I just finished reading James Hall’s excellent little book on the craft of the novel, Hit Lit. He describes the many elements that bestselling novels share, with the coda that they are not enough, by themselves, to make a book a bestseller. What is needed, in addition, is the passion of the writer for his subject matter and his characters. I particularly enjoyed his enlightening opening chapter, in which he writes about the historical function of the novel as one of the main forms of popular entertainment. It was only after motion pictures were invented that the novel became a form of high art, thus sloughing off its historic function of story telling and social instruction. The examples of hit lit the author focuses on still perform those humanistically essential functions.
I also had a look at John Steinbeck’s Nobel acceptance speech on youtube in which he takes to task the learned professors of literature, who would have us view the novel as a form of high art.
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