Why only the other day in my office Paula Marantz Cohen and I were making the same point about ignoring popular fiction being like not reviewing the movies at the multiplexes. Is publishing the only business where the people who attract an audience are not reviewed? FYI: The Inquirer reviewed Hollywood Station just around the time it hit the stores. Here's the rveiew: Hollywood, in the black-and-white.
You know, there's a bit of this sort of NYTBR bland, staid, blah thing in the majority of reviewing outlets. I follow publishing and reviewing fairly closely -- not as closely as you have to, Frank, thank God -- and I see a lot that comes out, and I can predict with about 80 percent accuracy what will get heavy play. Take Calvin Trillin's "About Alice." A pleasant enough reminiscence, but essentially the piece that appeared in the New Yorker (where I read it), so what's the point? Or Susan Cheever's book. Real scholars have covered this subject to death, all with more penetrating insight and and not always in worse style. It is the names, of course: Book review editors know Trillin and Cheever, and sometimes even THEIR editors do (though it may be John they're thinking of). Meanwhile, it's the old story: Better books by lesser names go unnoticed. Frank, I hope I can say without sounding the total suck-up, more often takes the road less traveled (indeed, I might say the ROADS less traveled), and we learn about some worthwhle books we might never have.ReplyDelete
In my online column, Crime Beat - www.orchardpressmysteries.com/casino_royale.html - Simon Winder, the publishing director of Penguin Press' Modern Classics, defended his idea of including Ian Fleming in the series by stating, "Fleming is one of the three great visionaries in British literature - together with Arthur C. Clarke and J.R.R. Tolkien - all dispised at the time as "genre" writers, but who have between them had an incalculable effect on world literature while thier notionally more serious contemporaries have almost faded from sight."ReplyDelete
Raymond Chandler once said that the best of the crime writers will still be read when the novels of the so-called serious writers "are one with the telephone books."
Thanks for the kind words, Roger. Of course, I ran reviews of both the Trillin and the Cheever. Trillin doesn't do much for me, actually, but he does have a lot of fans and they seemed to want a review of the book and I had the opportunity to run a nice one. So I did - on Christmas Eve. As for Cheever, I was actually going to review that myself - because I am a big fan of Emerson and wanted to know what Cheever had to say. I'm glad I passed it along to Glenn Altschuler.ReplyDelete
All that said, you are right: These books basically trade on the authors' reps. If anyone else had written anything like them, the books would likely have been ignored.
Yes, Paul, today's genre fiction, tomorrow's classic.ReplyDelete