By the respectable terms of the modern literary profession, novelists do not preach. And, in fact, there has probably not been a less respectable novelist among the irrefutably enduring writers of our time than Ayn Rand: philosopher queen of the best-seller lists in the forties and fifties, cult phenomenon and nationally declared threat to public morality in the sixties, guru to the Libertarians and to White House economic policy in the seventies, and a continuing exemplar or Wilde's tragic observation that more than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read.
If you look at the best-seller list, it is mostly thrillers. Very few books attempt to create an image of the life we live. I knew there were writers who wore tweed coats and lived in Connecticut and somehow made a living, and that's what I aimed to do. I've tried to write as well as I can with books that say something to any reader.
Ironically, white America will catapult books about race to the top of the best-seller list, even as racism remains a national open wound. Obsession ain't solution, however, because reading even at its most intense and verisimilitudinous is vicarious, and once you close the book you're off the hook.
Somehow, women's romance novels are not titled He Stopped When I Said "No". They are, though, titled Sweet Savage Love, in which the woman rejects the hand of her gentler lover who saves her from the rapist and marries the man who repeatedly and savagely rapes her. It is this "marry the rapist" theme that not only turned Sweet Savage Love into a best-seller but also into one of women's most enduring romance novels.
I do not know whether to be delighted or outraged by the fact that Literary Theory: An Introduction was the subject of a study by a well known U.S. business school, which was intrigued to discover how an academic text could become a best-seller.
No one can write a best-seller by taking thought. The slightest touch of insincerity blurs its appeal. The writer who keeps his tongue in his cheek, who knows that he is writing for fools and that, therefore, he had better write like a fool, makes a respectable living out of serials and novelettes; but he will never make the vast, the blaring, half a million success. That comes of blended sincerity and vitality.
Insider can be more ludicrous. How did I ever end up [as one]? Carsick [Waters's book on hitchhiking] was on the New York Times best-seller list for five weeks. [One of the characters was] a singing asshole that does a duet with Connie Francis! Times have changed. That's mainstream, in a weird way.