Potok, Chaim: The Chosen
(researched by Matthew Pinto)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
First Edition published by Simon & Schuster, New York. 1967 Also published in London by Heinemann, 1967. Copyright 1967 By Chaim Potok Source: DLB/First Printings of American Authors; Worldcat; Biblio.com
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
Published in grey cloth
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
146 leaves. [12], [1-273], [5] nb: main body of novel begins on thirteenth page but is labeled page 11.
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
Dedicated "To Adena." Followed, on the next page, by disclaimer stating that the text is a work of fiction without intention of relating to real persons. After this is another dedication by the author to several people credited with assisting with research. The novel is then introduced by two quotations, on the following page. The quotes are by Karl A. Messinger and Ben Jonson. Furthermore, each "Book" is prefaced by a quotation.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
There are no illustrations
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?)
Typography is measured at 90R (twenty lines = 90 mm ). The text is of medium size and very readable. The ink has not worn thing or smudged since 1967. The text is centered on the page and the lines are even. The novel is divided into three "books," each prefaced by a quotation. Neither the title nor the author appears on the top of the pages, as they are blank. Pagination is noted on the bottom center of every page of the main body of the text. The book is also divided into eighteen chapters, each chapter beginning on a new page with the statement of the chapter number in all caps. Total page size = 215 MM
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 is of medium thickness -- substantial but not overly heavy. Other than slight yellowing, the paper has held up extremely well, especially as compared the to cover of the book.
11 Description of binding(s)
The Binding is grey cloth, somewhat dirtied by fingerprints and other smudges. There is slight fraying at the edges and corners, with some loose strings sticking out. The spine is reinforced with Library tape. The pages are bound well, and none are loose or have fallen out. The cover does not include the title or authors name. There is a decorative pattern on the top and bottom, creating two horizontal stripes. The back has no decoration -- only grey cloth. On the spine, "The Chosen" is printed in gold on blue background. Two horizontal gold lines are directly below the title, and underneath these lines, in gold, "CHAIM POTOK" is printed.
12 Transcription of title page
Recto: patterned border / The Chosen / outside border and underneath / A NOVEL BY / CHAIM POTOK / Simon and Schuster / New York Verso: All Rights Reserved / Inluding the Right of Reprocution/ In whole or in part in any form / Copyright 1967 By Chaim Potok/ Published by Simon and Schuster / Rockefeller Center, 630 Fifth Avenue/ New York, New York 10020 / Fourteenth Printing / Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 67-13026 / Designed by Eve Metz / Manufactured in the United States of America / By the Book Press Incorporated, Brattleboro, Vermont
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
This information could not be located at this time
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
This book: fourteenth printing Text contains light pencil underlinings most likely made by previous students
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
Heineman (London) released a subsequent Edition in 1977, ten years after the original date of Publication Simon & Schuster (New York)released a large print edition in 1969. All other editions were released by seperate publishers (see item number 5)
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?
According to Publisher's Weekly, in February 1968 there were 122,500 copies in print of the first edition. Though the book remained on the best-seller list for several weeks after this, no figures are given. I was unable to locate the exact number of printings because they are not listed after the first year; see sales by month in section number 8 to see printings listed by Publishers Weekly. Furthermore, the copy attained at Clemmons Library, University of Virginia, is the 14th Printing of the First Edition.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Fawcett Publication, Inc 1967, Greenwich, Conn. 271 p. 18cm 1967, New York. 271 p. 18cm (Fawcett Crest) 1968, Greenwich, Conn. 271 p. 18cm 1982, New York. First Ballantine Books ed. 271 p. 18cm (Fawcett Crest) 1985, New York. 271 p. 18cm (Fawcett Crest) 1996, New York. 1st Ballantine Books trade pbk. ed. 284 p. 21cm (Fawcett Columbine) Ballantine 1967, New York. 271 p. 18cm. Large Print. Buccaneer Books 1967, Cutchogue, New York. 284 p. 23cm. Penguin 1970, Harmondsworth, Middlesex; New York. 280 p. 18cm Hayakawa Shobo 1971, Tokyo, Japan. 395 p. 20cm. (Japanese Translation. Alt Title: Erabareshi mono) Plaza & Janes 1983, Esplugues de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain. 295 p. 20cm. (Spanish Translation. Alt title: Los elegidos) Chajak Namu 1994, Soul-si, Korea. 386 p. 23cm (Korean Translation. Alt Title: T'almudu ui adul) A.A. Knopf 1992, New York. 295 p. 22cm. G.K. Hall 1998, Thorndike, Me. 412 p. (large print) 24cm Macmillan Library Reference 1998, 25.95 Large Type McDougal Littell 1998, Evanston, Ill. 406 p. 21 cm (The Chosen and other readings, compiled with other short stories and short novels.)
