By Ronald Weber
"Those interested in the crazy business of writing will find Hired Pens an illuminating addition to their library."
The New York Times Book Review
"Weber is a meticulous scholar. He tells the story of professional writing in America with hundreds of details."
The Columbus Dispatch
"Previous authors have covered the ground he walks in this new book, but no one has covered it better…Weber is a masterful writer, but he also relies heavily on the autobiographical writings of the subjects he has chosen; that reliance is not misplaced because the passages he cites are so pertinent and illuminating."
Just as mass-market magazines and cheap books have played important roles in the creation of an American identity, those skilled craftsmen (and women) whose careers are the subjects of Ronald Weber’s narrative profoundly influenced the outlook and strategies of the high-culture writers who are generally the focus of literary studies.
Hired Pens, a history of the writing profession in the United States, recognizes the place of independent writers who wrote for their livelihood from the 1830s and 1840s, with the first appearance of a broad-based print culture, to the 1960s.
Many realist authors began on this American Grub Street. Jack London turned out hackwork for any paying market he could find, while Scott Fitzgerald’s stories in slick magazines in the 1920s and early ’30s established his name as a writer.
From Edgar Allen Poe’s earliest forays into writing for pay to Sylvia Plath’s attempts to produce fiction for mass-circulation journals, Hired Pens documents without agenda the evolution of professional writing in all its permutations—travel accounts, sport, popular biography and history, genre and series fiction—and the culture it fed.
Ronald Weber is Professor of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame and the author of many books, both fiction and nonfiction. He is the editor of The Reporter as Artist: A Look at the New Journalism Controversy. More info →
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Expanding the scope of American borderland and frontier literary scholarship, West of the Border examines the writings of nineteenth- and turn-of-the-century Native, African, Asian, and Anglo American frontier writers. This book views frontiers as “human spaces” where cultures make contact as it considers multicultural frontier writers who speak from “west of the border.”James
Westward expansion on the North American continent by European settlers generated a flurry of writings on the frontier experience over the course of a hundred years.
America’s Sketchbook recaptures the drama of nineteenth-century American cultural life, placing at its center a genre—the literary sketch—more available than the novel, less governable by the critical establishment, and shot through with the tensions and types of local and national culture-making.
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