Reviews | September 01, 1984

An Omnibus Review of First Novels


The best five or six American novels I’ve read this year are all first novels.  What’s remarkable about this is not just their individual qualities, but the fact that they managed to get published at all.  Not so very long ago the first novel was the classic drag on the market, virtually shunned by most commercial publishers except as a token concession to the idea that books are, ideally, art and not business, an idea increasingly unsuited to the ways the industry itself has changed: fewer surviving small houses committed to quality publishing, less power in the hands of idealistic souls willing to risk losing money with “uncommercial” projects, and the increased conglomeration resulting in book production affiliated with the marketing of computer chips or steakburger franchises, demanding that books turn over quick, secure profits.

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