What IS Upper Middle Brow?

Too often, authors, creators, and their audiences pigeonhole themselves and each other, claiming tiny slices of culture to inhabit: “literary,” “mass-market,” “popular,” “sophisticated,” “page-turner,” “beach read,” “dense,” “heavily plotted,” “post-plot,” “pretentious,” “lowbrow,” “highbrow.”

We say “Enough!” We applaud the writers and artists who refuse to occupy one tranche of creativity, who instead range all over the literary ladder, publishing highly-crafted works that still appeal to a wide audience. We call those writers and those works “Upper Middle Brow,” a play on the fact that most people work to avoid both high- and low-class labeling. We’ve selected our title, and the works we will read, watch, and listen to each episode, on the basis that we find these authors endlessly interesting: how does Neal Stephenson manage to deploy glittering sentences about a post-United States North America in which samurai swords, pizza delivery, Ukrainian skater thrash metal, and the metaverse all feature prominently? How does Patricia Highsmith reverse the mystery novel, rivet our attention, and take us on a tour of sociopathy that feels like a marriage of The Great Gatsby and a handbook for identity theft?

As we publish episodes, we’ll try to answer those questions, but we’ll also linger in the company of these great writers who dared to defy easy type-casting. We’ll read Octavia Butler, Jennifer Egan, Andy Weir, Jonathan Lethem, Patrick O’Brian, Ursula Le Guin, Phillip K. Dick, and many, many others.

Got a book or a movie you’d like us to consider? Drop us a line below and although we can’t commit to reading it, we’ll definitely write you back.

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