Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Which State Is The Literary Capital?

Literary Hub recently ran a piece that highlighted the number of masterpieces that were penned based on the birth state of an author. Such studies are interesting, but really useless.  Here’s why:

1.      If the list is compiled based on birth state and not whether one lived there while penning the book or even if he or she spent a significant amount of time then this is kind of meaningless.

2.      The list was compiled only for fiction and poetry – not non-fiction.  It’s incomplete.

3.      It only tabulated how many authors won any of three prizes deemed ‘most prestigious’ by the article’s writer:  the Pulitzer, National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award.  Is that really the most accurate way to judge if something is a literary masterpiece?

4.      It failed to take into consideration that each state’s population should be measured into this ranking, though there were some surprises.  For instance, Texas, now the second largest state by population, only has seven awards, while a small state like Mississippi garnered 11.  New York, with the most at 71, more than doubled the nearest state, California, which has a population twice that of New York.

The state with the fewest award-winning masterpieces?  Delaware, with just one!  Wisconsin, West Virginia, Washington, Oregon, Arkansas, and Nebraska were right behind with just two apiece.  Just 10 states cracked double digits, and mind you that some authors or books won more than one award, which means many states produced few great writers.

Since I’m from New York, born and raised there, I will note some of the biggest names to make the list from the Empire State:  Edith Wharton, Bernard Malamud, E.L. Doctorow, William Kennedy, Louise Gluck, and Joyce Carol Oates.

These awards only go back about a century so they don’t reflect older books.  Some of our most revered writers were born overseas – Dickens, Austen, Orwell, Shakespeare, etc.

I would have been interested in seeing a study, if possible, of how many books take place in a certain state or city.  I would also like to see how many books that achieved best-seller status and placed high at a bigger slate of awards were written by those who lived in a state at the time the book was written.

I think few would argue that New York is the literary capital of the nation, no matter how you measure things.

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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