One-Minute Book Reviews

March 9, 2007

Are Publishers Akin to ‘Kidnappers, Dope Fiends, and Pirates’? Quote of the Day #12

Filed under: Books,Classics,Essays and Reviews,Quotes of the Day,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:38 pm

Theodore Dreiser on publishers …

“Theodore Dreiser, according to H.L. Mencken, thought of publishers as a class of people to be grouped with ‘kidnappers, dope fiends, and pirates on the high seas.'”

George Pimpton in Introducing the Great American Novel. Edited by Anne Skillion. Introduction by George Plimpton. A New York Public Library Publishing Project (New York: Quill, 1988).

Comment by Janice Harayda:

Introducing the Great American Novel gathers essays by celebrated writers on 21 warhorses — or workhorses — of the American canon. Contributors include Alfred Kazin (on Moby-Dick), Rebecca West (on Babbitt), Saul Bellow (on Invisible Man), Anthony Burgess (on Uncle Tom’s Cabin), Irving Howe (on The House of Mirth) and T. S. Eliot on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn).

One of the virtues of this collection is that all the critics are good writers — in some cases, better than the authors whose books they are reviewing — so that even if you dislike the novels, you may admire the analysis of them. Another is that the book resurrects some novels that have gone into undeserved eclipse. I spoke recently to an undergraduate writing seminar at a major New York university and found that only one or two students had heard of — let alone read — Babbitt, one of the finest American satirical novels. Finally, if you’re a baby boomer who spent your youth reading mainly books by Rod McKuen and Carlos Castaneda — I refuse to give you credit for “reading” The Joy of Sex — this book can help you discover what you missed on the way to Woodstock.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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