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Yesterday's Bestsellers: A Journey Through…
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Yesterday's Bestsellers: A Journey Through Literary History

by Brian M. Stableford

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Recently added byBMaggs, Poquette, moonlitgarden

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There is something about the tone of Brian Stableford's writing that makes one wish to avoid reading almost all the books discussed here. It is odd that these books that were widely read at the time of publication could seem so universally unappealing in retrospect. Collections of book reviews usually present profitable veins for mining to augment one's list of books that must be read. In this case, the books that I have already read or am intimately familiar with have at least not been tarnished too badly by Stableford's critical appraisal.

I stumbled upon this book while in search of a contemporary review of The Garden of Allah by Robert Hichens. This is by no means contemporary, but it does present some interesting background about Hichens and his writing. If I had read this review before reading Hichens' book itself, I might have decided to skip it.

The most familiar books and writers covered here include Robinson Crusoe and its descendants, Alice in Wonderland and its back story, Lost Horizon by James Hilton, I, Claudius and Raymond Chandler and the American crime novel and its film noir derivatives.

Stableford is British and except for Eugene Sue (French) and Raymond Chandler (American), all the writers discussed were British. Some are almost forgotten today: H. Rider Haggard (She), Marie Corelli (A Romance of Two Worlds), Robert Hichens (The Garden of Allah), Edward Bulwar-Lytton (The Last Days of Pompeii), Eugene Sue (The Mysteries of Paris, P.C. Wren (Beau Geste), James Hadley Chase (No Orchids for Miss Blandish) and Hank Janson. Stableford does a good job of placing the books in context. He has interesting things to say about the authors and contemporary world events.

A word about this edition. It is available inexpensively through Google Books. I read it on line, which was fine, but unfortunately, there is no facility for highlighting passages. This is almost like torture for a compulsive underliner like me! One can preview the book at Google, if interested.

The criticism altogether was well done, but I kept wondering why the writer didn't select more books that were attractive. Not that he exactly panned Robinson Crusoe, Alice in Wonderland, I Claudius, etc., completely, but the overall effect of this book, particularly the last few chapters, left an unpleasant taste in my mouth. I didn't come away with the feeling that I needed to rush out and catch up with many of these authors. ( )
  Poquette | Aug 28, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0809519062, Paperback)

A study of the popluar fiction of the past.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:52 -0400)

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