1970s: Print Culture
1970s: Print Culture
Serious readers in the 1970s had good reason to be confused. Critics surveyed a publishing world that seemed no longer to be producing great works of literature, and they proclaimed that the novel was dead. What they might have said, however, was that the novel was changing and changing fast. No longer were the great novels being produced by white American male writers; in the 1970s, some of the best serious fiction was being produced by minorities, women like Alice Walker (1944–) and Toni Morrison (1931–), and people living outside the United States, such as Gabriel García Marquez (1928–) and Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986).
The market for popular fiction boomed in the 1970s, as Americans lapped up exciting, fast-paced books by skilled popular novelists. Harold Robbins (1916–1997) and Judith Krantz (1937–) specialized in "trash fiction," with its sensational doses of sex, money, and power. Novels about spying and global political intrigue frequently topped the best-seller lists. The most popular writers of these novels were Robert Ludlum (1927–2001), Irving Wallace (1916–1990), and Leon Uris (1924–). Barbara Cartland (1901–2000) and Phyllis A. Whitney (1903–) were the queens of the romance novel. A new series— called Harlequin Romances—offered a steady stream of romance fiction intended for women. The 1970s also saw the first appearance of the man who would dominate the best-seller list for the rest of the century: horror writer Stephen King (1947–). One of the surprise hits of the decade was a historical account of the life of a black family titled Roots, by Alex Haley (1921–1992). Roots later became a popular television miniseries.
The American magazine market continued to splinter, with new magazines being created to serve all variety of interests. Three magazines that started in the 1970s provide a taste of this variety. People aimed to provide upscale gossip and photos to Americans hungry for any word on celebrities. Ms. covered serious issues of interest to feminists, while Hustler certainly did not.