Steinbeck, John: The Wayward Bus
(researched by Lori Bates)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
John Steinbeck. The Wayward Bus. New York: The Viking Press, 1947. Copyright by John Steinbeck in February 1947 Parallel First Editions: British Edition: John Steinbeck. The Wayward Bus. London: W. Heinemann, 1947. Editions for the Armed Services, inc.: John Steinbeck. The Wayward Bus. New York: Published by arrangement with the Viking Press, inc., 1947.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The first edition is published in terra cotta cloth with the dust jacket. The first American edition is published in trade cloth binding.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
162 leaves, [12] *3-312, **[2] *The first numbered page is 3, but there are 12 unnumbered preliminary pages preceding them. **There are two unnumbered pages at the end.
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
The first edition is neither edited nor introduced. There is an advertisement on the front inside flap of the dust jacket by the publisher, for "The Portable Steinbeck" for $2.00, as well as an advertisement for "The Red Pony" also by Steinbeck for $5.00 on the back inside flap of the dust jacket.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
There are no illustrations within the text. The dust jacket is illustrated with a color drawing of the view from inside the front of a bus overlooking the road ahead. The jacket design was by Robert Hallock.
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
95R. Book Size: 21cm by 14cm. Size of Text: 12pt. Page Size: 20cm by 13cm. Margins: 2-3cm around the text. The presentation of the text is very simple and readable. The text is well printed, with very few smudges, but some fading. The margins and the size of the text make it a very manageable book to read. The chapters are numbered, but not titled. The first letter in each chapter is enlarged and in bold print. The text does not include colophons and the typography is a serif type. The binding is in terra cotta cloth stamped with gold lettering. In the lower right hand corner there is a small indented picture of a bus driving. The dust jacket is very colorful and detailed, with an illustration of the view from inside a bus on the front cover, and a plot summary of the book on the back. In general, the book is in excellent condition for its age, with very few tears or smudges.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The paper appears to be holding up very well over time. The type of paper used, according to "Labarre's Dictionary and Encyclopedia of Paper and PaperMaking", is called the short or music demy. The very first and last leaf in the book is of a different quality than the rest of the leaves, made of a more glossy material. There are no apparent tears or stains, but there are a few small wrinkles on occasional pages. The paper size is 20cm by 13cm. There are 30 lines of text on a page (excluding the headline and direction line.) The paper is thick, sturdy and of good quality, with no watermarks. The texture is somewhat grainy and rough. The pages have gilt edges, and the rims of the edges at the top of the book are light blue. The actual coloring of the pages is beginning to yellow. The wear throughout is mostly even, and the overall condition of the paper is very good for a 52-year-old book.
11 Description of binding(s)
The pages are stitched together in ten different sections, which were then all stitched together in the binding. The outermost pages are glued to the inside of the cover. The binding is 3 cm wide. According to Gaskell's "A New Introduction to Bibliography," the grain type is a calico textured cloth that is not embossed. In addition, the saturation is light to moderate, with a reddish brown color group and hues of brown to red. The color of the cover is a terra cotta cloth, stamped with gold lettering. In the lower right hand corner there is a small picture indented into the cover, of a bus driving. Dust jacket: The top 7cm of the front of the dust jacket is in black with the author's name, "John Steinbeck," and the title of the book,"The Wayward Bus." "John Steinbeck" is printed in yellow lettering, and "The Wayward Bus" is printed in light blue lettering. The bottom 14cm is a detailed and colorful illustration of the very front inside of a bus, and the view ahead of it. The illustration is carried over to the spine, in addition to the author and title being reprinted in the same colors as on the front cover. The back of the dust jacket is a cream color, with the title, author and plot summary printed on it. There is a small brown stain on the back of the dust jacket. Transcription of the front cover: The Wayward Bus| [By] John Steinbeck| Transcription of the spine: John Steinbeck| The Wayward Bus| The Viking Press|
12 Transcription of title page
Front Title Page Transcription: The| Wayward| Bus| [BY] JOHN STEINBECK| THE VIKING PRESS * NEW YORK * 1947| [within a single rule border 14.5cm high by 9cm wide] (A line of 15 ornaments separates "John Steinbeck," and "The Viking Press") Verso Title Page Transcription: COPYRIGHT 1947 BY JOHN STEINBECK| PUBLISHED BY THE VIKING PRESS IN FEBRUARY 1947| PUBLISHED ON THE SAME DAY IN THE DOMINION OF CANADA| BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY OF CANADA LIMITED| Printed in U.S.A| By the Haddon Craftsmen|
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
Papers of John Steinbeck from 1932-1974 are held in the Clifton Walker Barrett Library Collection, with Alderman Library, located at the University of Virginia. These are letters that discuss his books, films and plays, including "Burning Bright," "The Red Pony," "The Wayward Bus," "Viva Zapata," "Cup of Gold," "The Forgotten Village," "The Grapes of Wrath," "In Dubious Battle," "Of Mice and Men," "Sea of Cortez," "The Short Reign of Pippin IV," "To a God Unknown," and "Tortilla Flat," as well as his personal and professional life.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
