Wednesday, August 20, 2014

WITMonth Day 20 - Underrated is subjective | Thoughts

For today's prompt, I encouraged readers to think about underrated titles/authors. This is a difficult subject to discuss, because it's extremely personal. One person's favorite author may be another's unknown, unheard of masterpiece. Ratings and accessibility are subjective, so everything I write in this post will obviously be wrong for many other readers. And yet.

For me, the term "underrated" carries with it significance regarding where I've seen reference to the book. For example, a book that's been reviewed by a major outlet (like the New York Times, or the LA Times, or Three Percent, etc.) is considered... fairly rated, in my mind. There are also other books that get this treatment - I look at a writer like Elena Ferrante who appears on almost every literature in translation blog, whose books appear even in chain bookstores, and whose writing has been profiled in several different review publications. While it's true that she's not a household name like other writers and may perhaps count as underrated in the larger picture, I think the acclaim she's received within certain circles excludes her from my personal definition.

So now... who do I think is truly underrated?

Of course my first answer has to be Angelica Gorodischer - sure, she's far from underrated on this blog, but I unfortunately do not see very many mentions of her name/writings beyond my own. She's been reviewed in Three Percent and on (the latter was my introduction to her, curiously enough), but not much beyond. She should be everywhere, and we deserve more of her books translated, pronto.

My next underrated title would probably have to be the woefully unknown The Budding Tree, by Aiko Kitahara. This book is lovely and fascinating and a wonderful read, yet I discovered it only through my extensive searches of the Dalkey Archive... archives. It seems that the book was not entirely ignored upon publication (several years ago), yet to me it seems like the sort of book that deserves more recognition and deserves a longer shelf life. If you've never heard of it or read it - do that now.

Finally we've got Inger Christensen. I've written about her a bunch, I know, but it's because she really is one of the best poets I've ever read. She deserves to be a household name, particularly among poetry lovers. Go read her works. Now. Shoo.

These are just three. And this list is so short largely because I don't feel I've had an opportunity to read many of the truly unknown women writers in translations. I get many of my recommendations from larger outlets, and many more from other readers. Yes, I read many well-rated books. But even among my stack of well-known and lesser-known titles, these are three writers who deserve more attention than what they get. They deserve to stand the test of time, and to have new readers still aware of them five, ten, fifteen years down the line.

And while you go check them out, I'm going to continue searching for those other underrated authors I don't know yet.

1 comment:

  1. Okay - your advice acknowledged and I have ordered copies of "Kalpa Imperial" and "The Budding Tree" - I'll let you know (if I remember) when I review them at my blog. Thanks for more works to get through, it's really appreciated.


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