The Trashing Of The Canon
May 7, 2013 9:50 AM   Subscribe

Find-That-Bookfilter: one of the Great Gatsby FPP's has indeed prompted me to look for a book about overrated classics. Anyone wanna help?

The only facts I remember:

1. It had been published by the 80's, at least. I came across it in the school library circa 1987 or 1988.

2. It picked out a handful of books and/or authors that had been lauded by "The Western Canon" and, basically, talked about why they were overrated. One of the writers I definitely know they tackled was Walt Whitman, although I don't remember if they tackled Whitman himself or Leaves Of Grass in the specific. I also remember one paragraph where they scoff at Whitman's mildly erotic language by saying something like, if Whitman actually had gotten hit on "he'd pick up his petticoats and run off with a squawk" or something like that.

3. I think they also tackled Lady Chatterley's Lover.

4. I vaguely remember the cover being gray, with a line drawing or woodcut in black on it...but that could be a red herring, and it may have had a different dust jacket that my school ditched.

5. I also think "overrated" was in the title or the subtitle. (Search strings based on "book overrated" or variants thereof just lead me to a whole bunch of articles that do this; stressing I'm looking for a book specifically.)

6. I don't remember if it was all by one author, or by a group.

The "why Gatsby sucks" FPP put me in mind of that, and I'd gotten a big kick out of that as a kid and now I wanna read it again. Thanks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There's one from the late 60s called Fifty Works of English (and American) Literature We Could Do Without by Bridgid Brophy, but I can't find its ToC to see if Gatsby was included. Seems like it was a second version of a book originally just about English literature? Not sure.

As an aside if you want a hilarious satire of literary criticism you can't beat the Pooh Perplex or the follow-up Postmodern Pooh.
posted by Wretch729 at 11:07 AM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh my God, Wretch, I think that may have been it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:18 AM on May 7, 2013

Response by poster: This IS it. Thank you!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:19 AM on May 7, 2013

Seems like it was a second version of a book originally just about English literature? Not sure.

Titled so because the proles won't know that Gatsby is, indeed, "English literature". (Academically, if there is a geographic treatment, English literature is divided into British and American, at least from our side.)

If "Overrated" sticks in your mind, you may be thinking of Overrated/Underrated, a compilation of a reader-generated feature in American Heritage magazine. The Observer used to have an Overrated Books thing and Salon used to do Worst Books of the year.

I did feel there was another book along these lines that fit your criteria about as well, but it may have been, rather, a compilation of bad literary reviews or something like that.
posted by dhartung at 4:37 PM on May 7, 2013

Response by poster: The Brigid Brophy book is indeed what I was looking for. I knew as soon as I saw that cover on Amazon and 20 years of memory came whooshing back.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:42 PM on May 7, 2013

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