This first edition copy is part of the Clifton Walker Barrett Library. *** Pg. 5 (unnumbered): Other books also written by John Steinbeck are listed. *** Pg. 6(unnumbered): "I pray you all gyve audyence, And here this mater with reverense, By fygure a morall playe; The somanynge of Everyman called it is, That of our lyves and endynge shewes, How transytory we be all daye." --Everyman *** Dedication on pg. 9 (unnumbered): "For GWYN" *** Dust Jacket (inside front flap): "From the critics... "...and here is a picture of Steinbeck's development as an artist and a key to the mood and import of all his works...an admirable job in every respect." --Philadelphia Inquirer "...and the letters to his agents and publisher furnish as good a self-analysis of the writer...as we are apt to get." --The New Yorker
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
Viking Press also published: "The Wayward Bus." New York : Editions for the Armed Services, 1947 256 p; 16 cm. "East of Eden & The Wayward Bus
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
The initial Viking Printing was 100,000 copies. The second printing was 25,000 copies, and the third printing was 50,000 copies. Viking printed a total of 625,000 copies.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Editions from publishers other than the Viking Press include: Bantam Books: 1952, 1947 Bantam Books: 1962, 1950 Thorndike Press: 1998, 1947 (large print) Mandarin: 1996, 1947 Penguin Books: 1995 Penguin Books: 1986 Transworld Publishers: 1952 Transworld Publishers: 1964 P.F. Collier: 1947 Heron Books: 1971 Grosset and Dunlap:1947
6 Last date in print?
As of 1999, the book was still in print by Penguin Books, Mandarin Publishing, and B. Hall Publishers.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
According to Jay Parini's "John Steinbeck- A Biography", the Book-of-the-Month Club sold 600,000 copies. Viking Press sold another 150,000 copies in its first trade edition before publication. According to Hackett's, 520,000 copies were sold in the year of 1947, which included the trade edition and Armed Services Edition as well. According to Publishers Weekly, by the end of the first week of the book's release, the book had sold over 100,000 copies. Viking had an advance sale of 95,000 copies.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
unavailable
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
The sum of $25,000 was appropriated for February, March, and early April advertising by Viking Press. Prepublication ads were run throughout the country. Between March and June of 1947, Viking spent $30,000 on advertising, $10,000 of which was spent on cooperative ads. An advertisement in the Saturday Review from 2/22/47 said, "JOHN STEINBECK'S FIRST FULL-LENGTH NOVEL SINCE 1939. A new facet of Steinbeck's genius is displayed in this story of a certain few people and what happened to them during their dramatic hours together." $2.75 THE VIKING PRESS At all booksellers.(a copy of the book is pictured) There were several advertisements in the New York Times Book Review. The dates that advertisements were run were: 2/2/47, 2/16/47, 2/23/47, 3/9/47, 3/23/47, 4/13/47, 4/20/47, 5/4/47, 5/18/47 Feb 2, 1947: "Coming Feb 17th STEINBECK'S FIRST FULL-LENGTH NOVEL SINCE 1939" John Steinbeck THE WAYWARD BUS "Reserve you first-edition copy at your bookstore now" (a copy of the novel is pictured) April 20,1947: "Across America - They are excitedly reading it! An adventure and a deep emotional experience, it's the novel of nine men and women stripped of sham in a few tense hours together." "John Steinbeck's THE WAYWARD BUS" Book-of-the-Month Club Selection * $2.75 * At all booksellers * THE VIKING PRESS (an illustration of a bus as well as a woman reading the novel is pictured) April 13, 1947: "A top fiction best-seller in America-the novel of nine men and women and their dramatic hours together" By John STEINBECK THE WAYWARD BUS "Has...warmth, simplicity, and compassion...Emphasizes again Steinbeck's amazing virtuosity and his profound knowledge of what makes human beings act like human beings." --David Appel, Philadelphia Inquirer (an illustration of a bus is pictured) Feb 23, 1947: "Over the literary horizon comes John Steinbeck's first full-length novel since 1939! Nine people were in the little bus that morning when it left Rebel Corners to cut across California toward the coast. With the gay, benign Virgin of Guadalupe swinging above the instrument board, the passengers entered a brief suspended interlude that brought them hope or sharp despair, that gave them wisdom or even death.....When the last page is turned, you will know them from their beginnings to their probable ends. You'll love the good in them and pity the bad; know their personal tradgedies, their comedies, and their heart hungers. Once again, in a novel quite different from its predecessors, Steinbeck has created a wonderful gallery of characters. With warmth and understanding he reveals what they are deep inside, and what they seem to each other and to themselves." THE WAYWARD BUS The Book-of-the-Month Club Selection for March
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
Book-of-the-Month Club Selection for the month of March, 1947 "Publishers Weekly Forecast for Buyers" by Alice Hackett "The Wayward Bus" Release Date:February 17, 1947 John Steinbeck. Viking, $2.75 "Juan Chicoy runs a bus, named Sweetheart, as the connecting link between two main California roads; his wife runs the lunchroom at the corner where the passengers change buses. This is the story of a turbulent day, for the Chicoys and for the passengers, when the bus is stranded on a muddy, rainswept road. A fine novel of character by a top-selling author, his first full-length novel in eight years." "The Wayward Bus" Publishers Weekly:February 22, 1947 312p. $2.75 "The interplay of human emotions between a motley group of people in a stalled bus reveals each individual fear and hope, sometimes violently." Promotion for the film: "The Wayward Bus:A Great Film from the classic novel by John Steinbeck" New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1957 (Advertisements dispersed throughout p 61-65)
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Motion Picture: May 29, 1957, "The Wayward Bus," Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, Hollywood, California Screenplay: Ivan Moffat Production: Charles Brackett Cast: Joan Collins; Jayne Mansfield; Dan Dailey 3 reels of 3 (ca. 3204ft) :sd., black and white; 16 mm of ref print The book was bought by Liberty Films for movie production.
