October 20, 2009

F. Scott Fitzgerald's finances

Here's an article based on the tax returns of F. Scott Fitzgerald from 1919 to 1940. Fitzgerald averaged about the contemporary equivalent of a half million bucks per year for two decades, mostly from short stories (and movie sales of short stories, such as Benjamin Button.) Short stories were a remarkably lucrative line of work between the wars, since the big magazines like the Saturday Evening Post were the chief venues for advertising nationally distributed products like cars. After 1950, advertising dollars moved to television, and the really big magazines like Life, Look, and the Post folded up within a couple of decades.

People used to like to read short stories because each one was a story and it was short. Now, though, nobody reads short stories except other short story writers. And the stories always end with an "epiphany" in which the main character realizes his life is hopeless, as utterly doomed as, say, the contemporary short story author's life.

I've never seen cause and effect concerning the decline of short stories untangled. Did short stories become unpopular when they became depressing? Or did they become unpopular first, which then made the short story writers all depressed?

Novels don't come with advertising, so they weren't as lucrative for Fitzgerald. (By the way, why don't novels include advertising? I'm slowly making notes for a novel and I would be happy to have the book include advertising.) Fitzgerald only made $8,397 in royalties off The Great Gatsby during his lifetime. It didn't become a classic until WWII, when the Pentagon gave away paperback novels to soldiers. For whatever reason, it struck a chord with servicemen at war, and has since become a high school staple. Fitzgerald's grandchildren make a half million per year off the 84-year-old book.

That's pretty wild that Fitzgerald's descendant are making over a half mil per year off his books 69 years after he died. Do copyrights last forever these days? I recall that 98-year-old Irving Berlin was sore when his 75-year copyright on the song Alexander's Rag Time Band ran out in 1987, so I guess Congress decided 75 years just wasn't long enough.

I think the reason why everybody loves Gatsby is because everybody wishes they'd been invited to Gatsby's parties, but the book also lets you feel morally superior to the soulless people who, unlike you, were invited. So, what's not to like?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

60 comments:

Anonymous said...

"I think the reason why everybody loves Gatsby is because everybody wishes they'd been invited to Gatsby's parties"

I too suspected this was a major reason. Gatsby was one of the few books in school that seemed to be universally liked by both guys and girls. Girls were definitely attracted to the glamour, imagery of the parties and wealthy in the book. I remember we watched the Robert Redford film in class and the girls intently and excitedly watched it, commenting on the style, fashion, etc.

Mark said...

I recall that 98-year-old Irving Berlin was sore when his 75-year copyright on the song Alexander's Rag Time Band ran out in 1987, so I guess Congress decided 75 years just wasn't long enough.

If you ever need to know when Congress is getting ready to extend copyright protection just keep tabs on when the copyright to Mickey Mouse is running out.

It never will. If you encased yourself in carbonite and were revived in AD 3020 you would find the copyright still in effect, assumign there were a United States still here that didn't look like Idiocracy.

spadd said...

"I think the reason why everybody loves Gatsby is because everybody wishes they'd been invited to Gatsby's parties, but the book also lets you feel morally superior to the soulless people who, unlike you, were invited. So, what's not to like?"

The anti-Semitism is quite refreshing as well.

Mitch said...

The science fiction market for short stories is still pretty good--nothing like half a mill/year, of course. And sci fi short fiction runs the gamut from funny to depressing to whatever.

I can't remember having read any non-sci-fi short stories written earlier than the early 60s--A Good Man is Hard to Find is the latest pub date I can think of.

Ben Franklin said...

As a result of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, the current term for most copyrights is the life of the author plus 70 years. Copyrights for works for hire have a different term (as do anonymous works) usually 95 years or in some cases 120 years.

There are different terms depending on when the copyrighted work was published (e.g., before 1923 is a general area where “public domain” works can be found).

For the Great Gatsby, as it was published in 1925, the term should be 95 years from the date of publication. So looks like the gravy train will run out soon.

Prior to the 1976 copyright act (effective in January 1978), works generally had a two period term, and when the first period expired the author had to “renew” the copyright or it could enter public domain.

James B. Shearer said...

The Great Gatsby was first published in 1925. If it had been published before 1923 it would now be in the public domain.

Antoine Zhang said...

Worth mentioning that Jack London, who hailed from an impoverished, working-class background, also amassed considerable wealth by writing short stories.

