walkitout (walkitout) wrote,
walkitout
walkitout

Do Good Books Pay for Themselves?

The short, and obvious, answer is: depends on how you define good.

Kenneth C. Davis' _Two Bit Culture_ is a _really_ interesting book and I'm happy I'm reading it. However, I had negative respect for Davis based on his later work going into this, and this book has actually reduced my respect for him further. Pulp magazine fiction, both what was in its pages and its authors, were significant contributors to the contents of several paperback lines during the time covered by this book. However, for the _exact same set of reasons_ that Davis' chooses to downplay pre WW2 paperback production, these lines get short shrift.

Davis is a fucking snob. It is annoying the hell out of me. And if you say, well, he called it "Culture" in the title, I'll get my copy of _Highbrow, Lowbrow_ by Lawrence Levine off the shelf and hit you with it until you come to your senses or find a sympathetic officer of the law to pull me off of you.

Anyway.

He spends an inordinate amount of time describing the contents of the discovery [sic] series and New World Writing. After an adulatory listing of what was included and how it was acquired and blah blah bleeping blah, he describes how they inevitably went under -- basically, the individuals driving the projects bailed with the assumption they would continue without them and they didn't. Duh. And can I just say how much I hate pbooks? I cannot get this thing to stay open to type quotes in.

p 201

"Although the series was covering its own expenses, it was creating an enormous drain on the editorial staff, and by 1959, after fifteen issues, New American library was ready to call it quits. The total sales for the series had been over one million copies, but its influence on readers and writers and the contemporary literary scene far outweighed simple numbers. In the supposedly uneventful fifties, New World Writing, along with discovery, had stood for the new, the challenging -- the assault on the status quo."

Two things. (1) "Enormous drain on the editorial staff" != "covering its own expenses". That's called being subsidized by Mickey Spillane. While I _absolutely respect_ sucking dollars away from the creepy JW to pour into things like a chapter from what would become _Catch-22_, why pretend you're doing anything different. (2) The really amazing shit that happened during the 50s was not happening in NWW or discovery, and pretending that it was is really, really, really weird and silly and honestly? Kinda creepy.
Tags: not-a-book-review
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