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
Translations in other languages include: "Buss pa villovagar." Stockholm: A. Bonnier, 1998, 1947, 1975 [Swedish] "Ask Otobusu." Yenisenir, Ankara: B. Yayinevi, 1991 [Turkish] "La Corriera Stravagante." Milano: Bompiani, 1974 [Italian] "Les naufrages de l'autocar." Paris: Gallimanrd, 1988, 1949 [French] "A Szeszelyes autobusz." Budapest: Uj Idok Iroldalmi Intezet RT Kiadoso, 1957, 1966 [Hungarian] "De verdoolde bus." Amsterdam: E Querido, 1967 [Dutch] "Kimagure basu." Tokyo: Sinchosa, 1966 [Japanese] "El omnibus perdido." Barcelona: Luis de Caralt, 1969 [Spanish] "Zabludivshiisia avtobus." S. Petersburg: Poliset, 1993 [Russian] "Autobus de San Juan." Warszawa: W.A.B., 1993 [Polish] "Rutebil paa afveje." Kobenhaun: Gyldendal, 1947 [Danish] "Autobus auf Seitenwegen." Konstanz: Diana, 1960 [German] "Os naufragos de autocaro." Lisboa: Empresa Nacional de Publicidade, 1962 [Portuguese] "Toulavy autobus." Prana: Mlada Fronta, 1966 [Czech]
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
"The Wayward Bus" (abridged from the author's own words) Article appeared in the Omnibook magazine New York, NW: Omnibook Inc. Aug 1947, v. 9, no 9. P[2]-40
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
N/A
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
For an overview of John Steinbeck's life, see the entries of The Moon is Down, The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and East of Eden. In a letter written by Steinbeck to the producer of the film, The Wayward Bus, Charles Brackett in 1956, Steinbeck explained the origins of the novel.
"I don't think I ever told you the origin of this story. It was first projected in Mexico, and it first synopsis was written in Spanish for Mexico. At that time it had a wonderful title, I think. It was called El Camion Vacilador. The word vacilador, or the verb vacilar, is not translatable unfortunately, and it's a word we really need in English because to be 'vacilando' means you're aiming at some place, but you don't care much whether you get there. We don't have such a word in English. Wayward had an overtone of illicitness or illegality, based of course on medieval lore where wayward men were vagabonds. But vacilador is not a vagabond at all. Wayward was the nearest English word I could find."
The inception of the novel, The Wayward Bus possibly dates back as far as 1940 when Steinbeck visited Mexico City, the original setting for the story. By 1945, the theme of the novel was well underway to form both a plot and structure (Warren). It was a novel intended to be something like Don Quixote for Mexico (McCarthy). Steinbeck first tried to start writing The Wayward Bus, during the movie production of another one of his novels, The Pearl. However, due to complications with the script and shooting, he was forced in June of 1945 to delay his work on his new novel until that winter, when his commitment to the movie was over. Despite the postponement, The Wayward Bus was becoming increasingly important to him: "?the book that had, in so many respects, become of overriding importance to him and on which so many of his hopes were now centered" (Simmonds 287). After the movie and his return to New York, Steinbeck's intentions were to focus in on the writing of his new book. During this time, he and his wife Gwyn lived in a rented apartment while they were waiting for their house to finish being built. Gwyn was pregnant with their second child, and was having a very difficult pregnancy. As a result, Steinbeck had to work at home, often at his kitchen table, instead of in his Viking Press office. At the end of January 1946 his progress on the book was not going well, and he wrote in a letter regarding his work on The Wayward Bus that he "just had to toss out about 20,000 words. Wasn't any good." This new start on the book suggested a change in approach, and also a probable change in the story's setting from Mexico to California (Benson). Shortly thereafter, the Steinbeck's moved into their new home, and their son, John Steinbeck IV was born. John and Gwyn were beginning to experience tension in their marriage, which added to the stress surrounding his work. In addition, in July of 1946, Steinbeck was forced to return to Mexico City for a month to settle various difficulties occurring with the production of The Pearl.