Towards the end of his life, he beecame largely indifferent to literary accomplishment, and would churn out shorter fiction just to generate money for the maintenance of his capacious, personal estate.

That being said, I think guys like London and Fitzgerald were really the last gasp of grace and sanity in English-language literature - along with writers like Orwell, Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene and Evelyn Waught.

Subsequent to them, that banal and pernicious strain of modernism - best embodied by writers like Joyce and Faulkner - has obtained a strangle-hold upon high literary culture.

spade said...

spadd sed:The anti-Semitism is quite refreshing as well.

As a youth I never picked it up. But what got me reading was the photo of the lasciviously dressed babes on the cover.

Vernunft said...

"If you ever need to know when Congress is getting ready to extend copyright protection just keep tabs on when the copyright to Mickey Mouse is running out."

Or when the Europeans are clamoring for concessions to copyright owners in a new treaty.

Anonymous said...

"the anti-Semitism is quite refreshing as well."

Yes, 'cause everything is all about the Jews.

stari_momak said...

I'm not so sure all, or even most, short stories are depressing. Surely "The Gift of the Magi" isn't depressing. In a strange was, even "Snows of Kilamanjaro" (sp?) is liberating rather than funk-producing. Vonnegut's story about washing up at the Kennedy compound -- I think it's called "My Weekend at Hyannisport"-- is probably the funniest thing I've ever read, outside of Confederacy of Dunces.

To me, the short story seems the most difficult form of literature. Rhyme and meter are fairly easy to master up to a proficient level, though of course real genius is rare. With a novel, a writer doesn't really have to come up with that one clever idea -- the 'epiphany' -- and has acres of pages to develop characters. A short story writer has to put us into the context, develop the characters, misdirect us, and then smack us with that great turn around at the end, all in, what, 3000-4500 words or so? That's difficult.

robert said...

Used to be, that British copyright protection lasted for only 50 years after an author's death. Then (in, I think, 1997) it became 70 years. So there were a great many writers who had died in the 1930s (Chesterton, Conan Doyle, Arnold Bennett, John Galsworthy) whose works first fell out of copyright and then fell back into it again.

Black Sea said...

It is curious that the short story has withered as a popular form, because you would think that -- with attenuated attention spans -- people who bothered to read fiction at all would gravitate toward short stories. But instead they read three fat novels a year, one Stephen King, one Anne Rice, and whatever megabook Barnes and Nobel is pushing that season.

A major factor in the decline of the short story is, as a you point out, the disappearance of the large, general interest magazines and the rise of TV. The New Yorker, now considered a sort of niche publication, and never one of the biggest circulation magazines, was in the 1960s so flush with ad revenue that they were actually turning away potential advertisers due to lack of space. I've gone back and looked at copies of the New Yorker from that era; just the sheer volume of ads in each issue is remarkable. The thing looks like a JC Penny catalogue compared to the current, anemic issues.

There were writers like John O'Hara, Irwin Shaw, and John Cheever who made very good money writing for the New Yorker, and much better money when they published in less presitgious but more popular magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post. This summer I read a biography of Cheever. He worried most of his life about money, and wasn't as well paid as some contempararies like Shaw, but he still supported a wife and three kids on what amounted to an estate in Westchester County, sent his kids to boarding schools and so forth, lived in Italy and traveled to Russia, mostly by churning out New Yorker short stories. It's inconceivable for anyone to be able to do that now. Updike was probably the last writer who could generate that kind of income writing "New Yorker" fiction, though of course, his royalties from the novels were substantial as well.

Nowadays it's one really short short story in the New Yorker, one in Harpers, the Atlantic has dropped fiction, and all the other venues are so-called "little magazines." There just aren't enough paying outlets left for writers to commit to the form.

bigredkodiak said...

Novels and books DO have advertising. It is not at all uncommon to see things like this in today's mysteries:

"I got off my American Airlines flight from New York at 12:45. I stopped at Starbucks for a cafe mocha, then picked up my Toyota Camry at the Hertz counter.

After checking in at the downtown Sheraton I fired up my trusty Dell and Googled the location of a nearby Men's Warehouse so I could get some presentable clothes for my meeting at the Proctor & Gamble offices..."

Big Bill said...

So cut out the middleman. We need to create the new job of Story Product Placement Dude.

He is the guy who negotiates with Toyotafor story coverage: to have the protagonist drive a new Camry convertible down the West Coast Highway as he gets his epiphany.

