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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,

(Just changed the "always" to "Mostly", because there's no good argument for "always"--it is just a hyperbolic statement, and a quote from a place I don't recall. With always, it's just too easy to make a case against it, and the provocation to thinking about how we often, some of us including I at times, succumb to the herd mentality--that discussion gets sidelined or does not get the importance it deserves)

Many writers who have lasted more than a hundred years after their deaths often could barely sell a few copies of their work in a lifetime. Many of the popular authors of the 19th century are forgotten today.

I find most bestsellers difficult to read. I can't read "success books" or thrillers.(Used to, at one time read lots of them--was omnivorous, enjoyed everything, though not equally.)

Writing has to hold me--language has to hold me, interest me, grip me. The voice, the urgency, the passion, the honesty. Or else, it must be about sex, fresh, original, honest, personal--not mechanical.

Are there others who feel that in their reading tastes, they belong to a minority?
 

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It all depends.  I am a fan of pop fiction.  I write pop fiction...I admit it.  I like a good story, well told.  It doesn't have to be deep.  The characters should be three dimensional enough to hold my attention and the writing should move at a crisp pace and make me want to turn the page.  I think there are many people who are dismissive of things just BECAUSE the are popular.  I don't think popular necessarily means bad.
 

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William Shakespeare was the most popular and successful playwright in his own lifetime. So I'm going to go with "no".

Furthermore, I would argue that while we talk about Van Gogh and the Melville Revival, we do so specifically because that sort of thing is unusual.

With that being, popularity can also mean "fad" and "topical" and neither of those things will endure.

In order for a literary work to endure, it must encourage people to (a) study it, (b) recommend it, and probably (c) re-read it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Well, some valid points, so perhaps I should rephrase it and say: The majority is often wrong . . . ?
(I quoted the "always wrong" from a book that does not attribute the quote, but it sounds like someone famous said it originally.)

Shakespeare, who I adore, just ran one play at a time, when there was little else going on, and his plays always had something for "the groundlings"--sexual jokes and puns, a clown . . . and he dealt with very basic themes that are universal: love, fidelity, betrayal, fathers and sons, loyalty to friends and to country . . .

Nietzsche printed 40 copies of Thus Spake Zarathustra himself . . . that was it, in his lifetime.

Would Shakespeare stand a chance against American Idol?  Probably not.
 

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I see your point--and I know that there are plenty of great writers out there waiting to be discovered or appreciated.

On the other hand, we should be grateful that some writers become superstars, because it reminds people that reading is a valid form of entertainment, and that, once a reader finishes that hot new series, there is a WORLD of literature waiting.

Look what JK Rowling's series did for reading.

Julia
 

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the majority is made up of a bunch of individuals.  some of whom have very loud voices and can convince people that EVERYBODY loves something.  there are things that are bestsellers that I love, and things that are bestsellers that I loathe.  and remember, just because something sells a lot of copies, it doesn't automatically follow that everyone who bought it loved it, or even finished it.
 

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scarlet said:
the majority is made up of a bunch of individuals. some of whom have very loud voices and can convince people that EVERYBODY loves something. there are things that are bestsellers that I love, and things that are bestsellers that I loathe. and remember, just because something sells a lot of copies, it doesn't automatically follow that everyone who bought it loved it, or even finished it.
I couldn't have said it better myself. Someone once told me, "Best-selling does not mean best-written. It merely means it sold the most."
 

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This is a thread that can explore something relevant to writers and readers and everything related to writers and readers. Thank you for starting it.

Although I don't look at bestsellers now, I will say that I respected them when I first started reading. They can be very entertaining, and they can make a certain kind of person want to write, and this is a good thing.

That's the thing about being a writer: You want other people to write. You want books to be printed. There really is not a bit of competitition, it's all about standing on each other's shoulders and being thankful for the view.

But, in general, bestsellers don't want to beautify the view or take it to higher peaks. Bestsellers don't really add to the scope or depth (or height) of the view. But this isn't the case for some writers. Some writers want to take things further, some want to add something novel and original to the existing body of literature, like a student getting a Ph.D. in mathematics, to some, writing is more of a struggle to make something that hasn't been made before, not just making a variation of an already-told story.

