You would never forget such an impressive book cover, as it implies there is a need to turn over a new leaf in popular literature. As an English teacher with linguistics background at the University of Hong Kong, From lowbrow to nobrow, a recent bestseller, has enlightened me as to the crucial role of popular literature that has escaped most of the attention of both academic and general readership. While there is still widespread assumption that, popular literature (though the dominant art in our times) neither can be art nor would be so popular, From lowbrow to nobrow has set the scene for the rise of novel literary-cultural formation.
The author, Peter Swirski, is Honorary Professor of American Literature at the University of British Columbia, and Associate Professor and Head of American Studies at the University of Hong Kong. Swirski is a brilliant literary critic and has written nine books in American Literature and Culture, and has contributed more than fifty articles in various places. Swirski's works have been highly praised by numerous scholars and literary critics. In From Lowbrow to Nobrow, you will see why Swirski deserves wide recognition as a scholar in American literature, in the way he writes clearly, quotes intelligently, argues provocatively, approaches his portrait of nobrow culture with originality ...
What makes this book original and praiseworthy is Swirski proposes that both highbrow and lowbrow literary cultures have been interpenetrating each other from at least the early in the twentieth-century, i.e. decades before what John Seabrook proposes in Nobrow (2000). Swirski begins with some groundbreaking questions about the nature of popular fiction, defending with sound arguments an innovative way of viewing it as `artertainment'. He then moves on to give a history of popular fiction publishing with the support of some recent statistical data, followed by an insightful analysis of "nobrow aesthetics." As the heart of the book, Swirski evaluates three 20th-century novels, which have almost escaped the attention of both academic and general readership, to demonstrate they have innovatively established a wide spectrum of aesthetic qualities of popular culture. And pages in, you are amazed by the original mix of soul searching and thought provoking popular literature, as represented in Karel Capek's War with the Newts, Raymond Chandler's Playback and Stanislaw Lem's Chain of Chance.
From lowbrow to nobrow definitely is influening the way we look at popular culture. After reading, I recalled some popular fictions or movies, and started to realise they could have the nature of nobrow aesthetics, as Swirski proposes. Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks, caused much debate in 1994 after winning six Oscars, but it is a portrayal of life, conveying a message that any person, no matter how seemingly stupid, can change any person's life, no matter their stature. Some Chinese popular fictions written in Ming dynasty, such as Jin Ping Mei (The Plum in the Golden Vase), also play a significant part in ancient Chinese literary art, appreciated by everyday people not only in Ming dynasty but over centuries till now. The Last Mimzy (2007), starring Timothy Hutton and Joely Richardson, that is based on the acclaimed 1943 science fiction short story, Mimsy Were the Borogoves by Lewsi Padgett is an insipration and discovery of humanity's future ... Instead of "colour[ing] a colourless day" (p. 177), popular literature can lead us to a real discovery of life and culture. As Swirski argues, in many cases far from thoughtless pulp, "popular literature expresses and reflects the aesthetic and social values of its readers" (p.6).
Read From lowbrow to nobrow OR it's your loss!