For a $5000 kicker the author adds fiddly bits about how the sexy car GPS voice tells him where to turn and the voice recognition system cues up Bruce Springsteen when he says "mellow tunes".

The New Yorker doesn't want to get its literary hands dirty (unlike the ad placement guy!) telling you what ads to insert in your story (ewww) so you, Mr. Author, have freedom to do your own placement through your Story Product Placement Dude and get ALL the advertising cash.

Anonymous said...

For a short time, paperbacks in the 60's and 1970's experimented with ads. In the middle of the book there would be a card, bound into the binding and usually for cigarettes, and printed on paper a little stiffer than those of the renewal cards that you get in magazines. How odd they seem now!

Jeff Burton said...

I like the idea of advertisements in novels. The wonderful thing about them is that if the novel has persistence, it lends flavor to the historical setting. I love the reference to Gowland's Lotion in Jane Austen's Persuasion. I wish she'd have added more references like it.

Anonymous said...

"Do copyrights last forever these days? "

Look it up, you lazy piece of shit.

David said...

In the mid-1990s I worked for a bank and periodically processed some three-figure royalty checks to the Al Jolson estate. He died old in 1950.

> Surely "The Gift of the Magi" isn't depressing. <

It was published in 1906. The post is referring to the between-wars and post-WWII eras.

Anonymous said...

Those magazines also produced the golden age of american illustration - rockwell, et al

anony-mouse said...

No ads in novels?

See 'The Bulgari Connection' by Fay Weldon.

She got L18000 from Bulgari.

ironrailsironweights said...

If the legal system in 1948 were like it is today, Zelda Fitzgerald's estate would have gotten an enormous damages award from the mental hospital where she died in a fire, and the interest on the invested funds would dwarf the Great Gatsby royalties.

Peter

dearieme said...

robert, Wikipedia reports:-
"Prior to 1 January 1996, the UK's general copyright term was the life of the author plus 50 years. The extension, to the life of the author plus 70 years, was introduced by ..implementing Council Directive No.93/98/EEC, to harmonise the duration of copyright throughout the European Economic Community. It contained a controversial provision, which caused certain copyrights to revive.."

This disgraceful retrospective legislation was wished on us by the Krauts - presumably someone had bribed the right politicians.

LemmusLemmus said...

Here in Germany, Rowohlt's paperbacks used to have advertising in them. I think this lasted until the 1970s. I own two Roald Dahl short story collections with ads. The charming thing is that the ads pick up some lines from the literature's text and then create a link to the product.

Strangely enough, no ads in my copy of L'etranger.

blue anonymous said...

Being interested in poetry, which of course is now read solely by poets, I've thought about this. Surely the fundamental cause is that TV and movies are just significantly easier to consume. Greatness and boredom-like, "work"-requiring aversiveness can exist in a piece of art at the same time. The Book of Job is a shivering miracle as good as any written work in history, but I admit that most of it is also highly tedious, not just slightly tedious. It's too bad TV rarely reaches the plane of art (House, The Wire, The Simpsons). Not that I don't get a great kick out of watching stuff like "24" but it doesn't exactly change my life. You can't eat a great work of art but it does stay with you, permanently.

Anonymous said...

I've never seen cause and effect concerning the decline of short stories untangled. Did short stories become unpopular when they became depressing? Or did they become unpopular first, which then made the short story writers all depressed?

One word: N. I. H. I. L. I. S. M.

Anonymous said...

For a $5000 kicker...

How about "For 0.05% of gross sales..."?

Otherwise future printings & editions of the book would need to be renegotiated with bidding open to all the other car companies.

Anonymous said...

Bruce Springsteen... "mellow tunes"...

???

Anonymous said...

The idea of getting Daisy Buchanan back, taking her away from that buffoon of a husband, after you fight in a war and get rich - that's the selling point.

Polistra said...

I don't think the modern bleakness is specific to short stories or caused by the loss of income. It's the same in all of the 'formal' arts. Before 1950, artists of all kinds could find a mass audience, because magazines, newspapers and radio tried to include good music, good painting and good poetry. This had two effects: exposed the audience to good material; and compelled the author or composer to turn out works with broad appeal if they expected to make a living. Now, because everyone can find exactly their own preferred diet of art, music and writing, there's no pull toward universality. The artist and his loyal audience become inbred; he creates only for the folks who already like his kind of stuff. This freezes him into ever-increasing specialization. He knows there's no money in the universal, no point in trying something different; he has to keep doing more and more of what his fans want. In the case of short stories, his fans are other writers, most of whom share the same academic-left love of ugliness and catastrophe.

craig said...

