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A Reader’s Manifesto

An Attack on the Growing Pretentiousness in American Literary Prose

Available for the first time, the full-length, unexpurgated version of the essay that incited one of the most passionate literary controversies ever in American letters … When the Atlantic Monthly first published an excerpted version of B.R. Myers’ polemic — in which he attacked literary giants such as Don Delillo, Annie Proulx, and Cormac McCarthy, quoting their work extensively to accuse them of mindless pretension — it caused a world-wide sensation.”A welcome contrarian takes on the state of contemporary American literary prose,” said a Wall Street Journal review. “Useful mischief,” said Jonathan Yardley in The Washington Post. “Brilliantly written,” declared The Times of London.But Myers’ expanded version of the essay does more than just attack sanctified literary heavyweights. It also examines the literary hierarchy that perpetuates the status quo by looking at the reviews that the novelists in question received. It also considers the literary award system. “Rick Moody received an O. Henry Award in 1997,” Myers observes, “whereupon he was made an O. Henry juror himself. And so it goes.

A Reader’s Manifesto showcases Myers’ biting sense of wit, as in the new section, “Ten Rules for ‘Serious’ Writers,” and his discussion of the sex scenes in the bestselling books of David Guterson (“If Jackie Collins had written that,” Myers says after one example, “reviewers would have had a field day.”). It also champions clear writing and storytelling in a wide range of writers, from “pop” novelists such as Stephen King to more “serious” literary heavyweights such as Somerset Maugham. Myers also considers the classics such as Balzac and Henry James, and recommends numerous other undeservedly obscure authors.

This edition includes an all-new section in which Myers not only considers the controversy that followed The Atlantic essay, but responds to several of his most prominent critics.

B.R. MYERS is an American-born, German-educated scholar currently teaching North Korean literature in South Korea. He is the author of The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters. He is also a contributing editor to The Atlantic Monthly, and a frequent contributer to both NPR and The New York Times.

“Brilliantly written.” – The Times of London

“Hits the mark.” – The Sunday Times of London

“Literary historians may  … realize this was the moment … someone dared to say out loud that the emperor had no clothes.” – The (London) Observer

“Useful mischief…he’s got the big stuff right.” – Jonathan YardleyThe Washington Post