RE: RARA-AVIS: Marijane Meaker and Patricia Highsmith (and SMILLA 'S Senselessness, sadly)

From: Todd Mason (
Date: 02 Sep 2003

Which leaves open the question of when the sales on GM books started to slacken, and when GM stopped paying royalties on every printed item rather than each sold, like most publishers. I while back in this thread, I quoted a passage from HIGHSMITH by Meaker wherein with the acceptance of one novel and the agreement to print another, Meaker is in one sentence from Knox Berger $8K richer (in 1960 dollars), something that Highsmith could only envy with her harcover publishers.

Mike, the subtext is important in the citation of Boucher's NYT (and presumably "Holmes's" NY HERALD-TRIBUNE) column reviewing both Meaker's pbs and Highsmith's hcs, among others...that White/Boucher/Holmes was unusual in his egalitarianism. Wonder if his column was relatively exempted from pressure to review books from advertising publishers, or if Fawcett ever went in for an ad.

As for publishing class distinctions...well, even today ignoramuses can't keep the definition of "pulp fiction" straight, and while it's now acceptable slumming material, the nature of the packaging (all the GM seminudes, etc.) ensured the ignorant could feel comfortable in maintaining their sneer. Leaving aside all those who (including some quoted in HIGHSMITH) who were (and remain) desperate to segregate PH's writing from crime fiction because it was good. CF has not yet been freed of the same sort of blockhead who, in Kingsley Amis and/or Robert Conquest's couplet about science-fiction disparagers, will maintain this perfect distinction:
"'SF's no good,' they bellow till we're deaf./'And if it's good, then it's not SF!'". Of course, this has been commercially institutionalized in bookselling, as with the newish Borders signs distinguishing "Popular Fiction" from "Literature," and other such amphigory.


Mike--I didn't get very far with SMILLA'S SENSE OF SNOW, the novel in translation in English, but I didn't try very hard, since it seemed the kind of thing the blockheads mentioned above clutch to their breasts as clearly superior to the kind of tawdry trash Anglophone cf writers churn out, but I did see the movie, with the protagonist's ancestry now made improbable at best by the choice of lead actress, and the protag's ability to walk over several hundred miles of arctic icecap without once putting up the hood on her parka (would muss her hair, doncha know), and the ridiculous science-fictional developements in the last third of the film...I cannot recommend it, sorry to disagree so strenuously, but it Annoyed me. A lot.

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