"Undoubtedly, the novel had not been an easy book for Steinbeck to write. There had, in addition, been too many distractions, not the least being the move into the new house, the vexations and time-consuming interruptions connected with the completion of The Pearl movie, and Gwyn's ill health and increasing demands for his attention prior to and following the birth of their second son. With his publishers pressing him for the delivery of the new work, Steinbeck had hurried the writing of later chapters, then realized that the whole text needed radical revision before he could consider releasing it for publication. Steinbeck was subsequently to regret that he had failed to veto the too hasty publication. Ten years or so later, he openly admitted that the book had been 'a paste up job' and that he 'should never have let it go out the way that it did'" (Simmonds 292).
Steinbeck finished the novel during the first week of October in 1946, about a month after returning from Mexico. The novel was published in February of 1947, the month of his forty-fifth birthday. The Wayward Bus was very different than any of his previous novels. The sales of the novel were quite successful, however Steinbeck was very bothered by the misunderstanding that the novel received from critics. The critics found many faults, calling it "trite and meaningless," "familiar, flat and trivial," and "sordid, petty and vulgar" (Simmonds 292). Despite the harsh reviews, the reading public remained loyal, a continual sequence of events that Steinbeck faced with later novels. Steinbeck was also involved in adapting the novel into a script for the production of The Wayward Bus as a film. This novel was not one of Steinbeck's most successful novels, but it was one that was very important to him personally. In the New York Times Book Review, Donald Adams raises the point that the difficulty that Steinbeck had with this novel was the existence of "a wide gap between [Steinbeck's] intention and accomplishment." Sources Cited and Consulted: Benson, Jackson J. The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer. The Viking Press:New York, 1984. French, Warren. John Steinbeck. Twayne Publishers:Indianapolis, 1975. McCarthy, Paul. John Steinbeck. Frederick Ungar Publishing Co.:New York, 1984. Parini, Jay. John Steinbeck:A Biography. Henry and Holy Company:New York, 1995. Simmonds, Roy. John Steinbeck:The War Years, 1939-1945. Associated University Presses:Cranbury, New Jersey, 1996. Steinbeck, Elaine & Wallsten, Robert. Steinbeck:A Life in Letters. The Viking Press:New York, 1975.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
"Evidently even John Steinbeck 'takes a walk now and then.' This is it. We hope he doesn't continue to walk downhill. For here is a book that will inevitably be a bitter disappointment to those who have put John Steinbeck at the top of the roster of American writers today" (Kirkus). John Steinbeck did not enjoy the acclaim from critics that he once had with his previous successes. The Wayward Bus received very mixed reviews, mostly favoring the negative. Most critics admired the quality of his prose and the vividly descriptive passages. Although his usual craftsmanship was noted and respected, the characters in The Wayward Bus were heavily criticized. Ben Ray Redman commented in The Library, that what was missing in this novel was the emotional, sentimental involvement with the characters. It is this involvement that allows the readers to participate and up to this point had been present in all of Steinbeck's successful novels'. Redman noted that "the great weakness of The Wayward Bus is that it holds no characters who enlist Steinbeck's full sympathy or who, consequently, engage his full powers." Many critics simply found the characters unlikable and flat. The plot was described as simple and linear, and in many cases just a "dismal bus ride." Harry Hansen from the Saturday Review of Literature characterized it as "Another load of sleazy characters who deserved oblivion rather than the accolade of a book club." Steinbeck was accused of being preoccupied with sex, and this preoccupation was depicted as an unsuccessful artistic device. Most critics interpreted the novel as an allegory that failed to accomplish the purpose in which it had been intended. (This point is emphasized more in the subsequent reviews.) Reviews commonly expressed disappointment in Steinbeck for not rising to the potential that they had seen in him in his previous successes. J. H. Jackson said in the San Francisco Chronicle, "In my opinion, I'm sorry to say, the novel is not Steinbeck at his best, nor Steinbeck at what a good many people thought he was going to become." The negative reviews greatly affected his reputation among critics with his following novels. However from this point on the reading public remained faithful and appreciative despite the critics who continued to minimize any artistic achievement in subsequent novels. An Excerpt from a Typical Review:
"The Wayward Bus will not add greatly to Mr. John Steinbeck's reputation. In earlier novels he has shown his ability for describing the lives and preoccupations of the half-baked, a subject he treats with zest and confidence, though without much humour. Here something more seems required; the book, although readable and competently put together, never rises above the level of the better sort of film to which some uplift has been added." - Times [London]
Complimentary and Moderate Excerpts:
"To those who admire Mr. Steinbeck, it is refreshing to see the warm flow of vitality which surges up in his pages, and to mark such changes as have occurred in his style and in his philosophy since he wrote his great story of the Okies?Very lovely, very sensuous the country is in Mr. Steinbeck's rippling prose?Very natural and funny, and at times very candid, is the talk?But, for all the animal magnetism and photographic reality, one ends by wondering if American life is actually so empty, so devoid of meaning, so lonely for the Juans, The Pritchards and the Camilles of today. God help us if it is." -Edward Weeks, Atlantic
