Chunklet Presents: The Overrated Book
by Henry Owings
Rant 'n' Roll
A review by Gerry Donaghy
last year I received a very thoughtful gift from a friend who works at a major
publishing house. It was a book detailing the top 500 rock albums ever produced.
If you've listened seriously to pop music for more than about a decade, the
book was as predictable as the outcome of a Harlem Globetrotter's match. The
only moment that could only be distantly called tense was guessing whether Sgt. Pepper's was going to be the number
one album and Pet Sounds number two,
or vice versa. After thumbing through the book, I went out for a drink with a
friend and asked if he could guess the top ten albums. He got all but one,
missing Marvin Gaye's What's Going On
the real point of all-time "best of" lists, especially if they're
going to be more or less immutable? Sure, you can swap out Patti Smith with PJ
Harvey or The Ramones with Nirvana to give it appeal
to the next generation, but at the end of the day, it's more or less the same
list that came out five, ten, or twenty years ago. Is there a collective fear
amongst rock writers that viewing Sgt.
Pepper's as anything less than the best album ever made will make them look
like the one dentist out of five that doesn't recommend sugarless gum?
Hitchens, writing in Letters to a Young Contrarian, states "...there is something
idiotic about those who believe that consensus (to give the hydra-headed beast
just one name) is the highest good." Taking that philosophy to heart are
the writers and editors of Chunklet magazine. In Chunklet Presents: The Overrated Book nothing is sacred and no prisoners
are taken. In their opinion, everything
is overrated, and chances are that if you read this book, you will find that
something very dear to you will be deflated, defiled, or repudiated. And you
won't mind one bit.
The Overrated Book is the perfect distillation of the
entertainment value derived from mocking your friends' favorite anything. While
you might actually like what you're making fun of, there is no denying the wonderful,
almost perverse glee in being needlessly contrarian. The Chunklet writers don't just grind
sacred cows, they atomize them; doing so in mercilessly piquant prose that is
simultaneously spot-on and impossible to take too seriously.
most books of satire, some gags work better than others. "The 1000
Unrelated Overrated Things," for example, feels like filler, which may
actually be the point, but that doesn't make reading it worthwhile. And an
article on overrated drummers is like shooting fish in a barrel.
when the Chunklet
writers hit their targets, they tear them to shreds. Whether they're scoffing
at art-house film directors, indie rock culture in
all of its DIY pomposity, or chumps (like me) with enormous student loans, their
caustic wit makes for frequent episodes of near-asphyxiating laughter. It's
difficult to summarize a book that is essentially a book of lists and charts,
with a smattering of articles, but highlights include: "Work That Shaft!:
Twenty-Three Time-Worn Methods to Step Up to the Mike," "The Seven
Degrees of Winona Ryder," and " Rocktoids ."
might be the work of a bunch of poseurs who are every bit as pathetic as those
they mock, but I don't care. I don't need to see how my hamburger comes from
the cow in order to enjoy it, and I can receive this book on its own, demented
terms. If you can laugh at yourself as well as others, The Overrated Book deserves a place, if not on your coffee table,
then at least your bathroom.