Peter Montgomery wrote:
> All the more evidence of the breakdown of literary culture.
> You appear to be cynical about publishers as I am about the academic essay.
I did not intend it either as cynicism or as evidence for any
"breakdown." Publishers are capitalist enterprises, and have been so
since their rise in the late 17th century. They publish what they think
will sell, just as a maker of shirts sells what it thinks will sell. No
big deal. And no breakdown because "breakdown" presumes a pre-breakdwon
stage when things were different.
As to academic essays (but more particularly, academic books) there are
too damn many of them, not from any fault of the writers but because of
the hiring/promoting practices of universities. Quality is probably
pretty damn high -- but that fact is invisible if one merely
cherry-picks bad examples from the huge flood of publications. In order
to make any reasonable statement about the general quality you would
have to make a random sample of about a thousand books, read them all
carefully, and separate them into categories. You would then have to
read a similar selection of works from 1975, 1950, 1925, 1900, etc. No
one has done that or is going to do anything like it. Hence an general
assessment of the "academic essay" as a category (whether that
assessment is positive or negative) is sheer unfounded arrogance.