In Dan Brown’s shadow

Literary fiction’s strongest fall in a decade sparks hope and worry

Publishers and booksellers are bullish about a fall season most consider one of the best in memory. Between August and November, bookstores can display novels by, among others, Thomas Pynchon, Margaret Atwood, Pat Conroy, John Irving, Dave Eggers, Philip Roth, Barbara Kingsolver, and even Vladimir Nabokov (dead these 32 years)—should they have shelf space to spare, that is, from their crates of Lost Symbol copies. But it’s not just the spectre of Dan Brown that troubles some in the book trade. For New York literary agent Ira Silverberg, the thrill that comes with seeing all the warhorses released at the same time does not make the practice any less financially perilous. “It gets us excited, but the big question is, will people buy that many books?” Silverberg asks. “What’s unfortunate about that is, it’s a short season! All these books are coming out in three months, and there’s overlap in their core audiences. Also, these are hardcover books– at 25 to 30 dollars! That’s tough.” Pressed to find something positive to say about the quality of books on offer, Silverberg did not opt for graciousness. “Look, you want an enthusiastic statement? I think it’s fantastic that there are so many great writers coming out in those months. I think it speaks to our cultural activity as a people and the fact that these publishers, many of whom are douchebags, have not totally forsaken literary fiction.”

The New York Observer

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