Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon

Mark McGurl. Verso, $29.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-83976-385-4
By turns provocative and tedious, literary critic McGurl’s sweeping literary history examines the relationships between writing, reading, publishing, and Amazon. Drawing on theory, sociology, and economics, McGurl (The Program Era) studies Amazon’s impact on novels and genres, wondering “what’s going on inside the books that business brings to market” and asking “what the novel is now.” McGurl defines familiar terms such as author, reader, and fiction in ways that illustrate Amazon’s approach to literature: the author, for example, “should consider himself as a kind of entrepreneur and service provider,” while Amazon sees the reader as a “customer with needs, above all a need for reliable sources of comfort, or utility.” And whereas genre used to be “a way of piecing through the different things that stories can do for us and instructing writers to construct them accordingly,” it is now “a version, within the literary field, of the phenomena of market segmentation and product differentiation.” While McGurl’s dense academic study often relies on sprawling, jargon-filled sentences, he nevertheless raises significant questions about the state of publishing. For those in the industry, this is worth a look. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 07/21/2021
Release date: 09/28/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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