy, though I know he counts as one of our great writers, and there is just too much doom and predestination in Hardy for me. Our greatest novelist – for me – is Austen, without a doubt. I wasn’t being deliberately provocative, but admitting to a few blind spots and prejudices, certainly. Under-rated? Joseph Conrad.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Joachim Boaz Says:

    Wuthering Heights — the only book in high school I was required to read that I never finished! hah. Not necessarily a sign of anything re-its value but I remember the serious struggle getting through it.


    • litgaz Says:

      Well, I thought I OUGHT to have read Wuthering Heights, and, like you, I struggled, but I did get to the end. I have now given up feeling obliged to have read certain texts. And, re science fiction, I will admit to having given up on Dune, which I’m a bit ashamed about, and think I will have another go at. It was nearly 40 years ago when I failed…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with you about Wuthering Heights and The Great Gatsby. Both highly overrated. Another writer I think is overrated is Ernest Hemingway. A lot of readers think highly about him but he never spoke to me. Maybe his writing style doesn’t appeal to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • litgaz Says:

      Agree with you about Hemingway, whom I read as a student (For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms) and have never felt the slightest inclination to return to. And you’ve somehow reminded me how overrated I always thought D H Lawrence was…

      Liked by 1 person

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