It is such a cliché: critics roundly denounce a book as a bad piece of fiction, and brand a writer as bad or terrible, while we, the general public, adore the work and propel it to bestseller lists.
I am referring of course to the Dan Browns (this era) and the Mickey Spillanes (then era) and other popular/commercial fiction writers whom the literary set doesn't like but the public adores.
I say, why this disconnect?
This has been the case since the study of literature became a "profession" rather than an avocation.
Even as far back as the 1860s, this sentiment, this idea that popular fiction is not worthy, was prevalent.
Punch magazine satirized the then 'sensational' novels' reception by the intelligentsia as follows:
(a species of writing conceived for) ‘Harrowing the Mind, Making the Flesh Creep, Causing the Hair to Stand on End, Giving Shocks to the Nervous System, Destroying Conventional Moralities, and generally Unfitting the Public for the Prosaic Avocations of Life'
I was just reading the preface of Wilkie Collins' to his book The Woman in White dated 1861, and I found his words quoted below rather prescient and pertinent. He says:
"I have always held the old-fashioned opinion that the primary object of a work of fiction should be to tell a story; and I have never believed that the novelist who properly performed this first condition of his art, was in danger, on that account, of neglecting the delineation of character—for this plain reason, that the effect produced by any narrative of events is essentially dependent, not on the events themselves, but on the human interest which is directly connected with them. It may be possible, in novel-writing, to present characters successfully without telling a story; but it is not possible to tell a story successfully without presenting characters: their existence, as recognizable realities, being the sole condition on which the story can be effectively told. The only narrative which can hope to lay a strong hold on the attention of readers, is a narrative which interests them about men and women—for the perfectly obvious reason that they are men and women themselves.
The reception accorded to ‘The Woman in White’ has practically confirmed these opinions, and has satisfied me that I may trust to them in the future. Here is a novel which has met with a very kind reception, because it is a Story; and here is a story, the interest of which—as I know by the testimony, voluntarily addressed to me, of the readers themselves—is never disconnected from the interest of character."
I think this disconnect is because the art of 'novelling' was somehow given greater prominence than that accorded to the original art of storytelling.
I think, given the statistics that dispassionately tell us that commercial fiction now outsells literary fiction worldwide, that storytelling needs to be given its due in terms of respect.