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Middlebrow authors

Can you name some living middlebrows? That is, if you even subscribe to that term. I keep thinking of people like Nick Hornby, but I may be flattering him.

by Anonymousreply 5204/04/2013


by Anonymousreply 111/15/2010

Pat Conroy

by Anonymousreply 211/15/2010

Jonathan Sparks defines this thread.

by Anonymousreply 311/15/2010

Jonathan Franzen owns this thread.

by Anonymousreply 411/15/2010

Nicholas Sparks

by Anonymousreply 511/15/2010

John Grisham

Mary Higgins Clark

David Baldacci

JK Rowling

by Anonymousreply 611/15/2010

To be called 'middlebrow' is never flaterring. And yes, Nick Hornby is the quintessential middlebrow author: bland, inoffensive and will be totally forgotten within a year of his death. His non-fiction counterpart is Bill Bryson.

by Anonymousreply 711/15/2010

Joyce Carol Oates is the popular go-to example for middlebrow fiction writers, right?

by Anonymousreply 811/15/2010

Nicholas Evans--and I love his books.

Ken Follett

by Anonymousreply 911/15/2010

I meant Nicholas Sparks, sorry.

by Anonymousreply 1011/15/2010

"And yes, Nick Hornby is the quintessential middlebrow author: bland, inoffensive and will be totally forgotten within a year of his death."%0D %0D %0D %0D Please, Hornby is Proust compared to most of the other people mentioned on this thread.

by Anonymousreply 1111/15/2010

Gore Vidal said something to the effect once that there are no popular middlebrow authors anymore, e.g, no authors like Somerset Maugham.%0D %0D How would you classify Anne Tyler?%0D %0D

by Anonymousreply 1211/15/2010

I agree and Bryson's "short History of the nearly everything" is wonderful

by Anonymousreply 1311/15/2010

My first thought was Joyce Carol Oates, too.

There's a difference between middlebrow and popular. Middlebrow usually has some pretensions to seriousness. I don't think someone like John Gresham counts.

by Anonymousreply 1411/15/2010

Dan Brown.

by Anonymousreply 1511/15/2010

I love Ms. Tyler's books, and I think she's too good to be called middlebrow.

But then her writing isn't arty or pretentious or "literary" so I suppose many would consider her middlebrow.

by Anonymousreply 1611/15/2010

...i suppose there are people who consider houellebecq middlebrow...

by Anonymousreply 1711/15/2010

Yes, but middlebrow doesn't mean he's a terrible writer. Sparks, Grisham, Baldacci and Higgins Clark are not middle-brow. They are borderline talentless at best and would be referred to as 'lowbrow'. Middlebrow means, average; neither particularly good or bad.

by Anonymousreply 1811/15/2010

[quote]Yes, but middlebrow doesn't mean he's a terrible writer. Sparks, Grisham, Baldacci and Higgins Clark are not middle-brow. They are borderline talentless at best and would be referred to as 'lowbrow'. Middlebrow means, average; neither particularly good or bad.

Agreed, but, unfortunately, this is what passes for middlebrow today!

by Anonymousreply 1911/15/2010

Alexander McCall Smith, providing fodder for endless ladies' book groups, never rising to bluestocking status.

by Anonymousreply 2011/15/2010

Most DLers.

Doubt it? Check out the perfect movies thread.

by Anonymousreply 2111/15/2010

R18, I wouldn't say that a middlebrow writer is necessarily a writer with an "average" talent when it comes to writing, but rather a writer who has an "average" sort of mind -- writers who write about life from a kind of "B-" point of view. Favored themes tend to be things like the triumph of the human spirit, redemption won from grace in the face of long suffering, hope found in the next generation, fatalistic views of family bonds and their strength, and facile explorations of identity politics.

Whenever I think of a "middlebrow" writer, it is someone whose works tends to be "worthy" rather than good -- books that get described as "improving" or "inspirational" often set off my middlebrow-dar.

by Anonymousreply 2211/15/2010

John Updike then?

by Anonymousreply 2311/15/2010

R22, after slogging through your boring bilge, I conclude you wouldn't know highbrow if it smacked you in the forehead.

by Anonymousreply 2411/15/2010

Rosamund Pilcher, Amy Tan, lots of chick lit, and all those tedious memoirists of their dysfunctional families.

by Anonymousreply 2511/15/2010

You're probably right, R24.

