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Old 03-18-2013, 09:43 PM   #31
Ralph Sir Edward
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I also have an original Starship Troopers. When that stupid movie came out people were offering ridiculous amounts for them. I will keep mine and if my son wishes to sell them after I am gone that is OK with me.
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I see your Star Wars, and raise you signed E.E. Smith PH.D Lensman and Skylark books...
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Old 03-18-2013, 09:46 PM   #32
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I do, actually, although I can see how it came about. A significant number of people who read LOTR will have bought it sight unseen, thinking it was 'more LOTR'. Well, it was, in a sense, but it sure wasn't the same...

So I wonder how many of those copies have been read cover to cover .
I've read it a couple times, but I admit it wasn't the hit over the long haul that LotR and the Hobbit have been. It's hard to say how many of those copies that sold that first year were read all the way through. It might well be that those that bought it early were the most dedicated LotR fans, and thus were more likely to actually read it, but it is hard to say.
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Old 03-18-2013, 09:50 PM   #33
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One thing I'm struck by is how many of the uber-bestsellers on the OP list are not available as eBooks. I'd already noticed that National Book Award and Putlizer Prize titles often aren't available as eBooks, but it seems like even the super-bestsellers are not.

I don't see American literary culture as declining, although I read too little current fiction to know if it was.

More prosaically, what may be declining is the backlist. When you visit a physical bookstore, the backlist is hard to avoid. On Amazon, even though the number of backlist titles is enormous, you have to look for them. Even in public library Overdrive collections, new books are more in your face than they'd be in the physical library.

To give credit where due, Mike Shatzkin said something like this recently. He had thought the enormous Amazon selection would help the backlist, but it hasn't.

P.S. Come to think of it, I'm not sure what literary culture is. It seems obvious that Germany has it more than the US. But how do you really define it? It is measurable? Or is that a silly question?
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Old 03-18-2013, 09:59 PM   #34
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Come to think of it, I'm not sure what literary culture is. It seems obvious that Germany has it more than the US. But how do you really define it? It is measurable? Or is that a silly question?
It is a very good question I would love to see addressed. Perhaps it deserves its own thread.
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Old 03-18-2013, 10:07 PM   #35
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http://www.unz.org/Pub/LiteraryDiges...feb06-00019a02

The Literary Digest, February 6, 1932: "Best-Seller Lists Mislead"
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Old 03-18-2013, 10:08 PM   #36
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It is a very good question I would love to see addressed. Perhaps it deserves its own thread.
Definitely.
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Old 03-19-2013, 06:35 AM   #37
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The Great Gatsby was a best-seller in the 20's. Was it considered high literature? And Stephen King has a genius ability in writing. I'm not a King fan but I'm working through the Long Walk, and I'm sure it's better than what a lot of those 'literary' writers produced.

Incidentally, Tolkien was South African-British, not American. It's funny the OP begins the thread with that marker.
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Old 03-19-2013, 12:42 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by QuantumIguana View Post
http://www.unz.org/Pub/LiteraryDiges...feb06-00019a02

The Literary Digest, February 6, 1932: "Best-Seller Lists Mislead"
Great find!
The more things change...
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Old 03-19-2013, 06:44 PM   #39
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I also have an original Starship Troopers. When that stupid movie
Take that back!
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Old 03-19-2013, 08:51 PM   #40
Apache
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Take that back!
No.
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Old 03-19-2013, 09:30 PM   #41
SteveEisenberg
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Great find!
The more things change...
Rather than make their reporting of book sales more accurate, the New York Post, in 1932, dropped it.

There was a depression going on, and they may not have had the resources to do a good job. But this isn't totally different from if they had declined to cover the USSR on grounds that Potemkin villages made accurate reporting difficult.
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Old 03-19-2013, 09:48 PM   #42
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Originally Posted by QuantumIguana View Post
http://www.unz.org/Pub/LiteraryDiges...feb06-00019a02

The Literary Digest, February 6, 1932: "Best-Seller Lists Mislead"

Wow. I've been checking in at unz.org for years, waiting for it to go live...

I did a substantial portion of the scanning and other processing for the books there.
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Old 03-21-2013, 12:47 AM   #43
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I started buying paperback books in the late '60's-early '70's because that's when my local candy store put in a rack of paperback books and I discovered Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer. Prior to that, I could only get hardcover books from the library; there was no dedicated bookstore in my town. I read either library books or comic books. My school system didn't assign any of the so-called literary classics until I reached high school. My parents liked to read, but once the kids started coming along, they really didn't have the free time to read much more than the daily newspapers.
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Old 03-21-2013, 11:52 PM   #44
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Incidentally, Tolkien was South African-British, not American. It's funny the OP begins the thread with that marker.
Does South Africa claim Tolkien? He was born there to English parents, but I think he was pretty much English through and through.

But I don't read the title as claiming that these authors were all American - Pasternak wasn't, nor was Remarque - rather, it's about literary culture in America.

But this made me wonder whether there was a change in foreign authors being popular in the US since '77 (or some other date). But it looks like that's not really the case; even in the last ten years you get Khaled Hosseini (okay, he's American, but he moved here when he was 15) and Stieg Larsson, whose book was popular in translation.

(And of course you can't judge American literary culture on books that happen to be bestsellers in one particular year - I wonder whether E.T. ('82) or Return of the Jedi ('83) are even in print. And of course (as others have mentioned) there are many books which have sold consistently over the years, even though they weren't the most popular book in any particular year (i.e. Lord of the Rings).)
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Old 03-22-2013, 12:04 PM   #45
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I've lived long enough to disagree with this view. From my own life: my family was so poor we had an outhouse, a galvanized tin wash tub, and we heated water on the wood stove, yet we owned shelves of books from the 1800's to contemporary titles. In the 50's and 60's when I was living on spuds and beans there was always 25-40 cents to spend on the latest pulp fiction in drugstores and convenience stores, usually provided by finding discarded soda and beer bottles lying around and returned for deposit (yes, in those days glass bottles were recycled). Even money earned babysitting gave me enough for a subscription to at least one monthly discount club. Then there were libraries and the numerous second-hand stores where you could trade in 2 or 3 books for a new one. Clearly, from my family's collection, my parents and grandparents had no more difficulty accessing books than did I.

Beyond attaining literacy, education level is not necessarily all that relevant to this discussion. My parents never made it to high school and I never made it to college, yet we were always aware of popular fiction, as well as fiction deemed of literary value.
Like yourself we were pretty poor. We did have indoor plumbing and a wringer washer, but eggs were a luxury food.
Lots of books though and music. My grandparents did have an outhouse and pumped water manually but again many books. I believe I read most of them and there must have been a thousand or so, classics, westerns, and readers digest magazines and condensed books and possibly every National geographic ever published.
Must have used up a fair amount of disposable income, but a necessity for them it seems and I feel the same.
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