While working on my novel over my lunch break, I ran across this question-and-answer from a reader and writer Neil Gaiman. Gaiman’s response to the problem of the quirkiness of the best-seller lists is a refreshingly common-sense one. The best we can do, and what we should do all the time, is simply do the work we’re interested in. If it’s good work, those who recognize good work will tell us, and if the work strikes even one chord of truth or beauty (never mind the entire symphony), it will find its audience.
[UPDATE: In relation to my post above, I note this afternoon the passing of songwriter Rod McKuen, whose poems in Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows I used to perform in Oral Interpretation contests in middle school. That McKuen’s poetry was as bad as the critics cited in the Wikipedia article said it was, I cannot now deny. Nevertheless, it sold in the millions. Why? McKuen had what not every writer chooses to cultivate: the common touch. He also had musical talent, but it is next-to-impossible to marry these forms, as McKuen evidently tried to do in print on many occasions. Music and poetry are separate arts. A song lyric always depends upon the music accompanying it for its effectiveness. Very few such lyrics can stand alone with the impact of both sound and image that genuine poetry can provide. Yet, anyone who could produce the musical score to the film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie deserves to be remembered with respect.]