Peta Jinnath Andersen’s excellent PopMatters piece on the utility of placing advertisements in books effectively challenged the notion that such a possibility is a recent marketing development. It also, for what it’s worth, forced me to rethink my own objections to in-text advertising—objections that were not much more sophisticated than something along the lines of “No way, man. I’ll never support writers who sell out, man.” Not very sophisticated, to say the least.
When I initially read Andersen’s article, I could not help but balk at, for instance, the references to Apple products that abound in Stieg Larsson’s The-Girl-Who-Does-Stuff series. My reservations about what I perceived to be really clunky writing—above and beyond the obvious product placement gestures—were steeped in classic academic condescension: “classic” works of literature stand The Test of TimeTM and do not require such obvious connections to the “real world” outside of them in order for them to be relevant. Larsson is pandering, I thought. However, as I stepped back from that decidedly uncritical point of view, I realized 1) that I was being a snob and 2) that product placement/advertising in literature, at least in the contemporary era, has a fairly extensive, if often unacknowledged, history.