"With frankness, warmth, humor and insight, author reveals his characters' individual Freudian problems as they come to the surface under stress of the situation. Will probably offend some readers but is very much a must novel." -H.G. Kelley, The Library
"In the final effect, although it makes for a striking novel, is less than completely satisfying, it is in great part because we had come to expect another major Steinbeck advance in breadth and power, such as was marked in turn by In Dubious Battle and The Grapes of Wrath, while The Wayward Bus does not reveal such development. Furthermore, the central character of Juan Chicoy, the Irish-Mexican 'natural man,' does not quite come off, and the climax somehow lacks the expected dramatic force. But there is enough in the novel to make one anticipate Steinbeck's next book as hopefully and eagerly as this was awaited. His is a notable American talent." -Richard Watts, New Republic
Negative Excerpts:
"The Wayward Bus is not deficient in entertainment. But to what extent Steinbeck has been successful in reproducing an intelligible and authentic microcosm of our culture is another question." -Samuel Roddan, Canadian Forum
"Steinbeck's dreary, prurient pilgrimage has no real human or universal significance. It is nothing more that an unusually dismal bus ride -- more dismal, depraved and meaningless than any man anywhere has taken." -Frank O'Malley, Commonwealth
"The simple-mindedness of the story is saved once again in a while by Steinbeck's incidental touches?But in theme and design the novel is a disappointing piece of second-rate, back-to-the-bulls fiction. Moreover, Steinbeck writes carelessly." -Time
Reviews Include: U.S. Quarterly Review: Jan.1947 Partisan Review: 1947 Times [London] : Nov. 29, 1947 Atlantic: March 1947 Canadian Forum: May 1947 Chicago Sun Book Week: Feb.16, 1947 Commonwealth: April 25, 1947 Kirkus: Dec.15, 1946 The Library: Feb.15, 1947 Manchester Guardian: Nov. 29, 1947 Nation: March 29, 1947 New Republic: March 10, 1947 New York Herald Tribune Weekly: Feb.16, 1947 New York Times: Feb.16, 1947 New Yorker: Feb. 22, 1947 San Francisco Chronicle: Feb.16, 1947 Saturday Review of Literature: Feb.15, 1997 Time: Feb. 24, 1947 The American Mercury: 1947
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
"Evidently even John Steinbeck 'takes a walk now and then.' This is it. We hope he doesn't continue to walk downhill. For here is a book that will inevitably be a bitter disappointment to those who have put John Steinbeck at the top of the roster of American writers today" (Kirkus). John Steinbeck did not enjoy the acclaim from critics that he once had with his previous successes. The Wayward Bus received very mixed reviews, mostly favoring the negative. Most critics admired the quality of his prose and the vividly descriptive passages. Although his usual craftsmanship was noted and respected, the characters in The Wayward Bus were heavily criticized. Ben Ray Redman commented in The Library, that what was missing in this novel was the emotional, sentimental involvement with the characters. It is this involvement that allows the readers to participate and up to this point had been present in all of Steinbeck's successful novels'. Redman noted that "the great weakness of The Wayward Bus is that it holds no characters who enlist Steinbeck's full sympathy or who, consequently, engage his full powers." Many critics simply found the characters unlikable and flat. The plot was described as simple and linear, and in many cases just a "dismal bus ride." Harry Hansen from the Saturday Review of Literature characterized it as "Another load of sleazy characters who deserved oblivion rather than the accolade of a book club." Steinbeck was accused of being preoccupied with sex, and this preoccupation was depicted as an unsuccessful artistic device. Most critics interpreted the novel as an allegory that failed to accomplish the purpose in which it had been intended. (This point is emphasized more in the subsequent reviews.) Reviews commonly expressed disappointment in Steinbeck for not rising to the potential that they had seen in him in his previous successes. J. H. Jackson said in the San Francisco Chronicle, "In my opinion, I'm sorry to say, the novel is not Steinbeck at his best, nor Steinbeck at what a good many people thought he was going to become." The negative reviews greatly affected his reputation among critics with his following novels. However from this point on the reading public remained faithful and appreciative despite the critics who continued to minimize any artistic achievement in subsequent novels. An Excerpt from a Typical Review:
"The Wayward Bus will not add greatly to Mr. John Steinbeck's reputation. In earlier novels he has shown his ability for describing the lives and preoccupations of the half-baked, a subject he treats with zest and confidence, though without much humour. Here something more seems required; the book, although readable and competently put together, never rises above the level of the better sort of film to which some uplift has been added." - Times [London]
Complimentary and Moderate Excerpts:
"To those who admire Mr. Steinbeck, it is refreshing to see the warm flow of vitality which surges up in his pages, and to mark such changes as have occurred in his style and in his philosophy since he wrote his great story of the Okies?Very lovely, very sensuous the country is in Mr. Steinbeck's rippling prose?Very natural and funny, and at times very candid, is the talk?But, for all the animal magnetism and photographic reality, one ends by wondering if American life is actually so empty, so devoid of meaning, so lonely for the Juans, The Pritchards and the Camilles of today. God help us if it is." -Edward Weeks, Atlantic
"With frankness, warmth, humor and insight, author reveals his characters' individual Freudian problems as they come to the surface under stress of the situation. Will probably offend some readers but is very much a must novel." -H.G. Kelley, The Library