I have some old paperback mysteries and westerns from the '70s that carried cigarette advertising. A full page/ full color add for Kent, or Salem etc.

Anonymous said...

What's really interesting about Gatsby is that even then right-wing ideas on race were coming in for a pasting.

Note how the villain Tom Buchanan talks approvingly of "this man Goddard", who is obviously a pastiche of Lothrop Stoddard and Madison Grant.

Conclusion: only a villain would care about that stuff

MQ said...

Great post, just studded with clever observations I wouldn't have thought of. This is the reason I read Steve.

Anonymous said...

Yes, 'cause everything is all about the Jews.

Fitzgerald might have thought so.

He said that "Hollywood is a Jewish holiday, a gentile tragedy."

Victoria said...

Over the past couple of months, I have been reading from a little pile of short story books. They are Short Story Masterpieces (by those writers who were probably published in those now dead magazines you mentioned), Great Esquire Fiction, subtitled The Finest Stories from the First Fifty Years, Best-Loved Short Stories, and Classic American Short Stories. I've been reading a story or two every night between reading chapters of McCullough's "1776."

Oh, and I downloaded and am reading some sci-fi short stories by a writer named Sawyer. So, who doesn't read short stories anymore?

Anonymous said...

"People used to like to read short stories because each one was a story and it was short."

Steve, never let anybody tell you you're not funny.

Anonymous said...

Steve, if you ever write that novel, you could send it out to agents under a pen name. If no puplisher picks it up, you could always fall back on your own name and the Stevosphere for distribution. However if they do pick it up, you'd enjoy their distribution machinery - reviews in the major papers, Barnes & Noble, the whole thing - and THEN, after the paychecks are collected, you'd get the satisfaction of saying "psyched! It was evil Steve all along!" to them.

Joe Klein made boatloads off an asnonymous book without ever having to show his face to anybody as recently as the 90s.

Of course that would not work if your novel is going to be seriously politically incorrect.

AllanF said...

I thought it was a settled point all the short story authors switched to soaps, sitcoms, and movies.

I guess if you prefer the written word for the sake of culture and progeny it was a faustian bargain. If you are an author aspiring to live like the next Gatsby, rather than be the next Fitzgerald, it's been a pretty good deal.

albertosaurus said...

Two thoughts:advertising and Science Fiction short stories.

As you point out, TV took all the ad dollars from magazines and then the Saturday Evening Post and Look folded. We are seeing something like this happening again. All the big daily newspapers are now suffering. A lot of right wingers attribute these woes to the editorial policy of these papers and I'm sure there is some of that going on. But I suspect that the emergence of services like Craig's List are more important.

By the turn of the century most technical jobs in the Bay Area were being filled for free on Craig's List. Just a few years earlier the San Jose Mercury and the San Francisco Chronicle were fat with job ads.

Similarly Web based car services have eviscerated another source of newspaper's revenue. Just a decade ago if you needed a job or a used car the first thing you did was to buy a daily paper and go through the ads. No more.

Mitch points out that short stories still prosper in SF. Maybe, but the major trend is in the other direction. SF writers are busy producing huge multi volume novels. The best new SF author Peter Hamilton can't seem to write a story that is less than a thousand pages. Almost all of his stories take place over three to nine volumes.

C. Van Carter said...

This piece about Jack London has interesting information about word rates in the 1900's.

Anonymous said...

It's all about STORY. Decades ago, the best-seller lists were dominated by literary writers--Steinbeck, Heminway, Fitzgerald--who were first and foremost storytellers. Today, literary fiction is a pile of pretentious nonsense.

This is especially apparent (and repellent to the average reader) in the short story form. Why waste your time on a New Yorker short story that doesn't tell a story, doesn't have a beginning, middle, and end, and doesn't engage the reader?

It's more socially acceptable to put literary fiction on your shelf (whether you read it or not). You don't get the same social atta-boys for reading short stories.

Anonymous said...

> I love the reference to Gowland's Lotion in Jane Austen's Persuasion. I wish she'd have added more references like it. <

John O'Hara mentioned brands rather often.

