American Authors and the Literary Marketplace since 1900

American Authors and the Literary Marketplace since 1900

American Authors and the Literary Marketplace since 1900

American Authors and the Literary Marketplace since 1900


The horrific and devastating events of September 11, 2001 changed the world's perception of Al Qaeda. What had been considered a small band of revolutionary terrorists capable only of attacking Western targets in the Middle East and Africa suddenly demonstrated an ability to strike globally with enormous impact. Subsequent plots perpetuated the impression of Al Qaeda as a highly organized and rigidly controlled organization with recruiters, operatives, and sleeper cells in the West who could be activated on command.

We now know, however, that the role of Al Qaeda in global jihadist plots has varied significantly over time. New York Police Department terrorism expert Mitchell D. Silber argues that to comprehend the threat posed by the transnational jihad movement, we must have a greater and more nuanced understanding of the dynamics behind Al Qaeda plots. In "The Al Qaeda Factor" he examines sixteen Al Qaeda-associated plots and attacks, from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing to today. For each case, he probes primary sources and applies a series of questions to determine the precise involvement of Al Qaeda. What connects radicalized groups in the West to the core Al Qaeda organization in the borderlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan? Does one of the plotters have to attend an Al Qaeda training camp or meet with an Al Qaeda trainer, or can they simply be inspired by Al Qaeda ideology? Further analysis examines the specifics of Al Qaeda's role in the inspiration, formation, membership, and organization of terrorist groups. Silber also identifies potential points of vulnerability, which may raise the odds of thwarting future terrorist attacks in the West.

"The Al Qaeda Factor" demonstrates that the role of Al Qaeda is very limited even in plots with direct involvement. Silber finds that in the majority of cases, individuals went to Al Qaeda seeking aid or training, but even then there was limited direct command and control of the terrorists' activities--a sobering conclusion that demonstrates that even the destruction of Al Qaeda's core would not stop Al Qaeda plots.


This book is an examination of authorship and the literary marketplace in America since 1900. I have concentrated on the careers of novelists, poets, and short-story writers and have given relatively little attention to journalists, dramatists, and screenwriters, although I have examined the careers of several poets and fiction writers who worked as journalists, served stints in Hollywood, or wrote occasionally for the stage. Several well-known authors are treated—Theodore Dreiser, Robinson Jeffers, Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, E. E. Cummings, Flannery O’Connor, William Styron, and James Dickey, for example—but the commercial pressures felt by these authors were felt also by other writers whose names are less familiar today. I have therefore given attention to such authors as George Barr McCutcheon, John P. Marquand, Ida Tarbell, Stephen Vincent Benét, Ogden Nash, Edna Ferber, William Saroyan, Booth Tarkington, and Zona Gale. I have drawn on published sources and on the surviving papers of authors, publishers, editors, and literary agents. The resulting book is an attempt to describe the changing professional situation that faced the serious author in America after 1900 and, on occasion, to show how that situation affected the author’s writings and career.

The informing principle of the book is my belief that if scholars or critics are fully to understand works of literary art, they must understand the commercial factors that influenced the composition and publication of these works. Ideally scholars and critics should know more about the literary marketplace of the author’s time than the author would have known. The marketplace was only one of several factors that influenced the literary work, of course, and sometimes it was only a minor factor, but it was never absent from the author’s thoughts if that author proposed to earn a living by writing. Commercial factors often influenced the published form of the work, and its success, more than the author realized.

Goethe said that true genius reveals itself best when it operates within limitations. He was speaking of the formal limitations of poetry—rhythm, rhyme, and stanzaic form—but he could as easily have been speaking of the commercial and legal limitations under which any artist works. The . . .

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