6 Last date in print?
According to the University of Virgina Library (VIRGO) books in print search, Scholastic is currently printing a version of the book.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
According to Publishers Weekly in the first ten months of publication 116,000 copies were sold. (April 1967 - February 1968). Could not locate any other information on this subject.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
According to Publishers Weekly in the first ten months of publication 116,000 copies were sold. (April 1967 - February 1968) Monthly Breakdown, 1967: (Publishers Weekly) January 30th: First Printing of 25,000 announced April 3rd: Second Printing of 10,000 announced (before release date) June 5th: First Appearance of monthly best seller list (#7) June 19th: 60,000 copies in print June 26th: 40,000 copies sold, 4,000 sold in previous week December 25th: 114,000 in print. 7 months on list. January 15th, 1968: 115,000 in print Feb 19: 122,500 in print Feb 26: 116,000 copies sold March 25: Falls out of top 10 best sellers.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
Ad Identified in Publishers Weekly (full page) in the March 13, 1967 Edition. Ad announced release date of April 28th, quoted highly favorable reviews by Publishers Weekly found in the Tips section of the January 9th Edition and the Forecasts section of the January 30th Edition, 1967. "The Chosen, a first novel of special promise."
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
the first seventy pages were excerpted in Ladies Home Journal, Vol. 84, no. 5 (May, 1967.)
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
CBS/Fox Video. 1982. Farmington Hill, MI The Chosen. Executive Producer: J. Bernstein. subsequent releases: 1983: Beta format 1983: Beta II format 1983: VHS format 1985: VHS 1297 format 1988: VHS 1297 format 1990: VHS 1297 format Kagan, Jeremy Paul. The Chosen; screenplay. Script City, 1987[?] (Source: Worldcat) Books On Tape: Newport Beach, Ca; 1986. The Chosen. 6 sound cassettes, analog. B-O-T Inc. (Books on Tape, Inc.): Newport Beach, Ca; 1986. Special Library Edition. The Chosen. 6 sound cassettes, analog. Warner Audio Publishing, New York, NY; 1985. The Chosen. 2 sound cassettes (120 min)
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
Potok, Chaim. Erabareshi mono (Chosen. Japanese). Hayakawa Shobo, Tokyo, Japan; 1971. Potok, Chaim. Los Elegidos (Chosen. Spanish). Plaza & Janes, Esplugues de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain; 1983. Potok, Chaim. T'almudu ui adul (Chosen. Korean). Chajak Namu, Soul-si, Korea; 1994
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
Though not serialized, the first seventy pages were excerpted in Ladies Home Journal, Vol. 84, no. 5 (May, 1967.)
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)
Chaim Potok is considered one of the pre-eminent Jewish authors of the twentieth century. Born on February 17 1929, he was raised by immigrants from Poland -- Mollie Friedman and Benjamin Max Potok. Potok was born and raised in New York City, where he attended Jewish home and parochial schools. He continued his studies at Yeshiva University, graduating summa cum laude with a B.A. in 1950. From Yeshiva he enrolled in the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where he was ordained a rabbi in 1954. Potok's brother also became a rabbi, and his two sisters both married rabbi's. Furthermore, he received many such honors such as the Hebrew Literature Prize, Bible prize, and M.H.L degree. Finally, Potok earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania in 1965. Potok served in the Korean war as a United States Army chaplain from 1955 to 1957. After the war, he married Adena Sarah Mosevitzky in 1958. He and Adena have three children, Rena, Naama, and Akiva. In 1957 following the war, he began his career in the teaching and publication of Jewish studies. From 1957 to 1959 he taught at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. Following this, he was a "scholar in residence" at Har Zion Temple in Philadelphia until 1963. He spent the next year at the Jewish Theological Seminary Teacher's Institute. He was editor of Conservative Judaism magazine during the same year (1964), associate editor for Jewish Publication Society in 1965, and since 1974 has served as special projects editor. In his role as special projects editor, Potok has collaborated with other Jewish scholars to publish new translations of The Torah (1962), The Prophets (1978), and The Writings (1982). Critical and Scholarly articles have been printed in Commentary, the Saturday Review of Literature, The New York Times, Conservative Judaism, the Reconstructionist, and American Judaism. At the age of 16, Potok started writing fiction. His first submission was to the Atlantic Monthly at the age of 17 (the piece was not published, though Potok did receive a complimentary note from an editor asking if he was writing a novel). The Chosen was Potok's first published novel. Though it received mixed criticism, it was publicly heralded, appearing on Publishers Weekly's Best seller list for the year 1967. He has published thirteen more books, including My Name is Asher Lev, The Book of Lights, Davita's Harp, and I Am the Clay. Potok draws his literary influences from Joyce, Waugh, and Flannery O'Connor. He dramatizes the importance of religion in a growingly secular society. Potok made a departure from his male-oriented novels in Davita's Harp, which primarily concerns the lives of two central female characters. He has also written three books for children, plays, short stories, as well as numerous nonfiction publications. Potok has won The Edward Lewis Wallant Award for The Chosen, The Athenaeum Prize for the Promise, The National Jewish Book Award for Fiction for The Gift of Asher Lev, the Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from La Sierra University, and the O'Henry Award in 1999. Potok now resides in Merion, Pennsylvania.