|Robin LeRosen||Morrison, Toni: Paradise|
|Assignment 1: Bibliographic Description|
|1. First Edition Publication Information||Toni Morrison. Paradise. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1998.
Copyright 1997 by Toni Morrison
This book was simultaneously published in Canada by Alfred A. Knopf Canada.
|2. First Edition in Cloth, Paper, or Both?||This book appears to have been first printed in hardcover trade cloth binding, with a simultaneous large print paperback edition.|
|4. Pagination||170 leaves. pp.  [1-2] 3-18 [19-20] 21-49 [50-52] 53-77 [78-80] 81-138 [139-140] 141-182 [183-184] 185-217 [218-220] 221-266 [267-268] 269-292 [293-294] 295-318 |
|5. Edited and/or Introduced?||The book is not edited or introduced.|
|6. Illustrated?||There are no illustrations.|
|8. General Appearance||This book is in excellent condition, with no tears or discoloring. The typeface is Electra. A note on the typeface on p. 321 indicates that Electra was designed by W.A. Dwiggins and it is meant to be neither a modern nor old style and it avoids ëcontrast between thick and thin elements that mark most modern facesí and it was designed for ëfluidity, power and speed.í I have found these characteristics, along with the reasonably sized font, do in fact make the type easy on the eye, and therefore easy to read.
The type size is 105R.
The pages are approximately 15.5 cm wide and 23.4 cm long.
The margins are 2.5 cm on the side; 2.5 cm on the bottom;and 2.1 cm on the top.
|10. Description of Paper||The paper is in excellent condition. The paper is a creamy white color. The paper is thin, and a little rough.
All of the leafs of paper do not have the same width. They are approximately 15.5 cm, 15.6cm, 15.7cm, 15.8 cm or 15.9 cm. This is arranged in a regular pattern. The pattern starts with a few short pages (15.5cm wide), and then followed by pages that get progressively wider. The width increases until the widest paper is 15.9cm, and then the following papers are progressively less wide. When the edge of the book is viewed from the side, the papers form a regular zig-zag patter.
|11. Description of Binding||The book is covered in dark blue, calico-textured cloth. The authorís initials are stamped in bronze on the front cover. The authorís name, the book title, the publishersí crest (a dog) and the publisherís name are stamped in bronze on the spine. There is nothing on the back cover.|
|12. Title Page Transcription||Verso: Paradise| Toni Morrison| [publisherís crest] | Alfred A. Knopf | New York Toronto | 1998
Recto: This is a Borzoi book | published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., | and Alfred A. Knopf Canada | Copyright 1997 by Toni Morrison | All rights reserved under International and PanAmerican | Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States| by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York. Published simultaneously | in Canada by Alfred A. Knopf Canada, a division of | Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto and distributed | by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto| www.randomhouse.com | ISBN 0-679-43374-0 | LC 97-80913 | Canadian Cataloging in Publication Data | Morrison, Toni | Paradise | ISBN 0-676-97113-X | I. Title | PS3563.08749P37 1998 813í.54 C97-932259-6 | Manufactured in the United States of America | First Edition
|14. Manuscript Holdings||Manuscript holdings have not been found.|
|15. Other||Dust jacket: The dust jacket is dark green and was designed by Carol Devine Carson. The front cover has the title in orange print and the authorís name in white. There is a photograph of the author, taken by Kate Kunz on the back of the dustjacket. The front inside of the dust jacket has a quote from the text of the book and a brief review of the book. The inside back cover has a brief biography of the author.
There is a sticker on the inside front cover of the book that reads, ìAcquired from the Robert and Virginia Tunstall Trust for the Department of Special Collections at the University of Virginia Library.î
On the 5th leaf of the book, only the name 'Lois' appears. Presumably, this is a dedication.
