Re: Build Your Own Best-Seller [was work (markets)]

Michael Cahill (MCBlueline@AOL.COM)
Wed, 2 Oct 1996 11:17:59 -0400

In a message dated 96-10-01 19:21:12 EDT, (John McCreery)

<< What makes a best-seller? Is there a better, more easily accessible,
exemplary set of cultural artifacts than the books on bestseller shelves?
It's hard to imagine. If our theories about myth, ritual, the power of
symbols, discourse, interpretation, the political economy and sociology of
knowledge (aw hell, the whole shebang) have anything valid to say about
contemporary culture,here is a wonderful test case.

What can we take from the lit-crit, cultural studies crowd? And what can
we, as anthropologists, bring to the party?

What can we learn that will make anthropological writing more compelling,
more saleable, more effective in inducing social or political change?>>


I like the sound of this project. The last paragraph above really sums up
the *why* of it for me. If someone can make a buck off it, too, so much the
better. I'm in.

I'll get hold of Owen's book on the T'ang. Sounds like the Chinese writers
of that period had a pretty good fix on their readers. Actually, that's
pretty deep.

In the meantime, let me suggest _The Anarchists of Casas Viejas_ by Jerome
Mintz. "Anarchists" tells the story of the massacre in an Andalusian town
that touched off the Spanish Civil War. The account draws on archival
material, poetry, and oral history -- much of it collected years later during
fieldwork conducted in the town and among the survivors. Reviewers have
called the book "beautiful" and it is. It's also hard-headed. Mintz shows
that while the rebels were idealists, they were pragmatists as well -- and
far from the wild-eyed millenarians envisioned by Hobsbawm. I believe this
book sold fairly well in academic markets, but I don't think it made it into
wider circulation. By the way, Jerry was a former teacher of mine.

Speaking of markets and circulation, I wonder if we can't get some titles
and figures together. Can we get a list of the top ten best-selling
anthropology books? Anita Cohen-Williams has for some time been advising us
of new releases. Anita, can you help us on this one?

The lit-crit part of the exploration is pretty much terra incognita to me.
But I'm willing to give it a shot. This might be an important area.

More later. I've got to head out.

Mike Cahill