Can Literary Success and Quality Co-Exist?

In a fascinating and insightful article, “A Novelist Re-Imagines Shakespeare’s Juliet — and Challenges Literary Snobbery” in the Wall St. Journal, author Anne Fortier talks about her visit to her homeland of Denmark and the change of perspective about art. Ms. Fortier was having lunch with friends when words like “ambitious” and “commercial” starting to fly around…but not in a good way.This was two days before Fortier’s new novel; “Juliet” – about a young lady who thinks she might be related to the teenage Shakespeare made famous – was coming out. When the book came it was hailed as…. ambitious and commercial – oh boy. Even though critics did admit that the book was descent (according to Ms. Fortier) they went out of their way criticize the idea of the book, rather than the book itself.

To their credit, the Danes voted with their money and “Juliet” sold well.

Some critics are quick who damn literature which is not written to please the intellect of those sitting on the high throne of prize committees. However, they forgot that some the books hailed today as classics were either ostracized when they came out (“The Grapes of Wrath“, “Moby Dick” which are among these 6 Great Novels that Were Hated in Their Time) or, as in Shakespeare’s case, were meant to be more of crowd pleasers than win any medals.

After all, even Shakespeare had to eat and his meal ticket was selling seats in the Globe theatre.

One of my favorite stories, “The Three Musketeers” was, after all, a newspaper serial; hence the page to page action and a suspenseful end to each chapter. There is nothing wrong with crowd pleasers, not every novel has to be a deep, moving saga. Sometimes people need a relaxing, funny, thought free book or even a relaxing, thought provoking book that doesn’t take literature to new heights.
Heck, sometimes we need nothing but.

Of course we all have the popular books we love to hate, and that’s fine – but it’s still doesn’t mean that others aren’t allowed to love them.

Do you subscribe to the theory that everything that makes money or that is commercial is garbage?

Can Literary Success and Quality Co-Exist?

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