On the 6th leaf there is a poem.
|Assignment 2: Publication History|
|1. Other Editions:||The original publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, also released a large print edition simultaneously with the first edition. The book appeared the same as the first edition, except that it was printed in size 16 font.|
|4. First Edition printings or impressions?||At least two printings were ordered for the first edition from Alfred A. Knopf publishing. Publishers Weekly (November 17, 1997) and Time magazine (January 19,1998) stated that 400,000 copies were produced for the first printing. On January 19,1998, Publishers Weekly stated that 325,000 copies were produced in the first printing, and that 225,00 copies had been ordered for the second printing. Entertainment Weekly reported on January 30, 1998 that 725,00 copies were in print.|
|5. Editions from other publishers?||Chatto & Windus, 1998.
Macmillan Reference USA: Gale Group, 1998. USD 26.95
Plume, 1999. USD 39.95
Plume, 1999. USD 13.95
Random House Value Publishing, Incorporated, 1999. USD 5.99
Random House Large Print, 1997. USD 25.00
Random House Large Print in association with Alfred A. Knopf, 1998.
Research & Education Association, 2000. USD 3.95
Turtleback, 1999. USD 20.00
|6. Last date in print?||This book is still in print.|
|7. Total copies sold?||After extensive reseach the total copies sold has not been available, as of October 2002.|
|8. Sales by year?||From the book's release in January 1998 through February 10, 1999, 804,862 copies were reported by the publisher to have been sold. This only includes domestic trade sales, not book club sales or overseas sales.|
|9. Advertising copy:||An audio review of Paradise in Publishers Weekly advertised:
" Toni the Tiger: Audio with bite"
Oprah's Book Club online site advertised Paradise with excerpts from the following reviews:
"No one writes as lushly as Toni Morrison...And no one evokes more magically black communities - the people, the bonds, the talk, the buried resentments and the secret histories."
- Deirdre Donahue, USA Today
"...a breathtaking, risk-taking major work that will have readers feverishly, and fearfully turning the pages."
- Kirkus Reviews
"Another triumph for Morrison..."
- Publishers Weekly
"Gripping...Morrison is at her complex and commanding best."
"Like all the best stories, [Morrison's] are driven by an abiding moral vision. Implicit in all her characters' grapplings with who they are is a large sense of human nature and love - and a reach for understanding of something larger than the moment."
- Jean Strouse, Newsweek
"[Morrison] works her magic charm above all with a love of language. Her...style carries you like a river, sweeping doubt and disbelief away, and it is only gradually that one realizes her deadly serious intent."
- Susan Lydon, Village Voice
|11. Other promotion?||Toni Morrison went on a promotional tour for her book after its release in January 1998.
In January 1998, Oprah picked Paradise for Oprah's Book Club, which was the second novel by Toni Morrison selected for the book club. This undoubtedly promoted sales.
|12. Performances in other media?||Audio versions have been produced:
Paradise. Read by Toni Morrison. Random House Audio Pub., 1997. 4 cassettes. 6.5 hours. US $25.95
Paradise. Read by Lynne Thigpen. Recorded Books, 1999. 10 cassettes, 14 hours.
Paradise. Read by Lynne Thigpen. Recorded Books, 1999. compact disc, 14 hours.
Morrison, Toni. Paraiso. Madrid, Spain: Punto de Lectura, 2000.
Morrison, Toni. Paraiso. Barcelona, Spain : Ediciones B, 1998.
Morrison, Toni. Raj. Warszawa : PrÛszynski i S-ka, 1999.
Morrison, Toni. Paradis.Paris: C. Bourgois, 1998.
Morrison, Toni. R·j. Praha : Vyöehrad, 2001.
Morrison, Toni. P'aradaisu. Soul-si : Tullyok, 2001.
Morrison, Toni. A paradicsom. Budapest : EurÛpa, 2000.
Morrison, Toni. Paradies. Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt, 1999.
Morrison, Toni. Gan 'Eden.Tel-Aviv : ha-Kibuts ha-me'uhad, 1998.
|14. Serialization?||This book was not serialized.|
|15. Sequels or Prequels?||Paradise is the third volume of a trilogy, including the novels Beloved and Jazz.
