Books: What's Wrong?

Two novels with a great deal in common perched last week at the top of the best-seller list: Laura Z. Hobson's Gentleman's Agreement and Sinclair Lewis' Kingsblood Royal. Both were earnest, pamphleteering tracts on the U.S. race problem. As novels, they were not very good. Below them, the fictional bestseller list was studded with historical novels of a type which has become so standardized that even their book jackets look alike: an open-bosomed beauty in the foreground, a frigate in the distance.

Most of these best-sellers would fail to outlive the month in which...

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