What makes an author underrated? Well, there’s an argument to be made that most literary writers are—by virtue of the fact that these days they are sorely under-read by the culture at large. But even within the sphere of the literary community, some great writers get forgotten or ignored, and others are simply not appreciated as much as they should be. So for our purposes here, “underrated” will mean both “rated below their value” and “not rated enough.” It does not, as you will see, necessarily mean unknown!
Of course, rating of any kind is subjective ... , and to that end, rather than subject you to my own scattered notions, I have instead collated the opinions of other reputable sources—critics, writers, and journalists who have, at one time or another, deemed an an author underrated, underappreciated, or otherwise unfairly ignored. That doesn’t exactly solve the opinion problem, but I’ve tried for the most part to include only those authors who are often considered to be deserving of a wider audience. Twenty of these are noted below, but the list, as ever, could go on and on. Who would you add?
Robert Walser (1878-1956) is the dreamy confectionary snowflake of German language fiction. He also might be the single most underrated writer of the 20th century. Even though his prose is quite delicious—and no matter how many times his perfect novel, Jakob Von Gunten, is reissued — booksellers rarely stock him. Walser is a sentence artist of the highest magnitude who spent his last 27 years in an asylum in Switzerland.
James Salter, Carson McCullers, Percival Everett, Langston Hughes, Jim Harrison, Edward St. Aubyn, John Williams, Alice Munro, Gayl Jones, Christina Stead, Marcel Schwob, Chester Himes, Henry Green ... [mehr]