Morrison, Toni. Jazz. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.
Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987.
|Assignment 3: Brief Biography|
Toni Morrison was born as Chloe Anthony Wofford into an African American family on February 18, 1931, in the small industrial town of Lorain, Ohio. In the midst of the Great Depression, her parents, George and Ramah (Willis) Wofford worked several jobs at a time, to support Toni, her older sister and two younger brothers. Lorain was a town comprised mostly of European immigrants and Southern blacks. The town was unique because there were not distinct ethnic neighborhoods, and she attended a racially integrated school (Morrison). However, there was a very close knit black community that was culturally influence with music, black language, folklore and storytelling, that later influence much of her writing (“Contemporary Authors Online”).
Toni’s maternal grandparents were sharecroppers in Greenville, Alabama, but later moved to Kentucky, and then Lorain, for better economic opportunities and escape the extreme racism and to avoid the threats of sexual violation against their teenage daughters. Her father was a very racist man who believed that blacks were superior to whites and that white people could not be trusted (Heinze).
At the age of seventeen, Chloe Anthony went off to Howard University in Washington, D.C. While at Howard, she took the name Toni (Morrison). She graduated with a B.A. in English and a minor in Classics in 1953. While at Howard she joined the Howard Players, a theatre group that frequently performed in the Deep South. At this time she began to understand and learn about the life and racism that her ancestors experienced (David, 10).
Toni Wofford continued her studies at Cornell University where she earned a Masters in 1955. Her thesis was on the theme of suicide in the writing of Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner. She taught English at Texas Southern University for two years before she returned to Howard University to teach in 1957. While she teaching at Howard, she met and married Harold Morrison, an architect from Jamaica. They had two children, Harold Ford and Slade Kevin. Their marriage broke up in 1964 while she was pregnant with her second son. She briefly moved back home with her parents before accepting an editing position with Random House in New York in 1965, where she remained until 1985. During her time in New York, Toni began to work on her first novel, The Bluest Eye. At Random House, Toni became was a mentor and editor to many black writers, including Muhammad Ali, Andrew Young, Angela Davis, Toni Cade Bamara and Gayl Jones.
After having been rejected many times from other publishers, Holt, Rinehart and Winston published The Bluest Eye in 1969. Most of Morison’s novel, The Bluest Eye included, focus on the small town life of African Americans. Her next few novels were Sula (1973), Song of Solomon (1977) and Tar Baby (1981). In 1986 she wrote a playwright about Emmet Till, called Dreaming Emmet. Probably her best known novel, Beloved, was published in 1987. She won the Pulitzer prize for fiction for this novel in 1988. It was adapted into a film in 1998, starring Oprah Winfrey. Jazz (1992) and Paradise (1998) were her next two novels. Except for the first, all of her novels were published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House. Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Sula and Paradise have all been selected for Oprah Winfrey’s Book of the Month Club. Toni Morrison has collaborated with her son, Slade Morrison to write two children’s books, The Big Box (1999) and The Book of Mean People (2002). In addition to her novels, Toni Morrison has written many nonfiction works, often dealing with politics and racism in America.
Toni left Random House in 1985 to be the Schweitzer Professor of the Humanities at State University of New York at Albany. During her time as editor, she had been a visiting lecturer at Yale University and Bard College. In 1989, she accepted a position as Robert F. Goheen Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, where she has remained, as of October 2002. In 1990, she lectured at both Trinity College, Cambridge and Harvard University. In 1993, Toni Morrison was the first black woman, and eighth woman, to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.
As of 2002, Toni Morrison has an apartment near Princeton University in New Jersey, an apartment in Manhattan and a house in Rockland County, New York. On Christmas Day 1993, Toni Morison’s home on the Hudson River, just north of New York City, burned down. Fortunately, she was safe from the fire, but unfortunately most of her manuscripts were burned. As of 1998, she was having this house rebuilt. (Gray)
In 2002, at the age of 71, Toni Morrison is still doing what she loves - teaching and writing. She lives a self-proclaimed unglamorous, slightly boring life. She lives alone, reads and writes a lot, gardens and seldom goes on vacation (Morrison).
Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2002.
David, Ron. Toni Morrison Explained. New York: Random House, 2000.
Gray, Paul. ‘Paradise found: the Nobel Prize changed Toni Morison’s life but not her art, as her new novel proves.’ Time. January 19, 1998. v151 n1 p62. (Interview with Toni Morrison)
Heinze, Denise. “Toni Morrison.” Dictionary of Literary Biography: American Novelists Since World War II, Third Series. Vol. 143. The Gale Group, 1994. pp.171-187.
Morrison, Toni. Interview. In Depth. CSPAN. 2001. (video recording interview)
|Paradise, Toni Morrison's first novel since her reception of the Nobel Prize in 1993, was long anticipated by critics and fans alike. When it finally arrived, there was a very mixed reaction that ran the gamut from declaring it "her weakest work" (Bent), "her best work of fiction to date" (Allen) and "one of the most original novels ever written" (David). Critics interpreted this complex novel on a wide spectrum, and the majority of contemporary criticism emphasized that this novel did not live up to the expectations that her previous novels had set for her readers.
Many critics agreed that the character development in Paradise was very weak. Kakutani, Bent and Allen agreed that the characters were undeveloped, unable to be sympathized with and secondary to the larger symbolism of the novel. Allen commented that the five women of the Convent, a small all-female community on the outskirts of the town of Ruby, are oversimplified as symbols of sexually independent women who threaten the mail patriarchy of Ruby. Likewise, the men of Ruby are overdominating, violent caricatures.
The majority of critics, Krumholz, Smith, Allen, Bent and Kakutani for example, agreed that gender and race were main themes in this novel. They also heavily criticized the male-female power struggle as being cliché and overemphasized. Kakutani said, "Even if we employ the euphemisms of anthropology and say that Morrison is exploring the patriarchal in conflict with the matriarchal--certainly a rich subject, and one of great significance in the history of African-Americans--the theme is still too broad and emotionally unengaging to propel an affecting novel." Another critic, Ron David, stood vastly apart and criticized the other critics for completely missing the entire point of the novel. He claims that the novel was not feminist or racial.
The word 'contrived' was often used to describe the novel's plot. Menand accused the plot of being unconvincing and calculated. Bent found the plot of the Ruby men brutally murdering the Convent women too forced and unrealistic, and that it was merely a plot device to promote other action. David argues that the plot seems contrived because it is not meant to mirror reality. He believes that the main theme of the novel is the myth, and the plot explores the relationship between myth and truth, or story-telling and reality.
Critics explored the strong religious and Biblical themes. They compared the founding of Ruby, an all black town, in the 1960s to the Exodus in the Bible. The women of the convent were seen as modern day Eves.
The highest point of critics was the praise of Toni Morrison's language. Shockley called the novel poetic and praised the narrative voice and lyricism. Allen said that "With Paradise, Morrison had brought it all together: the poetry, the emotion, the broad symbolic plan." Many critics said the narrative was dense, obscure and hard to follow. Gates stood out by calling it straightforward and easy to read. Klinghoffer dissents in his comment about Morrison's writing style in Paradise when he says, "we are invited to do the job her editor at Knopf chose not to do."
A positive gesture of criticism was received by Oprah Winfrey, when she made Paradise a selection in Oprah's Book Club in 1998.
Some other critics, Krumholz for example, have also assumed, misguidedly, that Paradise was written as part of a trilogy with Beloved and Jazz. These critics have focused on the three types of excessive loves depicted in Beloved, Jazz and Paradise, which are respectively, love of a child, romantic love and love of God. Morrison stated before writing these novels that she envisioned writing a trilogy about these three types of loves. However, Toni Morrison later said in interviews that she abandoned this idea.
