|Elizabeth Seyfert||Michener, James A.: Chesapeake|
|Assignment 1: Bibliographic Description|
|1. First Edition Publication Information||James A. Michener. Chesapeake. New York: Random House, Inc., 1978.
Copyright: James A. Michener.
|2. First Edition in Cloth, Paper, or Both?||The first American edition was published in trade cloth
binding in 1978.
|3. Image of Cover Art||A13191000203170223.jpg|
|4. Pagination||440 leaves, pp. [vii]viii-x[xi-xiv][1-3]4-911-4345-56
|5. Edited and/or Introduced?||On the second leaf other books by James A. Michener are
advertised. In the author's acknowledgments on pages
vii-x he thanks specific people who have taught him various
aspects of the Chesapeake area. The book is dedicated to
Mari Michener on page xi:"To Mari Michener who cared for
the geese, the herons, the ospreys and the cardinals."
|6. Illustrated?||In the first edition there are colored maps by J.P. Tremblay
on the inside of the binding in the front and back. The dust
jacket was designed by R. Adelson and illustrated by Peter Cox.
Black and white vignette illustrations by Carol Lowenstein are found the
title page and each chapter page:3,10,44,57,120,129,164,185,235,
|7. Sample Illustration||A17191000203170223.jpg|
|8. General Appearance||The book is in great condition. The cover and all the pages show very
little wear and tear.
The first edition has adequate margins and adequate spacing
between lines, making it very readable.
Size of pages: 14mm x 21mm
Size of margins: 1.7mm x 1.8mm
Area of text on page: 85R
|10. Description of Paper||The paper is thick, cream colored, and good quality. The pages
are in very good condition without tears, discoloration, or fading.
|11. Description of Binding||The binding has green trade cloth in the calico grain. The spine is stamped
in gold lettering and the front is stamped with a small gilt
illustration in the bottom right corner.
Transcription of the Spine: CHESAPEAKE|JAMES A. MICHENER|
|12. Title Page Transcription||CHESAPEAKE|JAMES A. MICHENER|[Random House Logo]RANDOM HOUSE.
|13. Image of Title Page||A113191000203170223.jpg|
|14. Manuscript Holdings||Unknown|
|Assignment 2: Publication History|
|1. Other Editions:||Other Editions:
-James, Michener. Chesapeake. New York: Random House, 1978.
386 p., illus.,maps within covers
-Michener, James. The Watermen: Selections from Chesapeake.
New York: Random House, 1979.
|4. First Edition printings or impressions?||First Edition Printings:
By 1979 there were five printings with 500,000 copies in
print and the paper ordered for another 100,000 copies.
|5. Editions from other publishers?||Editions from other publishers:
-"Chesapeake" Mandarin: London, 78,91, 91.
-"Chesapeake" Easton Press: Norwalk, Conn.: Easton Press, 1978 and 1989.
2 v.(x 865 p.) : ill. (some col.), maps; 24cm.
-"Chesapeake" Ballantine Books, 1983, New York., 1083p. Ö("A Fawcett Crest Book."-T.p. verso.)
-"Chesapeake" Fawcett Crest, 1978, New York, 1083 p. 18 cm, (A paperback)
-"Chesapeake" Fawcett Crest, 1978, New York, 1083 p. 17 cm
Sources: Worldcat, Eureka
|6. Last date in print?||Last date in Print:
In print on March 23, 2000 with two publishers.
|7. Total copies sold?||Total Copies sold:
Unknown, but it was the best selling novel in Random House's history(in 1979.)
|8. Sales by year?||Sales figures by year:
By the end of 1978 they had sold 851,729 copies, which is
twice as many copies as Micheners Centennial
(the lead fiction seller of 1974.)
|12. Performances in other media?||-36 Sound Cassettes. Newport Beach, CA: Books on Tape, 1992
-2 Sound Cassettes. New York, NY: Random House Audio Books, 1986.
-Michener, James Albert. Chesapeake: Roman Sv. 2. Knizni klub, Tiskarny Vimperk:Prada, 1994.
-Michener, James Albert. Chesapeake: Roman. Sv. 1. Knizni klub, Tiskarny Vimperk:Prada, 1993.
-Michener, James Albert. Zaliv(Chesapeake in Slovenian). Zalozba Lipa: Koper, 1983.
