"Writing is regarded as at most a harmless eccentricity, like an abnormal appetite for marsh greens."
I liked this quotation of Ernest Buckler's which I read on this short bio of this Nova Scotian author from the NS archives for the 25th anniversary of his death .
I'm embarrassed to say I haven't read one book by Ernest Buckler. I would say his work isn't well known at all although he is described as a " one of Canada's pre-eminent authors of the time." This article made me want to read more of his work and I was able to satisfy some of that urge immediately on the NS archives site as it has, among the other documents from the archives on him, an article he wrote which was published in The Atlantic Advocate in 1962 entitled "Bestsellers make strange bedfellows,." It is a time capsule of sorts, a view of what was "popular" reading at the time, as Buckler points out, a very eclectic mixture of the silly and the sublime - "...baffling incongruities abound!" - and his consideration of what common factors if any combined to rack up sales.
"All this seems to prove that, in novels at least, subject matter is not the big thing in making a best seller, " And "It is a mistake to suppose that sex by itself can make best sellers ..." and "...it is simply not true that excellence is inevitable poison at the box office.."
He seems to think advertising made little difference, at least if the book was without merit. I am not sure I would agree with him on that point but perhaps it was true in the sixties. He did admit that once a book had reached "best seller status", readers wanting to read what everyone else was reading tended to "perpetuate its tenure there." But what gets the book to the top in the first place? The title? The author's name? He comes in the end to the conclusion that the book has to have "personality" , an intangible quality akin to a person's which intrigues. He ends with a touch of humour telling the story of a reader who wrote him to praise his book for its "good clear print."
The short story "The Line Fence" published in the magazine Better Farming in 1955 promised better reading but unfortunately the site only offers the first few paragraphs! Later in the set of documents shown however is a newspaper photograph of Buckler at a reception where he received the Order of Canada and which includes a picture of Miss Evelyn Garbary of Wolfville.
I guess I should head down to the library to see if they have a copy of The Mountain and the Valley.