I don't think I'm going to bother commenting much on, and I'm certainly not going to link to, Anis Shivani's dumbass list of overrated writers on Huffingtonpost. Oh, I am not a fan of every writer on that list, to be sure. But the notion that my admiration for Lydia Davis or Marilynne Robinson, who have written some of the most brilliant, moving, and inimitably human books I have ever read, is little more than the result of having been told once by a college professor that they are good, or that their writing is "easy enough to copy," as opposed to actually having read them and enjoyed them multiple times myself, is depressingly stupid. This is the worst kind of argument there is--the kind where somebody doesn't understand something and is so utterly narcissistic and insecure that he can't allow the possibility that others might understand it better. And so he invents an explanation that renders his ignorance virtuous and others' understanding fatuous. He sounds like a guy who was just denied tenure.
If you want to criticize a writer, go right ahead. But just for once, could we have a critical debate that doesn't involve declaring opposing viewpoints morally bankrupt? Can I please like John Ashbery without being labeled a pompous, self-deceiving ivory-tower snob? Can I please be permitted the courtesy of knowing my own personal motivations, instead of having them dictated to me by some dude on the internet? It's a shame, because some of Shivani's actual literary analysis of some of his overrated writers is in fact quite good. I wish he could have just said what he thought without first having to invalidate what I think, based upon my status as a college professor in an MFA program.
At least he deserves congratulations for one thing--creating the first top-whatever literary list in years with more women on it than men. Sweet!