"In the final effect, although it makes for a striking novel, is less than completely satisfying, it is in great part because we had come to expect another major Steinbeck advance in breadth and power, such as was marked in turn by In Dubious Battle and The Grapes of Wrath, while The Wayward Bus does not reveal such development. Furthermore, the central character of Juan Chicoy, the Irish-Mexican 'natural man,' does not quite come off, and the climax somehow lacks the expected dramatic force. But there is enough in the novel to make one anticipate Steinbeck's next book as hopefully and eagerly as this was awaited. His is a notable American talent." -Richard Watts, New Republic
Negative Excerpts:
"The Wayward Bus is not deficient in entertainment. But to what extent Steinbeck has been successful in reproducing an intelligible and authentic microcosm of our culture is another question." -Samuel Roddan, Canadian Forum
"Steinbeck's dreary, prurient pilgrimage has no real human or universal significance. It is nothing more that an unusually dismal bus ride -- more dismal, depraved and meaningless than any man anywhere has taken." -Frank O'Malley, Commonwealth
"The simple-mindedness of the story is saved once again in a while by Steinbeck's incidental touches?But in theme and design the novel is a disappointing piece of second-rate, back-to-the-bulls fiction. Moreover, Steinbeck writes carelessly." -Time
Reviews Include: U.S. Quarterly Review: Jan.1947 Partisan Review: 1947 Times [London] : Nov. 29, 1947 Atlantic: March 1947 Canadian Forum: May 1947 Chicago Sun Book Week: Feb.16, 1947 Commonwealth: April 25, 1947 Kirkus: Dec.15, 1946 The Library: Feb.15, 1947 Manchester Guardian: Nov. 29, 1947 Nation: March 29, 1947 New Republic: March 10, 1947 New York Herald Tribune Weekly: Feb.16, 1947 New York Times: Feb.16, 1947 New Yorker: Feb. 22, 1947 San Francisco Chronicle: Feb.16, 1947 Saturday Review of Literature: Feb.15, 1997 Time: Feb. 24, 1947 The American Mercury: 1947
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
What does the label "bestseller" tell readers about a book? That label generally evokes high expectations for the quality of the novel and the enjoyment that the reader will experience from it. However, a common misconception is that popularity and success of best-selling novels equates with quality. Bestsellers are usually bought before read; therefore sales can be independent of its subsequent reception. A bestseller is not a guaranteed "good book," and if a reader is expecting that from any given bestseller, disappointment is a possible reaction that could be experienced. This was the case for many readers of The Wayward Bus, by John Steinbeck. Steinbeck was a famous best-selling author whose novels were widely read by the public. By the time of the publication of The Wayward Bus in 1947, Steinbeck had already experienced much success with previous novels such as The Grapes of Wrath and In Dubious Battle. Steinbeck had acquired the status of a literary celebrity, which created high expectations for this long-awaited novel. However according to his critics, The Wayward Bus disappointingly turned out to be one of the main failures of Steinbeck's career. The Wayward Bus was the subject of some of Steinbeck's worst reviews, yet its sales kept it a bestseller for a good part of 1947. The Wayward Bus became a best-selling novel due to forces external to the novel itself, which included the public's high expectations, due to the wide promotion of the book by its publisher Viking, and the popularity of John Steinbeck as its author. Both its status as a best-selling novel and its perceived failure evolved from the public's expectation for a repeat of Steinbeck's previous novels. The circumstances under which The Wayward Bus was written were not ideal or conducive to creating a "great book." It was written during an extremely stressful time in John Steinbeck's life. He began writing The Wayward Bus during the completion of the movie production of a previous novel, The Pearl. Complications involving this project disrupted his work on The Wayward Bus on several occasions and served as a large distraction. Steinbeck's involvement in the movie industry was common to many best-selling authors, however was a complication and distraction for him while writing this novel. In addition to this distraction of other work projects, his family was experiencing a stressful period of transition. These factors created an atmosphere of constant stress and distractions, which did not lend themselves well to finishing his novel. Even more significant was that Viking, his publishing company was rushing him into production:
With his publishers pressing him for the delivery of the new work, Steinbeck had hurried the writing of later chapters, then realized that the whole text needed radical revision before he could consider releasing it for publication. Steinbeck was subsequently to regret that he had failed to veto the too hasty publication. Ten years or so later, he openly admitted that the book had been 'a paste up job' and that he 'should never have let it go out the way that it did.' (Simmonds 292)
As Simmonds mentioned, Steinbeck later acknowledged that he had given into the pressure that his publishing company Viking had placed on him to release the book quickly. Pushed into production, Steinbeck did not take the time he needed for its completion, and The Wayward Bus was published before it was ready. This was his first novel in eight years, and Viking was anxious for their star author to get another book out into the market. Viking was eager to capitalize on the industry that was behind Steinbeck. John Steinbeck had become a known commodity among the public, and by means of promotion, they intended to turn this long-awaited novel into a bestseller. Viking ran publication advertisements throughout the country, spending over $30,000 on advertising, both before and after publication. There were nine advertisements in The New York Times Book Review alone during the period of February to May in 1947, as well as advertisements in Publishers Weekly and the Saturday Review. It was also advertised as the Book-of-the-Month Club selection for March, which was a tremendous contribution to the novel's best-selling