Dutton’s John Parsley Tackles the Literary vs. Commercial Debate in Poets & Writers Column

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John Parsley, VP & Editor-In-Chief, Dutton Books, recently penned a “Recommends” column for Poets & Writers, addressing the compulsion to classify books. “One of my biggest pet peeves is the pressure to classify a book as either literary or commercial,” Parsley writes. “Is literary code for quality? Is commercial code for entertaining? Are they codes for highbrow or lowbrow, accessible or challenging, better or worse, fun or worthwhile, timeless or of-the-moment?”

Parsley continues, “In working with Jason Mott on his National Book Award–winning novel, HELL OF A BOOK, it occurred to me almost immediately on submission that it was both literary and commercial. I think most books, indeed many of our most beloved books, are both.”

“I would wager that the best books come from writers who are also less concerned about their book being one thing or another, and more concerned about writing about people who are fleshed-out and living their stories on the page. I’m proud to be working at an imprint that often blurs the commercial-literary line, and to be an editor looking for books of high quality with pages that turn themselves, for which there are many potential readers.”

Read Parsley’s complete P&W column here.

Posted: February 8, 2022