RE: RARA-AVIS: The American Way (was serial killers)

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 04 Mar 2000


On several occasions you have argued that sales are an indicator of merit, that popularity signifies artistic success. So how can you dismiss the extremely popular Patterson and Cornwell as "hacks"?

And this is where my debate with Mark B began. I am right with him in believing the mainstream American public often embraces books and films that are nothing but flash and F/X (although, in the right mood I can certainly appreciate flash and F/X; after all, I'm a big fan of HK movies). My only quibble was that The American Way is equally defined by cults of particular tastes which go against the mainstream. Often, these "rebels" or "punks" are even proud to be into something in which the average consumer has no interest -- I know I often am.

And every once in a while, the two tastes can even overlap -- for instance, Gold Medal books were certainly aware of the marketplace.

This American Way debate has gotten me wondering -- is this stereotype that mainstream taste is crap and discerning readers are drawn to less-popular, but better quality literature peculiarly American or does it hold sway in other countries around the world?


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