Does Commercial Success Hurt Literature?

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Publishers are offering big paydays to debut authors—that’s the good news. The bad news is that the books earning big money aren’t particularly literary. Tom Leclair at The Daily Beast takes to task Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s novel The Nest as too middlebrow to be considered great literature:

I understand the economic strategy: a novelist with no history (of mediocre sales) can be publicized as the Big New Find because the author has been given a Big Old Advance. But I worry that Sweeney’s book and some other fairly recent first novels with huge advances…suggest young writers are creating what I’ll call commercialit.


Ian MacAllen is the Rumpus Deputy Editor and founder of English Kills Review an online literary magazine focused on books, authors, and New York City. His writing has appeared in Little Fiction, Vol 1 Brooklyn, Joyland Magazine, Chicago Review of Books, Fiction Advocate, and elsewhere. He holds a Master’s Degree in English from Rutgers University and lives in Brooklyn. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at IanMacAllen.com. More from this author →