Quantifying the Weepy Bestseller

Are commercial novels really more sentimental than literary fiction? NovelTM members Andrew Piper and Richard Jean So consider this question in a recently published article in the New Republic:

If you want to be a great writer, should you withhold your sentimental tendencies? The answer for most critics and writers seems to be yes. Sentimentality is often seen as a useful way of distinguishing between serious literature and the not-so-serious, probably best-selling kind. “Sentimentality,” James Baldwin wrote, is “the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion…the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel.” While sentimentality is false, grandiose, manipulative, and over-boiled, high literature is subtle, nuanced, cool, and true. As Roland Barthes, the dean of high cultural criticism, once remarked: “It is no longer the sexual which is indecent, it is the sentimental.” This sentiment (yes sentiment) has been around since at least the early twentieth century and is still a subject of debate in the review pages of numerous media outlets today. But is it true? Whether you are for subtlety or against sentimentality, is this a good way to think about writing your next novel?

Read the entire article here: