|POP CULTURE: Glenn Yeffeth publishes “Smart” books for smart fans.
photography by Jeremy Sharp
Glenn yeffeth takes the opinions of fanatics quite seriously. His Dallas-based company, BenBella Books, publishes Smart Pop, a series of anthologies featuring light-hearted but heavy-minded essays from writers of every ilk, opining about media of every sort. Snape’s mysterious sex appeal in the Harry Potter series? The parenting philosophies found on the Gilmore Girls? How cell phones would have altered the courtship of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice? It’s all Smart Pop.
“Sometimes our books outsell the official [companion] books, because people would rather have smart people talking frankly about something they love than have the official line,” Yeffeth says.
BenBella published its first Smart Pop title, Taking the Red Pill, a philosophical examination of The Matrix, in 2003. Since then Smart Pop has released 30 titles, selling more than 100,000 copies. Contrary to expectations, a commercially successful show doesn’t guarantee a book’s fan base. “Plenty of people I know watched and enjoyed Everybody Loves Raymond,” Smart Pop editor Leah Wilson says. “But I can’t think of one who loved it, who would talk about it in depth with friends the next day. A show like Veronica Mars, on the other hand, doesn’t have a lot of commercial success, but the people who do watch it are deeply devoted.”
Smart Pop has found a niche in respecting these devoted few, and recently BenBella expanded its series to include two Smart Pop subcategories: a “Psychology of” set, featuring essays by psychologists and other mental health professionals; and, similarly, a “Science of” set. The “Psychology” series already includes The Psychology of The Simpsons: D’oh! and The Psychology of Harry Potter. Coming this month: The Psychology of Survivor.