If you need me, I'll be in a real housewives thread.

by Anonymousreply 2611/15/2010

I like middlebrow. I don't want Nabokov every day. I don't think saying an author is middlebrow is an insult, when the vast majority of popular writers are neanderthal. Tom Wolfe, Richard Russo, Anne Tyler, and John Irving are all middlebrow. Susan Sontag is highbrow, but she's much less adept at writing fiction than any of the names I've mentioned. I'd rather sprinkle ground glass over mt scrambled eggs than read "The Volcano Lover" again.

by Anonymousreply 2711/15/2010

A more interesting question would be who is considered a "highbrow" author nowadays.

by Anonymousreply 2811/15/2010

Actually, I would class Sontag as middlebrow. Boring, pretentious, not a good storyteller. There's nothing highbrow about being bored to death buy a book.

by Anonymousreply 2911/15/2010

What do you think of Rick Moody, Alice Munro and Haruki Murakami of contemporary examples of "popular highbrow" writers, r28?

by Anonymousreply 3011/15/2010

Oops, that should be "by".%0D %0D

by Anonymousreply 3111/15/2010

I'm inclined to concur with those examples, R30.

I'm still waiting for any feedback on my nomination of Franzen as echt-middlebrow.

by Anonymousreply 3211/15/2010

[quot]A more interesting question would be who is considered a "highbrow" author nowadays.

An even more interesting question would be which "highbrow" authors are interesting enough to read these days?

What is a middlebrow author, someone who makes some money? No one has mentioned Stephen King. Odds are he'll be more widely read in 100 years than any other current scribbler.

He's a pretty good storyteller, I think.

by Anonymousreply 3311/15/2010

R33, I adore good storytellers, and I agree they are the ones who will be read years from now.

But there are stories of the moment, and stories that resonate down the ages, and only time will tell which is which.

by Anonymousreply 3411/15/2010

Joyce Clairol Oates

by Anonymousreply 3511/15/2010

[quote]stories that resonate down the ages

Now there's an interesting question. Of the authors whose stories have resonated down through the ages, which of them intended to be resonating, and which of them wished to turn a buck?

Strange days, strange days

by Anonymousreply 3611/15/2010

R36, I don't think any of them intended to resonate, at least that was not their primary concern. Everybody needs to find a way to make a buck.

Posthumous fame is overrated.

by Anonymousreply 3711/15/2010

"Odds are he'll be more widely read in 100 years than any other current scribbler."%0D %0D %0D %0D %0D Uh, most of his books are already forgotten.%0D

by Anonymousreply 3811/16/2010

I know that "middlebrow" has come to the point where it is almost always intended as an insult or at least a categorization that involves some level of sneering, but whatever. I agree with the suggestions of Joyce Carol Oates and Franzen and I like them both

by Anonymousreply 3911/16/2010

R23, I think he's better than middlebrow.

by Anonymousreply 4011/16/2010

Rita Mae Brown

by Anonymousreply 4111/16/2010

I wouldn't say Rita Mae Brown is middle brow. She's far too original for that. Well perhaps she is, she isn't Susan Sontag for sure. Rubyfruit Jungle was great.

Anne Tyler, John Irving...

Is Alan Hollinghurst middlebrow? I imagine he is, judging by the thread.

Tim Parks, probably. I liked Europa.

Isn't Anita Brookner middlebrow as well? Helen Dunmore possibly as well?

by Anonymousreply 4204/03/2013

Ooops, I meant Anne Fine, not Tyler. When I read The Killjoy, I liked it better than The Collector. Isn't that telling?

Is Anne Fine middlebrow? I like her writing. I would never call it highbrow, but it's fun to read.

by Anonymousreply 4304/03/2013

I would have called Gore Vidal a middlebrow fiction author, actually. Except for Myra Breckenridge and Myron (which were pretty intelligent and adventurous). Even Duluth was pretty watered-down and derivative.

Beyond Franzen and Oates and Anne Tyler, I would also suggest for middlebrow authors living today: Amy Tan, Jess Walters, Paulo Coelho, Khalid Hosseini, Kate Morton, Alice Walker, Sara Gruen, Ann River Siddons, Tracy Chevalier.