-Michener, James A. Bahia de Chesapeake. Plaza y Janes: Barcelona, 1980.
-Michener, James A. Baia de Chesapeake. Editora Record: Rio de Janerio, 1981. (Portuguses translation)
-Michener, James A. Chesapeake. Publicacoes Europa-America: Lisboa, 1978. (Portuguese translation)
-Michener, James A. Baia de Chesapeake. Circulo do Livro: Sao Paulo, Brasil, 1985. (Portuguese translation)
-Michener, James A. Chesapeake: roman. Editions du Seuil: Paris, 1979. (French translation)
-Michener, James A. Bahia de Chesapeake. Plaza & Janes: Barcelona,1980 (Spanish translation)
|15. Sequels or Prequels?||N/A|
|Assignment 3: Brief Biography|
|(see entry for "Hawaii" for biographical overview)
"An awareness of American good fortune, and an awareness of the ephemeral nature of all such good fortune, pervade and inform everything that Michener has written for forty years."-George Becker
Many words come to mind when asked to sum up James Michener: writer, world traveler, artist, educator, entertainer, storyteller, politician, millionaire, philanthropist. But the most accurate is patriot. His novels as well his biography reveal a passion for America on many different levels. He loved traveling throughout the county, experiencing and absorbing as much as he possibly could, and then revealing the history. Michener developed a great talent for immersing himself in any culture and then telling the "story" of that place throughout time. He has a tight connection with the American landscape and has specific ideas on how it should be used. Michener was also a patriot simply because of his faith in American ideals. Coming from a modest background, his success has made him a product of the Land of Opportunity. He also stresses the American ideal of human tolerance in many of his works.
Michener's novel Chesapeake is the epitome of his patriotism. In 1975 he moved to the eastern shore of Maryland and lived for two years in a small historic fishing village. In the "acknowledgments" section before the novel he states "I first sailed upon the Chesapeake in 1927 and was a frequent passenger thereafter. From my earliest days on the bay I considered writing about it, but always postponed beginning until such time as I could live along its shores for some extended period." Michener showed a huge passion for this area of the country, along with many others. He spent extensive time doing research in the Chesapeake to be able to make his stories as close to fact as possible.
In Chesapeake specifically, Michener places great value in environmental issues and brings up issues of the exploitation of the American landscape. He believes in a proper relationship between man and environment in which a healthy balance is needed. Becker says of Michener's work in his biography:
"From the novels we become aware of two values above all others that Michener singles out as important. The first of these is human tolerance, a deliberate diminution of the inherited, and possibly inherent, racism. The other is a relation of man to his environment that is healthful and fruitful. Man cannot flourish unless he puts the land to proper use."
Michener's love of America can also be found in the historical elements of Chesapeake and the rest of his novels. He begins with Native Americans and ends in the 1970's. His story includes extensive American history including the arrival of the British and the Civil War. Michener also reveals his patriotism in the stance he takes on social issues in Chesapeake. He stresses the need for human acceptance against racial discrimination in America specifically in the sections on Indians and slaves. All of Michener's novels illustrate his passion for his country.
Reviews of Chesapeake are mostly two-fold, pointing out its numerous flaws and then praising it for somehow transcending these flaws.
Critiques of Chesapeake are extremely condescending and patronizing, describing the book as too long and too low on literally merit. Most reviews of Chesapeake find fault with its length, similarity to his other novels, monotonous quality, blur between historical fact and fiction, broad scope, and its lack of character development.
Many reviews of Michener's Chesapeake begin with phrases such as "another blockbuster," "typical Michener production," and "virtually identical inform to." James Michener has become famous his long historical narratives about American places, and his reviewers often treat them similarly.
The amount of pages is frequently remarked upon and jokes are often cracked. John Beety of The New Yorker states "My best advise is don't read it; my second is don't drop it on your foot." The historical aspect is also a major source of criticism: "The history he serves up in such massive helpings tends to arrive at the table half baked." Chesapeake covers four centuries of history on the Bay. In one of the harshest critiques John Beety says, "This is an umitigatedly boring book. Why rouse the ghost of Henry James by calling it a novel? It's fiction, all right, but is doesn't succeed in representing life, nor does it bring us news-one of the novels unheralded jobs-unless it comes to you that we had slavery here in the U.S.A. or that the British burned Washington in the War of 1812. As for its form, I can only quote James: this is a 'loose and baggy monster.'" The New York Times Book Review explains how the novel is weakened by large span of history: "The barrage of historical tidbits is incessant and frequently simplistic." The final aspect of Chesapeake repeatedly criticized is the lack of character development. Michener's characters are described as "rushed" to the point that the reader doesn't work up any attachment to them because they are consistently diverting.
Frequently in the same review Chesapeake is also praised for its readability, Charles Miclaud notes, 'In parts Chesapeake provides some fine reading, and as a whole it is superbly humanized history. Perhaps Micheners finest book." Chesapeake is also praised for some of the same things other reviews find fault with. In a reviews under the title "Novels, stories and nonfiction to be taken to beaches, mountains, and hammocks", Time magazines states "James Michener's virtue is a powerful sense of place and the ability to convey great sweeps of time. . . Therein lies the authors secret: an attachment that lies not so much in the story as in the serene detachment from the story."
Although in the reviews of Chesapeake criticism outweighs praise, Michener is most always commended for his honorable nature, his strength of conviction, and his decency. In the New York Times Book Review Jonathan Yardley says, "Mr. Michener deserves more respect than he usually gets." He goes on to suggest that the reason for the patronizing nature of most of his reviews emerges out of "envy and outrage among more certifiable and serious writers who struggle from novel to novel with no particular hope of a decent audience, not to mention a decent income."
Best Sellers, Peter LaSalle, Sept 23, 1978
Library Journal, Charles Miclaud, July 1978
New York Times Book Review, Jonathan Yardley, July 23,1978
New Yorker, Jack Beety, July 24, 1978
Time, July 10, 1978
Publishers Weekly, June 5, 1978
Not useful sources:
Publishers Weekly, July 2, 1979
|I wasunable to find any subsequent reception after 5 years from the publication date.|
|Published in 1978, James Michener's Chesapeake found its way immediately to the top positions on bestseller lists. The novel leaped to the number one spot on the Publisher's Weekly Bestseller List 10 days even before it's publication date, on July 24, 1978, and remained there for 18 weeks. The success of James Michener's Chesapeake explains three major elements about the nature of best-selling fiction: successful bestsellers are often based upon the authors previous fan base, bestseller lists are dominated by authors with a series of books that follow a recipe, and finally Michener's happy history, is a popular selling tool.
By 1978 Michener had created a strong and loyal fan base. When Chesapeake was published Michener had written 27 books, sold 20 million copies, made eight million dollars, and won a Pulitzer Prize for Tales of the South Pacific. His work had been adapted into 12 movies, T.V. specials, and one musical; not to mention published in 52 languages around the world. Michener is often referred to according to statistics, simply because they are so phenomenal.
Books that make it to bestseller lists even before they are scheduled for publication, represent a group of bestsellers whose success is purely based on the authors previous reputation. When Michener's devoted readers found out that Chesapeake was coming they did not stop and wait for reviews or even for it to arrive in books stores for that matter. The early anticipation surrounding Chesapeake's release required very little advertising on Random House's part.
Bestseller lists are flooded by authors with faithful followings of Michener's magnitude. Strong fan bases can be brought on by many factors, sometimes it is a specific formula that authors utilize, such as John Grisham's legal thrillers. Sometimes it is the use of a specific character that readers are drawn to, such as the James Bond type in Ian Fleming's You Only Live Once. Best-selling fan bases can also be built on literary merit, as is the case with authors such as Faulkner. James Michener's fan base is no doubt built on a combination of elements, but one in particular is unique to him. Readers are not specifically drawn to any of his characters in his book, it is more Michener's own character that has created such a loyal and devoted mass following.
Michener's life was an impressive one and appeals to so many Americans because he ultimately lived the American dream. Born an orphan, raised in poverty with other foster kids, hitchhiked across the country, played an a championship basketball team, graduated from collage summa cum laude, served in World War II, ran for Congress, won a Pulitzer Prize, and died a philanthropist. His biographer John King refers to him a man of "good solid American values."
Michener became a best-selling author based on his own character and appeal of his integrity sold books. John Hayes explains, "people feel they can depend on him. He's a nice guy, a gentleman writer, someone they can trust." Michener earned his popularity with out writing about sex, violence, or intrigue. He wrote lengthy well researched, novels that cover centuries of history. Often even his harsh reviews end by commending him for his honorable nature, strength of conviction, and decency. Jonathan Yardley of the New York Times Book Review states "Mr. Michener deserves more respect than he usually gets" and his readers firmly believe this.