sales. Viking also advertised it as "Steinbeck's first full-length novel since 1939," when The Grapes of Wrath was published. The underlying effect that The Grapes of Wrath had on The Wayward Bus is significant in understanding it as a bestseller. The Grapes of Wrath was the only book through which critics' saw Steinbeck live up to his true potential. Its overwhelming success raised the par of excellence by which Steinbeck would be measured by in the future. The persona of a best-selling author has a significant effect on the sales and the staying power of their novels. The Grapes of Wrath had transformed Steinbeck into a literary celebrity. Charles Angoff wrote in the North American Review, "With his latest novel, Mr. Steinbeck at once joins the company of Hawthorne, Crane, and Norris, and easily leaps to the forefront of all his contemporaries. The book has all the earmarks of something momentous, monumental, and memorable." The Grapes of Wrath was the best-selling novel of 1939 and its sales remained strong into 1940, and beyond. "By the end of 1939, over 430,000 books had been shipped: a staggering number, then or now. Since then, the novel has never been out of print or sold under 50,000 a year. The number of translations and books sold in non-English speaking countries is mind-boggling" (Parini 226). The limelight that Steinbeck was thrown into during the success of The Grapes of Wrath placed enormous pressure on him to remain at that high level of achievement:
The Grapes of Wrath was almost an immediately accepted as a masterwork of American literature, and the enthusiastic popular response to John Ford's haunting film only heaped further renown on the novel. John Steinbeck had made it to the top of the mountain, even though he did not particularly like being there or trust his ability to breathe air at that height. (Parini 238)
Instead of wanting to capitalize on his achievement, Steinbeck retreated rather than trying to go from one success to another. It was eight years until he wrote his next full-length novel, The Wayward Bus. In its promotion for The Wayward Bus, Viking capitalized on Steinbeck's last success, and anticipated that the public would respond in anticipation for a similar novel. The reading public, including the critics, was expecting a repeat performance of The Grapes of Wrath, and found themselves disappointed in the apparent differences between the two. Howard Levant commented that although there were a few details that were similar, there were overwhelming differences in their structures, materials, and the degree of their harmony (Levant 207). It is unknown what the critical reception of The Wayward Bus would have been if it had been Steinbeck's first novel and there were no preconceived expectations of it. However, that was not the case and the disappointment that followed its publication was because it was not another The Grapes of Wrath. Richard Watts said of The Wayward Bus in the New Republic, "In the final effect although it makes for a striking novel, is less than completely satisfying it is in great part because we had come to expect another major Steinbeck advance in breadth and power, such as was marked in turn by In Dubious Battle and The Grapes of Wrath, while The Wayward Bus does not reveal such development." Steinbeck had not intended for The Wayward Bus to be anything like The Grapes of Wrath. In fact, "He wasn't going to sacrifice the enjoyment he would have in writing it just to satisfy everyone's expectations of significance. Enjoyment in writing for him involved trying something different, and that in itself, he believed, was enough to bring the critics automatically down on his back" (Benson 575). According to Jackson Benson, Steinbeck wrote to satisfy himself and not the public. However, Steinbeck was probably caught between the desire for his own personal fulfillment, and the pressure of success to continue to achieve greatness in the eyes of the critics and the public:
If, in such manner, it was possible to produce a work proclaimed almost universally as the greatest novel of the decade (and sometimes as the greatest novel ever written by an American), then surely it was possible for the process to be repeated. This is not to suggest that this was a conscious approach adopted by Steinbeck in subsequent work, but it is just possible that the seed may have been implanted in his mind, to be nurtured by the more-or-less general acclaim that was to greet some of the hastily written work he published during the stressful years 1939 through 1945. Once the wartime interruption to the possible predestined course of his career was at last behind him, Steinbeck's great tragedy could be said to have been that he found it beyond his grasp to achieve again that remarkable synthesis of imaginative spontaneity and high literary quality that is the hallmark of The Grapes of Wrath. (Simmonds 17)
A gap existed between Steinbeck's intentions and accomplishment within the work. Critics expressed a widespread dislike for Steinbeck's characters his use of the Everyman allegory, and his lack of emotional involvement within the story. Kirkus wrote, "Evidently even John Steinbeck ?takes a walk now and then.' This is it. We hope he doesn't continue to walk downhill. For ere is a book that will inevitably be a bitter disappointment to those who have put John Steinbeck at the tope of the roster of American writers today." Similarly, J.H. Jackson from the San Francisco Chronicle said that, "In my opinion, I'm sorry to say, the novel is not Steinbeck at his best, nor Steinbeck at what a good many people thought he was going to become." The link between these reactions was that they all mentioned the critics' disappointment in Steinbeck. This disappointment indicated that they had seen an impressive potential in Steinbeck that they measured his work by. The critics were not evaluating The Wayward Bus on its own achievements, rather by the achievements of The Grapes of Wrath and other Steinbeck successes. The core of the issue was not the novel in itself, however the novel in relation to the reputation of Steinbeck that it would affect.