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Immediately following publication, criticism of the novel was for the most part positive. However, some reviews did mention a certain stiff writing form, though they acknowledged the overall effectiveness and powerful message of the novel. While some reviews focused on the nature of the book as applied to the Jewish community, many interpreted the novel as a representation which could be applied to any person, regardless of religious affiliation. "Something rough and unpolished about his style...the imagery blurred...yet...we listen...The structural pattern of the novel, the beautifully wrought contrapuntual relationship of the two boys, and their fathers, is complete." -- Hugh Nissenson, The New York Times Book Review (May 7, 1967) "[Potok] suggest[s] that almost any situation, no matter how unfamiliar to the population in general, may have meaning for the multitude if the author goes deep enough...a fine, moving, gratifying book." -- Hicks, Granville, Saturday Review, April 29, 1967 "A deeply considered exegesis of modern Judaism...The plot is simple and slight, though strong and graceful...The style is beautiuflly quiet and gentle...That the world must replace its Jews is the message of this novel. It is a good, true, and beautiful message." R.B. Nordberg, Best Sellers, May 1, 1967 Sandra Schmidt of the Christian Science Monitor finds fault in Potok's use of both psychological exploration and the so-called "genre" novel of "local color": "[The Chosen] concludes with a not altogether convincing justification of the ways of fathers and their sons...Mr. Potok's two intentions cancel each other out." Some reviewers also attacked the Historical accuracy of the characters' reactions to the events of World War II as depicted in the novel: "All that doubt and grief came much later than Chaim Potok remembers it. IN that sense, this book is the way things were not, and more's the pity." (Granville Hicks, Sat. Review)
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Immediately following publication, criticism of the novel was for the most part positive. However, some reviews did mention a certain stiff writing form, though they acknowledged the overall effectiveness and powerful message of the novel. While some reviews focused on the nature of the book as applied to the Jewish community, many interpreted the novel as a representation which could be applied to any person, regardless of religious affiliation. "Something rough and unpolished about his style...the imagery blurred...yet...we listen...The structural pattern of the novel, the beautifully wrought contrapuntual relationship of the two boys, and their fathers, is complete." -- Hugh Nissenson, The New York Times Book Review (May 7, 1967) "[Potok] suggest[s] that almost any situation, no matter how unfamiliar to the population in general, may have meaning for the multitude if the author goes deep enough...a fine, moving, gratifying book." -- Hicks, Granville, Saturday Review, April 29, 1967 "A deeply considered exegesis of modern Judaism...The plot is simple and slight, though strong and graceful...The style is beautiuflly quiet and gentle...That the world must replace its Jews is the message of this novel. It is a good, true, and beautiful message." R.B. Nordberg, Best Sellers, May 1, 1967 Sandra Schmidt of the Christian Science Monitor finds fault in Potok's use of both psychological exploration and the so-called "genre" novel of "local color": "[The Chosen] concludes with a not altogether convincing justification of the ways of fathers and their sons...Mr. Potok's two intentions cancel each other out." Some reviewers also attacked the Historical accuracy of the characters' reactions to the events of World War II as depicted in the novel: "All that doubt and grief came much later than Chaim Potok remembers it. IN that sense, this book is the way things were not, and more's the pity." (Granville Hicks, Sat. Review)