Paradise was considered very Faulknerian to some critics. Menand compared the Biblical images in Paradise to the Easter theme in The Sound and the Fury and the Exodus theme in As I Lay Dying . She also compared the structure of having a series of narratives that gives each characters point of view that both authors use. In her book Subversive Voices, Schreiber explores the themes of rebellion against patriarchs in Morrison and Faulkner.
Overall, Paradise did not get great reviews. Most critics acknowledged a few enjoyable and redeeming qualities in the novel, but often criticized the plot, themes and characters as too broad, cliché, forced, or just uninteresting. Ron David stood out the most among critics, claiming that Morrison was very self-aware of the seemingly unrealistic plots and characters, to make a larger point about the myths and religion of the novel.
Allen, Brooke. "The Promised Land." New York Times Book Review 11 Jan. 1998: 6.
Bent, Geoffrey. "Less Than Divine: Toni Morrison's Paradise." The Southern Review 35.1 (1999): 145.
David, Ron. Toni Morrison Explained. New York: Random House, 2000.
Gates, David. "Paradise." Newsweek 12 Jan. 1998: 62
Kakutani, Michiko. "Worthy Women, Unredeemable Men." New York Times 6 Jan. 1998 : B8.
Klinghoffer, David. "Black madonna: Toni Morrison's popularity is less a matter of literary taste than of mass psychology." National Review 9 Feb 1998:30(3).
Krumholz, Linda J. "Reading and insight in Toni Morrison's Paradise." African American Review 36:1 (2002): 21-35
Menand, Louis. "The War Between Men and Women." The New Yorker 12 Jan. 1998: 78-82.
Morrison, Toni. Interview. In Depth. CSPAN. 2001. (video recording interview)
Schreiber, Evelyn Jaffe. Subversive Voices: Eroticizing the Other in William Faulkner and Toni Morrison. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2001.
Shockley, Evelyn E. "Paradise." African American Review 33:4 (1999): 718
Smith, Dinitia. "Toni Morrison's Mix of Tragedy, Domesticity And Folklore." New York Times 8 Jan. 1998: B1.
|As of November 2002, subsequent reception history is not applicable.|
| Toni Morrison is not only a best-selling author, she holds a very renowned and prestigious position in the literary world - she is a Pulitzer Prize winner, a Nobel Prize winner, and a professor at Princeton University. Her novels are also regularly featured on Oprah Winfrey's Book Club. It comes as no surprise that with this profile, her latest novel, Paradise was an instant bestseller. Released in January of 1998, it was the #9 bestseller for that year, according to Publishers Weekly. However, the novel itself received far less praiseful reviews than her previous novels. Many critics considered Paradise to be her worst novel; and many readers got very lost and confused with the novel's plots and characters. Had Paradise not benefited from factors related to Toni Morrison's notoriety, it probably would not have succeeded based on its literary value alone. Although it is hard to attribute specific factors to the book?s sale, the Oprah Effect and Toni Morrison's reputation as an author have greatly influenced the sales of Paradise.
Oprah Winfrey picked Paradise to be the Book-of-the Month on January 16, 1998. This was within one week of the book's release. It was also Oprah's second of four Toni Morrison novels selected for the book club. Song of Solomon, originally published in 1977, was picked in 1996. After Paradise Oprah went onto select Morrison's The Bluest Eye in 2000 (first published in 1969), and then Sula (first published in 1973) in 2002. Oprah also has bought the rights to Morrison's Beloved and created a movie out of it, in which Oprah herself played a starring roll.
Oprah started her book club in 1996. She opposed the idea at first because of fear of poor ratings, but decided to go ahead with it because of the prospect of being able to meet the authors. Toni Morrison is one author with whom she has become particularly friendly. Oprah is a very vocal lover and supporter of Morrison's work. Morrison has appeared on Oprah's show several times and the women have formed a friendly relationship. Oprah's friendship with Morrison and her love of her work strongly influences her book club selection. As of 2002, four of the 48 Oprah books are authored by Toni Morrison. Since Oprah will always read everything Toni Morrison's publishes, then Morrison has a greater chance for her works to be picked by Oprah. Paradise would not have had such a good chance to be a book-of-the month had the same story been written by a budding and unknown author.
