For certain elite readers, the best seller is valuable primarily as a means of calibrating literary taste: We know what is good in part by knowing what is bad. But the sheer ubiquity of the best seller makes it impossible to disregard so easily. If some books are good (read: literary) because they don’t sell, others are just as likely to be judged good (read: entertaining) because they do. “If I’m a lousy writer, then a hell of a lot of people have got lousy taste,” Metalious once said.
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