"The business of America may be business, but the business of American literature in the past century has been largely to insist that the nation is, in pursuing business, wasting itself on unworthy objects," reminds National Affairs' Algis Valiunas — Business and the Literati. The author continues,
- In the eyes of most novelists and playwrights who deal with the subject, business is not an honorable vocation, but rather an obsessive scramble for lucre and status. Tycoons are plunderers. Salesmen are poor slobs truckling to their bosses, though most of them aspire to be cormorants and highwaymen, too. The mass desire to strike it rich has launched a forced march to nowhere. In short, American literature hates American business for what it has done to the souls of the rich, the poor, and the middling alike.
Right-thinking people now take it for granted that, in criticizing business, American literature has saved (or at least elevated) the nation's soul. But after a century of slander, that assumption needs revisiting. In so doing, it is worth examining the process through which our literati have framed the way we think about capitalism, and especially those who practice it. How did our culture come to hold the image of the businessman that it now does? Which literary works and authors have had done the most to shape that (mostly negative) image? And in this casting of the entrepreneur as villain in America's morality tale, which culture has been exposed as more corrupt — that of American business, or American letters?