Since Paradise was declared an Oprah book within days of its release, it is not possible to draw a direct relationship between the books sales pre- and post Oprah's influence. However, based on the pattern of the Oprah Effect, it probably greatly helped Paradise's sales.
The effect of Oprah's book selection on sales of other books is astounding. As of December 1999, all 28 of the Oprah books had made the weekly bestseller chart. For example, on November 19, 1996 Oprah picked Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon as a Book Club book nineteen years after its original publication. In the first week after its selection, it hit the Publishers Weekly trade paperback bestseller list. It also sold 40,000 copies in less than a week, which is ten times the number that was sold in all of 1995. Some of the novels, like Paradise made Publishers Weekly Top 10 annual list. For example, Jacquelyn Michard's Deep End of the Ocean went from having 68,000 copies in print pre-Oprah to selling four million copies and was a 1996 bestseller. White Oleander by Janet Fitch went from 25,000 printings to one million as a result of the Oprah Effect, and a bestseller in 1999. The Corrections by Joanthan Franzen and Cane River by Lalita Tademy also became annual bestsellers after being picked for Oprah's book club. It can be inferred from these sales figures, that the Oprah Effect also benefited Paradise.
The announcement of an Oprah book takes a lot of careful behind-the-scenes planning between Harpo productions, the author and the publisher. All of her book picks are kept secret from the public until she announces them on her show. She picks all of the books for her book club herself, and does not get any profits from them. Once she decides on a book, she contacts the author and the publisher. Like many of authors, Toni Morrison was quite surprised to hear from Oprah. When Oprah first contacted her after having read Beloved, Morrison's attitude was a distant polite. "It was like, 'All right, dear. What is it you're calling for'" (Max 3). Since then, the two women have appeared to have become friends. After an author agrees to have their novel featured as a Book of the Month, a lot of hushed work is done between publishers and booksellers. Oprah keeps her book picks a secret until she announces them on her show. Five hundred free books are provided to the Oprah audience. Then Oprah requests that 10,000 are donated to libraries. Generally, for Oprah books, at least 650,000 hardcover and 800,000 are delivered to bookstores in time for the announcement of the book on the television show. When the booksellers order the book, they do not even know which book it is; they are simply buying the Oprah brand book (Max). Entertainment Weekly reported on January 30, 1998 that 725,00 copies of Paradise had been printed. However, it is not clear from this statistic if that includes both hardcover and paperback. In the first 13 months of print, the publisher announced that 804, 862 domestic, non book-club edition copies of the book had been sold. Since the book's publishing release and the announcement of it as an Oprah Book of the Month pick were virtually simultaneous, it is not possible to tell whether the book club had a direct effect on sales.
In the publishing industry, which has traditionally been dominated by white males, Oprah's book selections completely take away cultural authority away from the publishers in their decisions of which books to print. (Young)
Paradise fits in with the similar themes that most Oprah books share. Many are a "moving, painful human story that?s not too hard to read". Most of them are written by women, most of them take place in a small town rather than a city, and many involve the element of abuse of a young female. (Max) Paradise fits all of these qualities. Oprah aims to select accessible literary fiction that encourages people who normally do not read books to read. According to Young, the Oprah phenomenon bridges the gap between "low art" and "high art" for Morrison's work because of the popular media attention that it gets from Oprah. She is already part of the literary canon, and then becomes accessible to the readers through her discussions on Oprah's show. Furthermore, Toni Morrison releases books on tape for most of her books, including Paradise, that she has recorded herself. This also bridges the gap because it makes her voice familiar to her audience (Young).