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Chaim Potok's The Chosen became a best seller in 1967. By analyzing both the unique and the common aspects of The Chosen as compared to other best sellers, we can better learn about the nature of the best seller itself, in particular as represented by Potok's novel. We will see that The Chosen demonstrates a combination of elements which all contribute in their own way toward selling the book. Unique factors of The Chosen include its label by many as "Jewish" fiction or the label given by some as a "young adult" novel, but also the fact that it is not a genre novel. Other more common elements to best sellers include being published by a large publisher, positive pre-release reviews, mixed critical reaction, and dealing with a subculture of American society that is unknown to many Americans. Finally, the novel is an example of how events in the era of it's release can positively impact the sales of the novel. The Chosen is different from many best sellers in that it is not a so-called "genre" novel. Unlike Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, John LeCarrè's spy novels, or Danielle Steele's romances, The Chosen stands alone as a unique story about the lives of two young men, their fathers, and their culture. Though some label the novel as "Jewish" fiction or even "Young Adult" literature, a personal reading, along with critical reaction, demonstrates that The Chosen goes beyond such attempts at genre labels. Though the book is deeply rooted in the Jewish tradition, the theme of the novel supercedes any exclusive Jewish message. In his review in the Saturday review on April 29, 1967, Granville Hicks writes, "[Potok] suggest[s] that almost any situation , no matter how unfamiliar to the population in general, may have meaning for the multitude if the author goes deep enough." This is not say, however, that every critic during the immediate reception of the novel gave the same reading. In fact, some critiques saw The Chosen to be a genre novel in many ways, and thought that the attempt for deeper meaning simply took away from the novel. Sandra Schmidt of the Christian Science Monitor finds fault in Potok's use of both psychological exploration and the so-called "genre" novel of "local color:" "[ The Chosen ] concludes with a not altogether convincing justification of the ways of fathers and their sons...Mr. Potok's two intentions cancel each other out." However, it has become generally accepted, as the book achieved phenomenal success, that the book does indeed outreach its Jewish or even young adult themes. In contemporary criticism of re-releases of the novel, almost every review has labeled it a classic or given otherwise positive reviews. Furthermore, a very telling element of the true ?genre' novel is the ease with which it is adapted into other media, in particular, movies. Books such as the aforementioned Bond and Steele novels, a multitude of Tom Clancy novels, and other novels, such as The Day of the Jackal have all been made into succesful movies. The Chosen , too, was adapted into both a (straight to video) movie and a Broadway Musical. (Singing rabbis, yes, Fiddler on the Roof, it was not.) Neither release experienced any form of success, with the latter being thoroughly trashed by New York Magazine. John Simon blasts both the play (Potok did the adaptation) and the original novel. "[the characters] progress inexorably along dully intersecting diagonals, toward reversed extremes." Clearly, The Chosen is written in such a style that is both appealing to readers and difficult to translate into other media, which is a somewhat unique aspect of its best seller status. Indeed it may come as a surprise to many that The Chosen was ever on the best seller list. It is a relatively short and simple work, and while it stands alone as a work of literature, there is no one clear-cut factor which made it a best seller. The Chosen is unique in that it is not a genre novel, but nor is it true ?high brow' literature. It draws a line somewhere in the middle. The critical reaction of the novel is actually very representative of many bestsellers. Lauded by some and lambasted by others, critical reaction is by no means the sole or even most important influencing factor in predicting the selling power of the novel. Essentially, positive critical review can't hurt a novel's chances, but negative critical view does not always hinder and can, at times, even help the success of a book. However, because the negative critiques of The Chosen were not the type that would necessarily stir controversy, the book probably relied on word of mouth of its readership to boost sales. One mixed review by Hugh Nissenson, in The New York Times Book Review on May 7, 1967, states, "Something rough and unpolished about his style...the imagery blurred." However, he goes on to admit, "yet...we listen...The structural pattern of the novel, the beautifully wrought contrapuntal relationship of the two boys, and their fathers, is complete." There is one element of the critical response to The Chosen which almost certainly helped it achieve bestseller status. Publishers Weekly, a trade publication which booksellers use to aid in deciding which books to order, gave The Chosen glowing pre-release reviews. The novel was mentioned four months prior to its April release in the January 23rd edition on "Spring Announcements," and even earlier on January 9th in the "Tips" section, which stated " The Chosen , A first novel of special promise." Clearly, not every book that is mentioned prior to its release makes it on to the best seller list, but this pre-release hype certainly influences bookstores to stock their shelves and promote the book. Furthermore, The