By Janice A. Radway

Janice Radway means that the numerous number of books steered by way of the Book-of-the-Month membership through the years has been instrumental in formulating middlebrow literary style in the United States and in defining the wishes of the center classification. this is her passionate exploration of examining, literary pros, and the nature of tradition.

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Eventually I developed an appreciation for literary modernism, especially that of Henry James, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eugene O'Neill, William Carlos Williams, and Wallace Stevens. But that appreciation, no matter how intense, was always combined with an intellectual distance connected to the manner in which I had acquired this new competence, that is, in school classrooms and under the sway of authoritative experts. As a consequence, my new tastes somehow failed to duplicate precisely the passion of my response to those other, suspect, supposedly transparent, popular books.

I abandoned it for another, more manageable way of approaching the topic of books, reading, and literary taste; I turned to the study of why women read romances. I did not take up the subject of the dissertation again until I had crossed paths with the Book-of-the-Month Club once more in an encounter I insisted at first on calling serendipitous, the chance discovery of an interesting subject and a useful body of data. Only in the long effort to write of the history and people behind those magical, talismanic, postage-stamp books have I come to recognize why this subject, particularly, and at that moment, especially, seemed Page 5 intellectually compelling and fraught with possibility.

She has been immensely supportive and always understanding of its claims on my time. And I thank her, too, for reading to me and for introducing me to the magic of the library. Last but certainly not least, there is the matter of my debt to the two people with whom I have shared the most Kathy and Kate. Without their sustaining presence in my life, this book would never have been completed. In the years since I began this project, Kate has grown from a toddler bouncing along at my side into a funny, assured, and very strong young woman.

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