The Commercialization of Literature


Jack Kerouac’s literary imprint has made its way into some surprising mediums–a t-shirt sold at Urban Outfitters, a lyric of a Katy Perry single. Though the commercialization of literature isn’t exactly breaking news, it is interesting to track the ways in which art is being commodified or stripped from its original literary roots and regurgitated into product-form.

“I understand that art references art. I don’t admonish Woody Guthrie for writing ‘Tom Joad’ because I also believe in the distinction between tribute and exploitation. Steinbeck is still a literary icon, not a brand in the way that Kerouac has become. I suppose the Kerouac product is especially problematic because the notion of his persona being bought and sold is so oppositional to the ideology represented in his work.”

Sam Riley is an adult who works at McSweeney's. More from this author →