Toni Morrison's first appeared on Oprah's show in December 1996, after Song of Solomon was selected. Another show also featured Toni Morrison giving a lecture about Paradise to Oprah and twenty audience members. Many of the audience members were frustrated with the novel because they had trouble understanding and interpreting it. Morrison would not answer many of the specific questions about the novel's characters. Instead, she replied, "If it's worth writing, it?s worth going back to." That show received the lowest ratings of any of Oprah's book club episodes. This is a sign of the unpopularity of the book among people who bought it and read it.
The prestige and respect that Toni Morrison has achieved for herself in the literary community commands an automatic attention to any new work that she publishes. Toni Morrison holds a unique position as an African American female novelist who not only is part of the literary canon, but is also a best-selling author.
Toni Morrison's work is classified as literary fiction, which is uncommon among popular bestsellers. She can win the Nobel Prize one day and then speak to an every-day Oprah audience about her books the next . She is an established woman among the literary elite. A press release from the Swedish Academy at the time Morrison received the Nobel Prize for Literature said, "As the motivation for the award implies, Toni Morrison is a literary artist of the first rank. She delves into the language itself, a language she wants to liberate from the fetters of race. And she addresses us with the lustre of poetry." (Nobel E Museum) Her novels are accepted into the literary canon and often studied in education, from middle school through the university. This can be seen by the vast number of doctoral dissertations and books of criticism on her works that have been written.
Paradise is the first novel that Toni Morrison published after receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. Needless to say, it was a long anticipated novel. She has also won the Pulitzer Prize. With her reputation, every work of hers is anticipated as masterpiece. Unfortunately, Paradise did not quite fit this mold. The poor character development and complicated underlying religious themes contributed to the books poor reviews. The theme of good vs. evil and a male dominant society vs. an all female society were stereotypical and over-emphasized. However, this did not override the fame of her name and the history of her quality novels, and Paradise still was a bestseller. In fact, Paradise is Toni Morrison's only novel that has ever made an annual bestseller list. Of course, that does not necessarily mean that it has sold the most copies, but it is still significant that what is considered to be one of her lesser novels became an annual bestseller. Beloved, which one the Pulitzer Prize did not even become an annual bestseller. As Toni Morrison becomes more popular and achieves more awards, people are probably more willing to read and buy her work, despite the literary value of it.
There are other Nobel prize winning authors that have also experienced bestelling success for subsequent novels. William Faulkner, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, and Sinclair Lewis all produced annual bestsellers after they won the Nobel Prize. Most of them also had numerous bestsellers before they won. This shows that a Nobel Prize could have an affect on the sales of subsequent novels of an author, but no direct correlation can be drawn.
Besides her many awards, another sign of the literary quality of Toni Morison's Paradise is that it bears the Borzoi seal of the publisher Alfred A. Knopf. "The house of Knopf has long been one of America's foremost book publishers - known for both the quality of its authors and for the high level of its book design and production." (Knopf online). Since 1915, Knopf has published the works of 21 Nobel Laureates, 49 Pulitzer Prize winners and 29 National Book Award winners.
Knopf started his publishing company in 1915, and in 1960, Knopf publishing became a division of Random House. Toni Morrison worked as an editor for Random House for eighteen years when she became a novelist. It is likely that her connection with Random House helped to get Knopf as her publisher.
Clearly, Toni Morrison is part of a literary elite. This canonization as well as her familiarity through popular media make her a best-selling author.
Bowker's Annual. (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002)
Gray, Paul. "Winfrey's Winners." Time. 2 Dec. 1996: 84.
Kinsella, Brudget. "The Oprah effect: how TV?s premier talk show host puts books over the top." Publishers Weekly. 244.3 (1997): 276(3)
Max, D.T. "The Oprah Effect." The New York Times. 26 Dec. 1999.
Young, John. "Toni Morrison, Oprah Winfrey, and Postmodern Popular Audiences." African American Review. 35.2 (2001): 181-204.
Nobel E Museum: http://www.nobel.se/nobel/
Oprah Book Club online: http://www.oprah.com/obc/obc_landing.jhtml
Knopf Publishing online: http://www.randomhouse.com/knopf/
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