CRF Blog

Midlist Crisis

by Bill Hayes

In Midlist Crisis, an essay for the New York Times Book Review, Phillip Lopate writes about the effect of literary awards on some writers.

[T]here are those rare American authors who, once placed in the limelight, manage to stay there: let’s say a hundred in any given era. I can’t speak for those anointed ones, those household names, those demigods; my experience is rather in the other camp, with the thousands of midlist writers whom the reading public may be dimly, subliminally aware of — or not. Much teeth-gnashing, cursing and praying can be heard from this camp. Its occupants have not yet given up the dream of ascending to the Club of Hundred through some “breakthrough” book, splashy advertising campaign or other fata morgana, and what keeps them in a state of constant suspense is that from time to time a bone is tossed to them — a flattering review, say, a runner-up designation for a literary award or, best of all, a university post. If the world were to deny them any recognition, they could at last resign themselves stoically if not cheerfully to their nonentity status. But it is the inconsistent application of applause and indifference that makes their situation tormenting, and drives them into lesser or greater fits of paranoia. [more]