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Tim Rutten on John Grisham, John Edwards and Post-Literate Fiction

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When the LA Times moved Tim Rutten away from the Calendar section, he got visiting privileges. He’s reviewing the latest John Grisham novel, The Appeal, and notes:

People who keep track of such things report that Grisham was the bestselling author of the 1990s, when readers bought more than 60 million of his books.

People who keep track of such things include Rutten’s own paper. Book publishing isn’t exactly an esoteric pursuit.

Grisham’s books sell very well, which is a problem for Rutten:

In the world of popular fiction, those sorts of numbers not only put you beyond the reach of conventional criticism, but they also obscure any purpose but brute commerce.

Brute commerce being a stumbling block for so many at the LA Times.

Is it possible that readers of the LA Times might also read John Grisham’s novels? He also works in a paean to John Edwards. We’d like to see that Venn diagram, please.

Anyway, Rutten likes the book, picks at the copyediting, and calls it “post-literate fiction”, which would be news to Yolande Villemaire. He means to say that Grisham is a good story-teller but not an especially good writer.

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