Of Virginia Library Exhibit To Explore Bestselling Fiction And Its
Impact On Society And Culture
February 28, 2002--
and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University
WHAT: Exhibition "Rave
Reviews: Bestselling Fiction in America"
WHEN: Feb. 28 - June 10
WHERE: McGregor Room, Special
Collections, Alderman Library
Popular novels often mirror American
culture, showcasing societys longings, values and morals.
In addition to reflecting current views, bestsellers can also bring
about change in thought, social practices and ideals. Popular fiction
and its impact on society is the focus of the University of Virginia
Library exhibition "Rave Reviews: Bestselling Fiction in America."
"Rave Reviews" explores American
reading habits and chronicles the development of the bestseller
from the first list of sales figures published in the Bookman
in 1895 to todays fiction blockbuster, which often is
marketed as a bestseller before it is published. Through bestsellers
such as The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, Marjorie Morningstar
by Herman Wouk, Peyton Place by Grace Metalious, and To
Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, the exhibition looks at how
fiction can experiment with new ideas and influence values about
society, race, sexuality, religion, ethnicity and government.
"Bestsellers are an index of American
culture. They reveal a lot about our tastes, our daily lives, our
fears and pleasures," said Rave Reviews co-curator John Unsworth,
director of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities.
"Popular fiction charts the evolution of morals and mores. What's
scandalous in one generation is commonplace in the next (and sometimes,
vice versa). And for readers, these novels always bring back personal
memories as well."
The items in the exhibition are drawn
mostly from the librarys Lillian Gary Taylor Collection of
Popular American Fiction. Lillian Gary Taylor (1865-1961) was an
avid book collector who attempted to secure first editions of the
most popular works of American fiction from 1752 through 1950. In
18 small, leather-bound notebooks, Taylor meticulously recorded
each book in her collection, faithfully reproduced the title page
(including illustrations) by hand, and noted facts about where the
book was purchased and the cost. Having read most of the books in
her collection, she often included critiques, thus providing a unique
picture of how bestsellers were received in society at her time.
Highlights of books collected and
treasured by Taylor range from The Last of the Mohicans by
James Fenimore Cooper to John Steinbecks East of Eden.
Works by familiar 19th century authors such as Herman
Melville and Stephen Crane join the works of 20th century
authors Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Herman
Wouk and Philip Roth.
Among the exhibition highlights is
the first book to sell over one million copies in a short amount
of time, Margaret Mitchells Gone With the Wind (1936),
displayed with the first American bestseller, Harriet Beecher Stowes
Uncle Toms Cabin (1852). Works from contemporary authors
Jan Karon, Stephen King and John Grisham represent current bestsellers.
"Popular fiction is one way Americans
experiment with social change. The popularity of some books fades
quickly, while others such as J.D. Salingers Catcher in
the Rye (1951) pervade the national culture," said Lynda
Fuller Clendenning, "Rave Reviews" co-curator and interim director
of the Mary and David Harrison Institute for American History, Literature,
The exhibition uses more than just
books to illustrate the impact bestsellers have on society and culture.
Visitors to the exhibition will hear music from the soundtrack of
the 1939 movie Gone With the Wind and can view film clips
of other movies made from bestsellers, such as Rebecca, Birth
of a Nation, and The Magnificent Ambersons. The online
exhibition, located at www.lib.virginia.edu/exhibits/rave_reviews,
encourages readers to post their memories and thoughts on popular
fiction and its impact on them.
"Rave Reviews: Bestselling Fiction
in America" is on display Feb. 28 through June 10 in the McGregor
Room of Alderman Library. The McGregor Room is open Monday through
Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p. m., and Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to
5 p.m. For more information, call (434) 243-8969. The exhibition
is sponsored by a gift from Mr. and Mrs. George B. Bolton of San
Contact: Melissa Cox Norris, (434)