If you're thinking of buying Mary Karr a book this Christmas, best stay away from John Ashbery:
I feel like a turd naming names, but the poet John Ashbery’s reputation is inflated enough to take it. He’s a smart guy with a genius ear for music. In my besotted youth, I wrote a 100-plus-page essay on “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” then later recanted. His poems are about (he admits this) zippo, and his seductive voice is the most poisonous influence in American poetry. You know those page-long pieces of his in The New Yorker you can’t comprehend? Neither can anybody else. A brilliant, modest guy, immensely charming, but the most celebrated unclothed emperor in U.S. letters today—an invention of academic critics.