- Paperback: 430 pages
- Publisher: Mariner Books; First edition (June 18, 1984)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0395355354
- ISBN-13: 978-0395355350
- Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 1.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,717,691 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Two-Bit Culture: The Paperbacking of America Paperback – June 18, 1984
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Top Customer Reviews
I picked this up in a used bookstore while on vacation this summer. Cultural history is my secret pleasure.
Davis opens with an introduction that announces his intent: he means to show that Americans will read “good” books, if they are nearby and cheap. Also, that mass-market books influence culture. Mission (sort of) accomplished. Davis proceeds to go through 45 years of paperbacks, in great detail. He highlights many “good” books, and calls out their impressive sales numbers. He makes a number of attempts to tie these big-selling”good” books to the wider culture.
But, at the end of the book, as he discusses the 1970s, he all but concedes that the mission of elevating the culture has given way. The book ends on a note of despair.
He also struggles to justify the sales of Mickey Spillane and Erle Stanley Gardner, who became rich and famous with their pulp fiction crime novels. In fairness, he gives it the ol’ college try, using many pages to attempt to link their work to the zeitgeist of the times.
Davis makes a curious choice at the outset: he picks June, 1939 as the the start of the “paperback revolution.” This struck me as odd, because there clearly were books with paper covers long before then. Indeed, Davis touches briefly on the history of paperbacks - going back to the early 19th century. Since he didn’t explicitly say it, I will: Davis is interested specifically in paperbound books of literary significance.Read more ›