Again, thanks for getting me to think. I really appreciate this thread.
 

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Richardcrasta said:
Are there others who feel that in their reading tastes, they belong to a minority?
Not really. I mean, I usually know what the current "bestseller" is. But for every bestseller I could name off equal numbers of people I know who both like and dislike the novel.
 

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What makes something a 'bestseller' is a combination of a huge amount of factors other than the book itself - the advertising; the author's connections; how topical it is; what other books are out at the same time; plain good luck - that expecting them all to be 'good books' seems naive to me.

There's maybe an argument that, overtime, these kinds of factors become less important and that what we think of as 'the classics' for 100 years ago were the best books around then, but it's a hard thing to prove.
 

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Since I've begun writing, I try to look out for what makes best sellers the way they are. True, there may be factors other than writing. But the majority, in a particular time period, do find the book compelling enough to propel it upward. There has to be something about the author other than an established fan following/base (Nora Roberts, JK Rowling etc). The Twilight series garnering attention on a grand scale must have something different.
The way I see it, many of these books, regardless of writing style, take the reader away from their practical lives very completely. Most books are meant to do that, perhaps not all succeed. Twilight represents angst, danger, love and something no human can reach, Eat Pray and Love chronicles a journey that most will be unable to replicate in their lives with the same passion.
Ofcourse, I'm a newbie. Likely I'm missing something here.
 

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I actually prefer reading non fiction over fiction.  I think the real world is more interesting than the fiction one.

I was surprised to find that Larry McMurtry didn't think that Lonesome Dove was his best novel.  It sold the most books though.

So it does seem that the best writing does always win out.
 

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Remind me who else were charting at the same time as The Beatles, Elvis and The Rolling Stones. ???
 

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James Everington said:
Herman's Hermits!
Who?

Which is my point: popularity and a level of longevity will see things remembered in generations to come. It won't be the arty book that won some award unless a lot of people read and enjoyed it.
 

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tim290280 said:
Who?

Which is my point: popularity and a level of longevity will see things remembered in generations to come. It won't be the arty book that won some award unless a lot of people read and enjoyed it.
I'm slightly misquotingf you here, but I don't think Herman's Hermits could ever be put in the 'arty' category!
 

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James Everington said:
I'm slightly misquotingf you here, but I don't think Herman's Hermits could ever be put in the 'arty' category!
I had to remind myself of their music, and yes they were very successful and a notable pop act; not arty at all. :D

I'm not sure if the UK has something similar to Australia's Rage program. Basically Rage is a long running music video program that does all the latest videos (no matter who the artist is), guest programming of an artist's favourite videos, and during the morning it does the Top 50 countdown. Over the holiday period they do flashback presentations and do the Top 20 songs from various months of a given year in the past. These are a real eye-opener. Some songs you recognise, some you vaguely remember, others you'd swear never existed: and this is in the Top 20, not the Top 100 or the indie or metal charts! The last one I saw was from 1992, the year of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Nirvana; none of which were in the countdowns. All 3 changed the face of music, yet their singles were relatively short lived in the Top 20 charts, Nirvana having a #1 for several weeks before dropping down the rankings. We don't think of BILLY RAY CYRUS, BOYZ II MEN, MR. BIG, JOSE CARRERAS & SARAH BRIGHTMAN, or LUTHER VANDROSS & JANET JACKSON. We don't think of the best selling albums as Nirvana's Nevermind outside of the Top 10 albums for the year.

So I see it as influence, popularity and longevity that make something memorable. A lot of fiction is only read once, so it will only ever make the work a footnote to history unless the author endures and is popular.
 

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Richardcrasta said:
Hi,

Many writers who have lasted more than a hundred years after their deaths often could barely sell a few copies of their work in a lifetime. Many of the popular authors of the 19th century are forgotten today.

I find most bestsellers difficult to read. I can't read "success books" or thrillers.

Writing has to hold me--language has to hold me, interest me, grip me.

Are there others who feel that in their reading tastes, they belong to a minority?
Dickens sold a lot of books during his lifetime. Austen sold quite a few. So did Hemingway and Steinbeck.

I'm not sure which writers you're thinking of, but I'm not at all sure I agree.
 
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