Steve, the novel is d-e-a-d. Write a screenplay for Mike Judge instead. Truth and I could play the leads. (Is it a buddy picture? Please write a buddy picture.) But only if I get as many points as he does. (PS - Svigor has buck teeth, not photogenic.)

INT. STEVE'S CAVE - NIGHT

3 AM. With an angry cackle, Steve deletes another crappy comment...

JeremiahJohnbalaya said...

Ben Franklin said...

Whatever, spy!

David Davenport said...

I've never seen cause and effect concerning the decline of short stories untangled. Did short stories become unpopular when they became depressing? Or did they become unpopular first, which then made the short story writers all depressed ...

Short stories became depressing because s.s. writers became depressed because the market for s. stories was stressed and depressed due to the advent of TV.

penrod said...

I happened to see a 1952 movie of TMC, Full House, comprised of three O. Henry short stories, including The Gift of the Magi, the male star being the gorgeous Farley Granger (Jean Crain was the bride.) Marilyn Monroe was in another one. John Steinbeck, great writer of long short-stories, narrated. The best recent short story writer I've read has been Michael Collier who was writing during the late 90s. His stories were haunting as The Dead, by Joyce. Joyce's regular, narrative writings were far better than his "innovative" bible.

Anonymous said...

Ben Franklin was against patents and I assume copyrights.

Thomas Jefferson believed it was up to society to decide if patents should be granted and the only reason society would grant a patent was for the benefit of society and not for the person who had the idea. He believed an idea was like a flame in that I could have it and someone else could also. I think they would think these intellectual property laws today are a joke.

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20070613/161904.shtml

Anonymous said...

Today's intellectual property laws are, like civil rights laws and hate speech laws, contrary to the concept of freedom as it was once known. Software patents were stealthily introduced in the 1970's. Now both political parties will basically go to bat for any corporation wishing to extend copyright terms or the scope of patentability.

The original idea (as described in the constitution) was that the public would derive overall benefit if inventors were rewarded. Nowdays corporate america speaks of intellectual property as though its some kind of natural right. They also use purposefully inflammatory language (such as calling copying something "stealing"). Battling the steady encroachment of IP laws is something that a genuine conservative party would do, but its easy for a faux conservative party like the GOP to be in favour of the status quo because they can throw around words like "property" and "theft" and fool their voter base.

It isnt' even just big corporations in favour of rediculous IP laws. Often you'll find its artists and writers too. They couldn't care less about public benefit or even the right to do with *your* real physical property as you wish. For instance some of these people maintain that you should not be able to record a singer in a public park unless you are willing to pay the singer and sign a royalty agreement. I keep thinking that they'll soon demand to be paid each time some crappy song plays in my head. Does my brain count as recording equipment?

I don't mean to imply that I have no sympathy for people who earn their livelihoods through presentday IP laws but these laws have become rediculous and need to be scaled back a lot. Software patents, need to be abolished outright. Copyright terms need to be reduced considerably and this idea that one can "own" an idea that has crept into public conciousness needs to be challenged.

not a hacker said...

In high school in the '70's, I used to enjoy the short stories of Somerset Maugham. Don't know if it's true, but I was told that as of that time, he was still the most commercially successful author ever.

kudzu bob said...

I have trouble imagining a time when Americans from all walks of life read short fiction, be it in the pages of slicks such the Saturday Evening Post or in the pages of pulps such as Black Mask Detective Magazine, Argosy, and Astounding. Even in the depths of the Great Depression—the one before ours, I mean—a great many writers, fuelled by nicotine, coffee, and booze, made the rent by banging out stories late into the night on manual typewriters.

Some pretty impressive talents emerged from that era, such as Ray Bradbury, now pushing ninety and still writing. And how many people know that an 18-year-old Tennessee Williams made his first professional sale, “The Vengeance of Nitocris,” to Weird Tales?

Nobody reading these words will ever see times that good again, I’m afraid.

On a happier note, I commend to all of you the wonderful short stories of Thom Jones, a hell-raising genius far removed from today’s dreary academic writers who have done so much to destroy modern fiction. A Force Recon Marine who had to leave the Corp on account of a neurological injury sustained during a boxing match, he went on to be an advertising copywriter but lost that job when he beat the shit out of his boss. He ended up as the head janitor at a high school, where he was able to hide out in the boiler room all day reading and working on his stories while he got the Special Ed kids to do his work for him. The collection of short stories that came out of that period, The Pugilist at Rest, ended up as a National Book Award Finalist, and is stunningly good. Read it and be amazed.

penrod said...

