the most overrated anything is always going to be the highest rated. regardless of the highest rated thing’s actual quality, it’s always going to be subject to hyperbole that nothing can ever live up to. and saying a book is “overrated” is never truly a judgement of the book itself. it’s only a judgement of the discourse surrounding the book.
If “most overrated” means ‘greatest difference between hype and reality of effects’, sacred literature – like the Old and New Testaments – would have to be a strong contender.
Both parts of the Christian Bible have parts that are as enduringly provocative as any literature has proven to be; arguments for the literary quality of many books and episodes are frequently made and easily defended. At the same time, vanishingly few people read the whole thing, and, while anthropological (and, sure, theological) interest can burn without calculation to luxuriate in or be challenged by the boring parts, it’s not so easy, it seems to me, to find much agreement that, say, all of the Lord spaking unto Moses in Leviticus and Numbers is beautiful literature.
(–which is an argument many could defend – I would – for ‘Homer’, Virgil, Milton, etc. Where, Horace, does ‘Homer’ nod??)
But the ‘overrating’ of sacred literature consists of something else: these texts – books, song, oracle, and so on – are not just “texts” — they are the ‘words of God’, the direct, unmediated speech of ultimate reality. It’s not even that sacred literature represents ‘ultimate reality’; sacred literature – its self-understanding goes – is ultimate reality communicating directly in its own language.
It’s also why so many Southern writers are noted as stylists–so many of them grow up in a culture where they read and study the Bible constantly. The lyricism in Barry Hannah’s work, for instance, is clearly influenced from close study of the Bible.
hey man the bible on average is HORRIBLY written. even if you put together psalms, proverbs, song of solomon, job, ecclesiastes, revelation, that’s not even half the Bible. there are pages & pages & pages of instruction manuals re: temple building, & elaborate genealogies, there’s so much fucking padding in there.
also just because the bible has positive literary qualities @honoredguest doesn’t mean it’s not way overrated. if people only talked about the bible re: its writing, i wouldn’t say it’s overrated, but people actually believe that shit & try to legislate it too.
in another 1000 years they’ll look at our “god” the way we looked at zeus
ALSO just because anyone can turn the shitty bible into some good work of art doesn’t make the bible any less shitty. like if a sculpture turned a big pile of shit into art, the art can be good, but the shit it’s made of is still just shitttttttttt
did i mention btw fuck the bible
yeah parents raise your kids baptist if this is the kinda shit you want your children writing on saturday night
Me too. My god. Once I was on a twelve hour bus ride, trapped in the backseat with this book. Even after four hundred pages, numerous same-named partially-related characters and eight hours of boredom, I still couldn’t understand the hype and opted to sleep the last four. Apparently GGM prefers his prose when translated into English. Mysterious, no?
In the category of “Overrated By The Zealots Who Adore It”, I think The Bible would face some pretty stiff competition from Atlas Shrugged.
Personally, though, I’m going to have to go with The Cat In The Hat. I adore Dr. Seuss but that book, despite being one of his most popular, is definitely one of his weakest. On Beyond Zebra and The Butter Battle Book out shadow it so far that their shadows stretch all the way around the planet and poke its shadow in the ass.
Aynt is an excellent call, especially defined sharply as you’ve done. ‘Zealotry’ is the engine of a kind of “overrating”, and the gulf between evaluations of her books by her supporters and by almost everybody else is comically wide.
(Some of the disparity is due to political-economic differences in world views, but supporters seem to think Atlas Shrugged is well-written, and it’s as an artistic failure that many haters hate it.)
Are you sure it isn’t overfamiliarity that’s caused you to say such a vile thing about the mighty, flighty, don’t-be-uptighty Cat’s tale?
I’m glad you were able to get this out of your system, though it’s a silly, juvenile post that’s not worth a serious response. Let me save you some words: “CHRISTIANITY IZ BAD!!!!!” A few quick points–1) It’s silly to lump all Christians in one group (ALL CHRISTIANS ARE ANTI-GAY, PRIMITIVE BAPTISTS WHO HANDLE SNAKES AND HATE THE GAYS!!!!); 2) Christianity’s influence on liberal movements, like, you know, the one that gave African-Americans equal rights, is undeniable (MLK was a Baptist Preacher, last I checked); 3) Stop watching Bill Maher–he’s a moron. There are more intelligent spokespersons for Atheism and Agnosticism than this fool; 4) Dismissing the Bible’s influence on literature is dumb, and I really shouldn’t have to explain this to you, assuming you have a shred of historical perspective and have read books that were published before 2000.
Seriously? Caulfield’s voice is one of the most perfectly realized I’ve encountered thus far. The prose is beautiful, the dialogue excellent. Forget about the nonsense those English teachers tell you – about teenage alienation, etc. – and focus on the writing itself and how Caulfield functions as a character and keep the dead brother in your mind at all times.
I usually don’t worry about the “experimental/non-experimental” binary, because it doesn’t really exist, so I don’t know what you’re talking about. I do know that the book, as a whole, does a lot of innovative stuff: genre hybridity, meta-fiction, progressive critiques of gender, modular plot. Perhaps it’s not “experimental” though because it’s popular and not published by some independent press.
It bored me before I knew what an independent press was. I guess I think the book is fine, but it didn’t hold up on a second reading (for me). I also don’t think it’s doing anything innovative that wasn’t done 30 years before, or 300.
Yeah, if you were to simply isolate the techniques, but no one had written a book like that about Vietnam, or even war. As a genre, realism is highly experimental. Any genre that denies its artifice is obviously experimental.
Have a look at the poetry of George Seferis, whom Miller calls Seferiades (Seferis’s real (family) name) and whom Miller meets more or less when he’s introduced to Katsimbalis (the Colossus). Seferis is a great writer – his criticism is also a pleasure to read – , and his epyllion Mythistorima (a mini-epic of 24 short poems) is a peer of The Waste Land and The Heights of Machu Picchu (or whatever you like).
“like, you know, the one that gave African-Americans equal rights”
I think it was George Carlin who mentioned this is one of the biggest brainwashing techniques of government because bro and/or girl, we were born with those rights. As was everyone else. As that is kinda what the Bible is getting at, among other things. Now back to your original discussion.
This is a funny question. Anything well known enough to be the most overrated in the world has probably already begun to tip into rating defilement.
I get the Bible being overrated, but most people don’t revere it as literature anymore, so it doesn’t seem overrated at this time. Yet, that book is still the basis for countless stories and tropes in both film and literature, so it occupies a position that’s nearly unimpeachable. It’s like it’s lased in our circuits whether we read it or not (“we” is loose). I think some folk tales, fairy tales are similar. “Overrated” seems a feeble word to describe what some think the question is asking.