If you ever want to read an author who won't be read, pick up a copy of the critically acclaimed "How Animals Mate" by Daniel Mueller. He's one of the writing elite, one of those authors cherished by a small portion of the intelligentsia, but ignored by the rest of the literate world. Why? Because he isn't commercial. He'll continue to be published by small press; his work will be discussed by the self important who pat one another on the back at how cultured they are...but the average person? No. The average reader will continue to pick up the fast and easily digestible. The average person will read the bestseller.
William Jones in a comment to another post wrote: "I had a stance before I read the responses. Now I'm no longer sure. :) I guess I'll take a different approach. Instead of guessing what the reader will skip, is it possible to guess what the editor will skip? These two I'd say are slightly different. Getting past the editor gets the story to the reader. Or is that too commercial, too mercenary?"
How many people do you know who have read "Gravity's Rainbow" by Pynchon? What about "Rabbit Run" by Updyke (Jon, I'm sorry, I tried reading it again and had to put it down). What about "Ulysses" by James Joyce?
Too commercial? Too mercenary?This comment inspired me to consider the different literature that is read by a large number of people and literature which is praised by the few people who critique for a living and a handful of academics. Should a person have to dig through a work, fighting and slogging paragraph by paragraph for meaning? Does that make it great? Can we argue that a novel which is easily accessible, with layered depth of narrative, has a greater chance of being a work of art?
After all, if a writer doesn't write to be read, then what's the point? Mercenary? Yes. Hell, yes. But making your writing marketable doesn't mean sacrificing quality. Maybe the greatest novel ever written is still out there, but unless it is readable (and that doesn't mean written at a sixth grade level), unless it gives people a chance to embrace it, then that novel will continue to go along winning the award: The Greatest Unread Novel.