Michener discovered his bestseller formula in 1959 when he published Hawaii and has reconstructed that recipe with different ingredients ever since. Michener's recipe is for historical fiction. His novels fictionalize the history of a place from the beginning of time to the present day, creating a panoramic view of an area. Webster Scott writes in the New York Times Book Review that Michener "has found a formula. It delivers everywhere-Hawaii, Africa, Afghanistan, America, Israel, even outer space. The formula calls for experts, vast research, travel to faraway places and fraternizing with locals. And it calls for good guys and bad guys (both real and imagined) to hold the whole works together. It's a formula millions love. Mr. Michener gratifies their curiosity."
Chesapeake incorporates all the typical Michener ingredients. He spent two years living on the eastern shore compiling research about everything from duck hunting to the Civil War. Michener begins the novel with Pentaquad, a Suquehanna Indian who migrated to the eastern shore in 1583, and ends the novel with man committing suicide on the Bay because of his involvement in Watergate. In between theses the reader encounters Cudjo a rebellious slave, George Washington, Geese, wealthy Catholic landowners (the Steeds), and the Quaker shipbuilders (the Paxamores.) Their lives fly buy and we endure their fortunes and catastrophes with them in whirlwind fashion. After finishing Chesapeake one understands many aspects of the Bay area, from its ecology to Labrador retrievers.
Michener's recipe can be seen in his other bestsellers: Alaska, Centennial, The Source, The Covenant, and Space. His recipe calls for a lush and exotic place with a rich history, an all encompassing time period, many characters of strength and morals, and a very readable text. He brings up questions about politics, justice, religion, and ecology. In Centennial Michener used the same formula but altered the place to Colorado and the reader gets the same panorama of the West that they did in Chesapeake of the Eastern shore.
Bestseller lists are dominated by authors who have found a formula. Michener can be compared to a series of best-selling authors who have created their own unique, yet formulaic style with recognizable components. Tom Clancy for example has written a series of novels using a factual military based prose to explain past events in United States history. Red Storm Rising, The Hunt for Red October, and Patriot Games all cover similar situations involving the same breed of character and Clancy's formula has proven to make enticing best sellers. John Grisham's bestsellers can also be compared to Michener's. The Firm, The Chamber, Pelican Brief, and The Client are the same type of legal thriller with different components. They all tell a great story, involve a moral aspect, and end with a pleasant resolution. The repetition of recipe that these authors exemplify creates a certain reading environment which people return to and is consistent across bestseller lists.
The third aspect Michener's Chesapeake reveals about bestsellers is simply: history is hot to market. Chesapeake is a blur between fact and fiction, but it is the factual quality that accounts for Michener's mass appeal. The sociologist Andrew Hacker states, "Out there are people who want to improve themselves, and they're very earnest about that, and Michener knows his constituency. Perhaps they feel as though they're getting a little bit of quality. In a way, his books are like a history course for people in Middle America- this is the way they continue their education."
The history presented in Chesapeake is called happy history. The non-fiction books he wrote such as Kent State: What Happened and Why, were not bestsellers. Because in Chesapeake Michener blurs his factual information in a fictional, very readable way, he is able to discard the dull facts and embellish the interesting ones. Alfred Kazan says, "People read for information these days and with Michener books they probably feel they are getting information painlessly and pleasingly. A lot of people feel undereducated, and this sort of book appeals to them." Happy history makes a great story and people want to read about it. It is a way to escape into something bigger and grander when people find themselves worrying about the trivialities of everyday present life.
The happy history in Michener's Chesapeake is a comforting, almost moral choice when confronted with other bestsellers such as The Exorcist or a Daniel Steel romance. Chesapeake was published after the Watergate scandal when Americans wanted to return to the glory and greatness of previous American life. It was also published at a time when developers and pollution are starting to take over the Chesapeake Bay. Michener's Chesapeake gave readers exactly what they wanted, happy history. Michener explains "the advent of TV convinced me that readers would be hungry for longer books of substance . . . I want the reader to span time an ideas and concepts that matter and I have been willing to fill my pages with a wealth of data in order to give that reader the pleasure of becoming more knowledgeable."
Graduate School of Library and Information Science
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