When Emile Zola's novel Germinal (an exploration of the sordid lives of a group of destitute French miners) reached American shores, it caused something of a scandal. One day Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., an avid reader, was asked about the book by a Boston socialite.
"I hear you have been reading Germinal," she remarked. "Boston is still shocked by Zola. What do you think of him?"
"Improving," Holmes replied, "but dull."