The New Yorker: The Invention of the Beach Read

“Around the turn of the nineteenth century, urbanization and industrialization gave summertime a new radiance—it offered a chance to escape the sweaty, overcrowded city and reconnect with nature. The steamship and the railroad made vacation getaways more accessible. Periodicals and newspapers began running features on resort towns and advertised summer activities and goods: cruises, camping gear, mineral springs. In the pages of Harper’s, the artist Winslow Homer published chic illustrations of fashionable, sun-dazed women watching horse races or strolling along the ocean. In short, bolstered by the era’s print culture, a new market of pleasure-seeking Americans emerged.

To accommodate them, the publishing industry got to work shaping a correspondingly alluring discourse around summer reading. Some Victorians were concerned about the vulgar seductions of fiction, especially the sensational stories that multiplied as production costs declined. But the book industry seized the chance to rebrand summer novels as “an acceptable middle-class pleasure,” Harrington-Lueker writes.  . . . “I really believe,” the Reverend T. De Witt Talmage wrote, in 1876, “that there is more pestiferous trash read among the intelligent classes in July and August than in all the other ten months of the year.””

Read the full article from The New Yorker here:

The Invention of the Beach Read


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