Next came "a compelling tale of a woman's slide into madness":
While we stopped sliding after that, the fate of women in fiction continued to be pretty bleak:
More misery for women dominated the next tale:
Of course, if this is all terrific and, like the publishing industry, your idea of a good read is "difficulty" and "toxicity", the next one should fit the bill as well:
Clearly, publishers would ask me: What's wrong with you, what else do you want to curl up with other than ghastliness really? I would then feel feeble for wanting something enjoyable - which doesn't mean dumb, I loved Middlemarch, for instance, but I do admit that possibly the greatest example of a novel ever written (which leaves one wondering why most of her others are so BORING) might be too much to ask.
I left the shop puzzled once again by the world of contemporary publishing. Already I'd been baffled that a novel that is several hundred pages long but made up of a single sentence in which the three words "the fact that" are repeated over and over and over again has been awarded prize after prize, even though it is unreadable for anyone who gets impatient with "the fact that". I'd been similarly confused that the work that won the Booker this year is introduced on Amazon as being "an unconventional novel in the sense that it doesn't have a plot".
I went home and read my friend Mark Griffith's blog (or weblog, as he insists on calling it) Other Languages, and there I found the following item, which at least gave me some insight into publishing, if not into whether or not there is a market for the stuff being printed and awarded prizes, or whether many people are buying books they hope they will like but in the end find disappointing and can't finish:
A few helpful remarks from publishers currently looking for fiction. Metaphorosis Books is issuing "a reprint anthology for Vegan science fiction and fantasy stories published in the previous year -- They want stories that happen to be vegan - no meat, no hunting, no horse-riding, no leather." The Were-Traveler wants "weird fiction where the setting is a carnival, theme park, circus or fair/festival. 'Clowns can be part of the story, but they don't have to be.'" Hybrid's 'Genderful' is a "furry fiction anthology in two parts which aims to explore how furry and gender interact. They want submissions that explore the implications of non-cisgender life within the context of furry."
One thing I do remember being told by someone who was involved in book production, in the year when Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time was a bestseller: "There is a huge difference between a book that is a bestseller and a book that is widely read."