The Wayward Bus will not add greatly to Mr. John Steinbeck's reputation. In earlier novels he has shown his ability for describing the lives and preoccupations of the half-baked, a subject he treats with zest and confidence though without much humour. Here something more seems required; the book although readable and competently put together, never rises above the level of the better sort of film to which some uplift has been added. (London Times, 11/29/47)
A possible reason that The Wayward Bus was such a disappointment was that the novel did not contribute and fit the previous mold of the Steinbeck reputation that critics had come to expect. Despite the poor reviews, the sales figures indicate that The Wayward Bus was an extremely popular novel among the readers. The Book-of-the-Month Club sold 600,000 copies, and Viking sold an additional 150,000 copies, which made The Wayward Bus Steinbeck's most successful book commercially thus far. This indicates that the power of a blockbuster author's persona, like Steinbeck, is enough to motivate the public to buy a book. The Wayward Bus is an example of a novel whose sales were independent of its popularity and success in terms of literary quality. This is an explanation for the dominance of an author like Steinbeck on the bestseller list despite poor reviews. The Wayward Bus is not the only bestseller that followed this pattern of success due to the author's fame and earlier best-selling successes. There are many different types of bestsellers and explanations of why they end up on the bestsellers list. The Wayward Bus is included in a category of bestsellers in which earlier novels by the same author contributed, and in some instances were responsible for their place on the bestsellers list. J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey, Edith Wharton's Twilight Sleep, and Hemingway's Across the River and Through the Trees are examples of other bestsellers in this category. J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey was published in 1961, following Catcher in the Rye. The foundation of readership that Salinger acquired in Catcher of the Rye was different than the targeted audience that for Franny and Zooey. However, the limited target audience would not have been wide enough to put Franny and Zooey onto the bestsellers list. The additional audience Salinger already had from Catcher in the Rye can explain much of its readership beyond that target audience. Edith Wharton's Twilight Sleep was published in 1927, following the publication of Ethan Frome and The Age of Innocence, both of which were bestsellers. These two novels had established her as a well known and respected author in the literary world, and similar to The Wayward Bus, critics expressed disappointment in Twilight Sleep. Also resembling The Wayward Bus, Hemingway's Across the River and Through the Trees was seen as one of Hemingway's worst achievements by his critics. They were disappointed in the novel not reaching the high standard that Hemingway had previously set as his precedent. The Torrents of Spring, The Sun Also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls were Hemingway's earlier critically acclaimed bestsellers, which would have led the reading public to predict another such success, accounting for Across the River and Through the Trees's status as a bestseller. The Wayward Bus is an example of a heavily promoted bestseller that was written by a famous author, for which the public had high expectations. Despite poor reviews, there was enough public interest in the novel to put it on the bestsellers list. This interest came from its widespread promotion, and from the precedent of Steinbeck's work set by The Grapes of Wrath. The reason for The Wayward Bus's initial commercial success but ultimate literary failure was because of that earlier precedent. The reading public, including his critics, thought that they could reliably predict the quality of The Wayward Bus based on Steinbeck's previous books, explaining the best-selling status of his mediocre The Wayward Bus. Furthermore, The Wayward Bus represents an entire category of novels that would not have been bestsellers without the author's earlier successes. Reviews Used: Times [London] : Nov. 29, 1947 Kirkus: Dec.15, 1946 New Republic: March 10, 1947 New York Times: Feb.16, 1947 San Francisco Chronicle: Feb.16, 1947 Saturday Review of Literature: Feb.15, 1997 The American Mercury: 1947 Other Sources: Benson, Jackson J. The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer. The Viking Press:New York, 1984. Parini, Jay. John Steinbeck:A Biography. Henry and Holy Company:New York, 1995. Simmonds, Roy. John Steinbeck:The War Years, 1939-1945. Associated University Presses:Cranbury, New Jersey, 1996.
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