We’ve all been there. We’ve all bought coffee for our friends or handed out candy on Halloween and done our best Oprah impression. You get a coffee, and you get a coffee, EVERYBODY GETS A COFFEE! Pop culture is obviously a pretty crucial part of our lives, and rightfully so, but are there some aspects of daily life that should be without Oprah’s booming voice in the back of our minds?
One facet of life is literature and the publishing industry. Ever since the arrival of Oprah’s book club way back in 1996 , celebrities and cultural figures have played a pivotal role in which books are mass produced, read, and subsequently end up on supermarket shelves, waiting for housewives to spot the coveted seal of approval from whatever celebrity has chosen to endorse this specific author and take home their very own copy to read along with the thousands of others just like them. This mass appeal, caused sometimes by the actual literary merit of the book but typically due to the the supposed authority of the public figure doing the endorsing, is wonderful for the author. But is it good for the reader? Does seeking the approval of a mass audience and one particular celebrity, like Oprah, cause a downfall in the quality of the literature?
In my young, humble, and well read opinion, it certainly seems that authors are more concerned with making money, appealing to as wide an audience as humanly possible, and winning the endorsement of a prominent public figure than with the artistry of producing a piece of literature worthy of being produced and subsequently enjoyed. By appealing to as broad an audience as Oprah’s massive viewership the novel becomes generalized and loses the glimmering pieces of the author’s soul that make it literature and not just pieces of paper with type on them bound together with glue and cotton.
However, this phenomenon is anything but NOVEL. The idea of decreasing merit to appeal to the masses has been going on as long as publishing itself. The concept of dime novels and “pulp fiction”
have been around since the 1800s with the advent of the printing press and development of the literate middle class. Basically authors have been pandering to mass audiences and whoever the Oprah of their century was since books became a thing at all. While this is unfortunate, as novels should be created for the sake of creation and education or pleasure and not for monetary purposes, it’s only realistic that authors would want to create something that a lot of people want to read and will make them money. Besides, the publishing of the non-special, mass marketed books only makes the Gatsby‘s, Catch 22‘s, and Little Prince‘s more special in comparison.