I would also suggest Haruki Murakami, Michael Chabon, Ann Patchett, Dave Eggers, Kent Haruf. They're better than the previous group, but they're still pretty middlebrow.

by Anonymousreply 4404/03/2013

[all posts by ham-fisted troll a removed.]

by Anonymousreply 4504/03/2013

Right there with R45. The novel is in itself a middlebrow genre. The best novels (Bel-Ami) are very good middlebrow. A novel isn't poetry and it isn't theatre, those are the classic forms.

It's only recently that I've realised there's only so much you can do with a novel. It's very limited as a form, and it's more entertainment than challenging art.

by Anonymousreply 4604/03/2013

Is Hillary Mantel middlebrow? Any of the Booker winners???

by Anonymousreply 4704/03/2013

Brit upper-middlebrows include John Le Carre, Julian Barnes, William Boyd, Alan Hollinghurst, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro and Sebastian Faulks.

They're all reviewed and profiled respectfully in broadsheets, and sell accordingly. (TV and film rights follow.) Clever men who write serviceable-to-good prose.

(Noting Vidal, Le Carre is perhaps the closest to the Maugham de nos jours; he hasn't however tried the theatre.) At their best, they have a good chance of the Booker. (Le Carre though won't allow his books to be entered for prizes.)

Hilary Mantel at present is uber-upper-middle: queen of reviews, sales and prizes, with more to come when her trilogy concludes. Crossover heaven.

Middle-middlebrows are the supermarket chick romances and family dramas set in France or Greece; and bloke-friendly techno-financial thrillers set anywhere. This isn't Booker territory. Nick Hornby and J K Rowling are at the top end of this tier.

by Anonymousreply 4804/04/2013

yup, R20 takes the cake

by Anonymousreply 4904/04/2013

[quote]a categorization that involves some level of sneering

I suspect all the "brows" were meant sneeringly, especially highbrow.

by Anonymousreply 5004/04/2013

I'm not sure about the 'sneering' [R50]. When I was young (we rode dinosaurs through the snow) most popular art was "middlebrow". It essentially meant "accessible but not stupid".

It also had a commercial connotation; these were novels, plays, books of essays, even movies that expected to be taken seriously but also were expected to be profitable for publishers and producers. Otto Preminger, for example, was a "middlebrow" film director, taking on "serious' subjects, treating them with some sophistication but still competing in a commercial market place.

"Middlebrow" novels were those driven by plot. The story had to have suspense, reversal, surprise, but the characters needed to be believable as actual people and the writer was expected to show psychological insight, Maugham (who had been an enormously successful playwright) mentioned above, was a perfect example. His best work is highly intelligent, superbly plotted, he creates fascinating, often exotic but always believable characters. Yet his success (enormous) was based on the ease with which avid readers (there were once many more of those than there are now) could literally "fall" into one of his novels, living the story along with the characters.

Nabokov considered Thomas Mann "middlebrow" though pretentious and "false" -- Mann was world famous for his complex, multifaceted plots, "powerful" insights into human nature, and tortured, complex characters. Still those who agreed with Nabokov felt that Mann had found a clever set of tricks that beguiled the moderately sophisticated and easily impressed them. And these middlebrow writers wrote at great length.

However, I think today, the term is largely meaningless. Fewer people read for one thing, most movies are based on comic books, predictable and simplistic rom-com formulas, boys' adventures or are simply prolonged sit coms and often permeated with what back then would have been considered obscenity.

"Lincoln" with its grandiose self important manner, pretentious style is absolutely middle brow. Zero Dark Thirty is essentially an adventure film with a very bloody and spooky ending. John Irving is an old fashioned middlebrow writer, complex plots, interesting characters, some off beat. Michael Chabon would also be considered middlebrow for the same reasons. It takes skill, talent and application to manage an effective middlebrow novel, and skill to put across middlebrow movies. Arthur Miller was a quintessentially middlebrow playwright, self serious and convinced of his own "importance" the melodrama in his plays hidden by a degree of pretension.

"High Art" was essentially more talked about than read; Proust for example, Joyce's Ulysses. Or it was less enjoyable on the simple great story, wonderful characters level and more concerned with style, tone, irony with distancing effects (Virginia Woolf). It took a degree of sophistication and patience on the part of the reader and didn't always deliver in a visceral way. This year's high art movie, "L'amour" does have a visceral impact but for most people it is discomfiting not diverting and rather frightening.

by Anonymousreply 5104/04/2013

Didn't George Eliot write "Middlebrow"? Dorothea's one of my favorite heroines in literature!

by Anonymousreply 5204/04/2013
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