Critical Linking: April 23, 2012

“Both general readers and specialist critics often complain about my own use of English – not only in my books, but also in my newspaper articles and even in radio talks such as these. “I have to look them up in a dictionary”, they complain – as if this were some kind of torture.”

It is painfully ironic that in this era when “looking up” is easier than ever, we seem more averse to it.


When I say that I hope traditional publishing is destroyed by Amazon, or whomever, that’s coming from someone who has long held these publishers in jaw-dropping awe, as though they were the Mount Olympus that every writer strove to summit. And when I finally did summit that mountain, it was like I had found a party of mountebanks and cold capitalists who couldn’t have cared less about the suffering of a writer who only wanted to be treated with dignity and respect.

Damning stuff from the author of Sideways.


“As you would expect, the success of Harry Potter meant a surge of fantasy publishing: the Guide reviewed 135 fantasy novels in 1998 and 415 in 2010. Even more meaningfully, at least 309 of those 415 were sequels or books in series; the number of reviewed series books of all kinds of fiction rose from 175 in 1998 to 520 in 2010, making up a whopping 40% of all fiction reviewed.”

You could argue that there is a “bubble” in fantasy children’s/YA books, couldn’t you?


This year’s fiction finalists have also received a bump. On Amazon’s bestseller list, Train Dreams went from #990 to #98, Swamplandia! moved from #984 to #155, and The Pale King has jumped from #2000+ in both paperback and hardcover to #561 and #625, respectively. It’s unlikely, however, that those gains will match the post-award success of, say, Tinkers, which perhaps benefitted the most from its 2010 win and has now sold more than 360,000 copies.

Put another way, only one of the three Pulitzer fiction finalists managed to crack the top 100 in Amazon’s fiction bestseller list. And that one did just barely.

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