This is TJ, filling in for a recuperating Jeff.
Do you remember the running gag from Chasing Amy (I know, I know, not a great movie, but don't pretend like you didn't see it.) where Jason Lee keeps getting made fun of for coloring Ben Affleck's drawings?* Well, but not only did Jeff do a lot of drawing with the list, he did more than his share of the shading, too. He definitely deserves a day off.
So, I may be no tracer, but I'm glad to pitch in today to talk about why I think a list of underrated writers is a good thing, what I got out of compiling and editing it, and what I plan to get out of it in the coming year.
For all the obvious reasons, exposure to new names, names that don't get shouted from the mainstream rooftops or even from our blogs' front pages, is positive. And not only the name and a list of titles, but we've tried to give you a bit of flavor of the writer in most cases. We found samples of their work or someone reading a review on the radio of their work or a critical essay evaluating that writer's importance. In each case, though, their simple inclusion on the list gives you the reader a link back to a blogger whose opinion you either already know and respect or should get to know.
For me that reward stretched out over the course of the weeks we were assembling this. I got excited about writers like J. Robert Lennon. Did you know he recorded an entire CD to accompany his collection of short shorts? I was also pleased to see a writer whose story, "A Poetics for Bullies," I assigned to class after class of first-year composition students, in the hopes that they would learn that tyranny can wear friendly faces.
It's funny, though: You hold up someone like Lennon (who many probably at the least recognized as one appearing in anthologies and journals) against someone like Mario Benedetti and clearly our contributors were working with slightly different definitions of "underrated." Certainly one blogger's "underrated" is another blogger's "celebrated"--especially when we're writing from different continents.
I don't have to point out the beauty (or at least the argument-starter) of this difference of definition, but in reading James Tata's post today I was reminded of one of the limitations of our presentation. Because the contributions are split up into posts, we miss the thread the blogger used to bind them. So, I'd encourage those contributors to post their rationales in the comments. It appears some questions are already being raised.
Finally, as I said on Creekside yesterday, this list is not one to be devoured in one sitting. So, we hope that the curious scrollers will come back again and again in the next year. We hope you'll consider this as a much more refined recommendations page, maybe not tailored specifically to your tastes, but one that provides some easy tools for you to find a writer that does suit your taste. I know I've already found about a dozen that have leapt to the top of my to-be-read pile.
So, again, we want to welcome you to the list. We hope you'll bookmark it and keep using it for the sakes of those writers who might otherwise get swamped in the wake of the McEwans and the Foers and the Morrisons and the Lethems and the Didions that inevitably snag most of the press.
*In getting the link from IMDb, I relearned these characters' names. Banky Edwards? Holden McNeil?? Good god. Kevin Smith, your films have not aged well in my memory. Plus this movie did more to set back the threesome-dreams of millions of men than any STD ever could. (That last is a joke, before you start your email engines.)