"...The best recent short story writer I've read has been Michael Collier who was writing during the late 90s."

I mean Michael Collins. And he is still writing, including screenplays. He first came to America on an athletic scholarship to Notre Dame University.

Anonymous said...

In the pre-1945 days, not only was there not the same lowbrow / highbrow split in literature, but the general public (even outright white trash) had more respect for their intellectual betters.

Maybe those factors contributed towards the dominance of short stories, and their universal appeal?

Truth said...

"Truth and I could play the leads."

Which one of us gets to be the cool, streetwise black guy?

kudzu bob said...

"In the pre-1945 days, not only was there not the same lowbrow / highbrow split in literature, but the general public (even outright white trash) had more respect for their intellectual betters."

I get that the sense that the tone was indeed rather more elevated back then. The other evening I happend to watch It Happened One Night, and it was as though I viewed a movie not only made in another era but another country as well.

Even the cartoons were intellectually more sophisticated. Can you imagine anybody making an animated parody of Wagner for the general public these days?

What's happened to us? Sunspots? Genetic decay? Fluroidation? What?

robert said...

Imagine a Fulton Sheen being allowed to give serious theological lectures on television now, and winning ratings wars in the process. But that is what Bishop Sheen actually succeeded in doing, at about the time when the 'toons were supplying intelligent parodies of Wagner, and when It Happened One Night was still a part of the general culture.

Anonymous said...

> Oh, and I downloaded and am reading some sci-fi short stories by a writer named Sawyer. So, who doesn't read short stories anymore?

And how much, Victoria, did you pay the author or purchase of the advertisers?

Anonymous said...

I don't know about Wagner... but I do remember animated parodies of Gilbert and Sullivan in the 90s...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XLeX_gxJ7s

(The show had a lot of parodies that I didn't fully appreciate until I was older.)

Anonymous said...

Off the top of my head: Raymond Carver, "Cathedral". Richard Ford, "Rock Springs". Barry Hannah, "Airships". Tobias Wolfe, "The Night in Question".
All good contemporary short fiction. The comment about Faulkner? Try "Barn Burning".

kudzu bob said...

"All good contemporary short fiction."

Indeed. (I'm especially partial to Tobias Wolff and Richard Ford.) But to the general public they might as well be invisible. Try finding a story by one of those guys on a magazine stand somewhere. Seventy or eighty years ago, however, it would have been no trick at all to go to a drugstore in Anytown USA and see Hemingway's or Sherwood Anderson's or Fitzgerald's name listed on the contents page of one of the many popular general interest slicks of the day.

Same deal with Animaniacs, really. That sort of thing has migrated from the movie theaters that ordinary Americans--wearing hats and minding their manners--went to on Saturday night to specialized cable channels aiming at a narrow segment of viewers.

I guess that's what Murray and Hernstein meant by the term "cognitive partitioning."

Anonymous said...

My theory is that the short story declined due to television. We remember Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Cheever and Updike because they were superior writers, but the majority of stories published were no better or worse than the average sitcom script or an episode of "Law & Order." Since the 1950s, most people have spent their evenings with a couple of hours of TV instead of with a book or magazine. That's where the opportunities are for young writers who want to tell an entertaining story.

Meanwhile, since about 1950 there's been an appalling increase in the number of MFA programs based on the Iowa Writer's Workshop. Sure, Iowa produced Flannery O'Connor, but I suspect she would have become an outstanding writer anyway. MFAs in creative writing are a dime a dozen and IMO all their writing sounds exactly alike - dreary, introspective, depressing examinations of one's own navel. They are exactly what you would expect from spoiled young adults who have no useful life experience of any kind. The best writers have led interesting lives, like Hemingway or London, or they are careful observers of people in a particular place and time, like Fitzgerald and Cheever. People look down their noses at genre writers, but they're the only ones left who actually care about telling an entertaining story, and that's why people buy books.

Anonymous said...

People look down their noses at genre writers, but they're the only ones left who actually care about telling an entertaining story, and that's why people buy books.

The "people" who look down their noses are not the same "people" who buy the books.

Also genre writers have for the most part not bought into the same ideological mind-set as highbrow literature types.

Movies such as the X-Men series and TV series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer explore alienation much better than hyper-literate "dreary, introspective, depressing examinations of one's own navel".