Chosen was originally published by Simon and Schuster, a very large publishing company based in New York City. Simon and Schuster took out various adds in Publishers Weekly and most likely in other literary sources, getting the name of the novel out to the public. Furthermore, though the practice is far less common now, Publishers Weekly used to be available for customers to peruse in the bookstores themselves, where the publicity would help the book sell even more. It is the case that for almost any book you will find glowing reviews (you can look for these on the inside cover or back title page) and harsh reviews, but such reviews often do little to influence the popular readership. In fact, they may even spark controversy and cause more books to be bought. Controversial bestsellers such as Peyton Place and Valley of the Dolls were banned all over the country and highly criticized for their shocking and revealing content. While The Chosen is not particularly controversial, it does provide insight into a rather closed group of society, which probably served to spark a keyed interest in the novel. After being originally published by Simon and Schuster in New York and concurrently by Heinemann in London in 1967, The Chosen was released by three other publishers in the same year. Ballantine Books, Fawcett, and Buccaneer Books all released their own printings of the novel. This served not only to put more books in stores to be bought, but also more money influencing promotion. Certainly, when a bestseller starts selling and is picked up by several other publishers, this can only further the book along in its path toward best seller status. The American culture is based on a mix of cultures from around the world, and as a result Americans are often fascinated with the elements of the subcultures present in American life. By shedding light on the Orthodox and Hasidic tradition, and personalizing the characters living in that group, The Chosen may serve to settle the American public's attraction to the inner life of certain groups or subcultures. Though The Chosen is not strictly a genre novel, it does examine the Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish lifestyle. Many other bestsellers have played on the same theme of group exposé: Mario Puzo's The Godfather shows us the life of the Italian-American Mafia, Ian Fleming, John LeCarre, and more recently Tom Clancy expose the life of an international spy, Upton Sinclair exposes the immigrant life in Chicago at the turn of the century, and Grace Metalious pulls the covers off of small town New England life. In The Chosen , Potok successfully penetrates a culture and humanizes it. He shows personal conflict between two sects of the Jewish faith, and also demonstrates certain universal problems within the highly organized structure of the faith. When Potok shows readers that members of the Hasidic and Orthodox tradition have interpersonal problems, and problems with communication amongst fathers and sons, this very theme was a vital element of the culture of the Nineteen Sixties. Published in 1967, The Chosen was selling books during the great youth movement of the Sixties, in which America's youth found a voice against the so-called conformity and normalcy of the fifties. There was an air of disillusionment with conservative values and the ?old guard.' It should be noted that the book is set in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, which even today remains a virtual time capsule of Nineteen-Fifties conservative America. The Chosen demonstrates that even within seemingly quiet, peaceful communities, an air of extreme unrest can linger and pervade the atmosphere. The Chosen shows the dysfunction present in the ultra conservative Hasidic culture and gave confirmation to the general sentiment of the Sixties. In addition to the radical politics of the nineteen sixties, another societal factor which may have contributed to the success of the book was the war between Israel and Egypt, in which Israel won in convincing fashion. There was strong Pro-Israel sentiment in America at the time, and The Chosen may have satisfied many a readers interest to learn more about the Jewish culture. When movements in any time period are reflected in or can be discussed in relation to the theme of a novel, this increases the popular interest in the novel. This has been evidenced not only in The Chosen , but also in novel's such as Joseph Heller's Catch 22 or Something Happened (though Something Happened sold many of it's copies more because of the success of Catch 22 and less as a result of it's commentary on the bland pall of life in 1970's America). Indeed, many bestsellers become so because of previous books written by that author which have gained popular acclaim. People by ?the new Tom Clancy, Danielle Steele, or Mary Higgins Clarke novel" simply based on the success of other novels by the same author. However, this is not the case with The Chosen . In fact, The Chosen was Potok's first novel to be published. Though he had had sholarly work previously published, The Chosen was his debut work of fiction. Other than perhaps circles involved in Jewish scholarly studies, it is doubtful anyone had ever heard the name Chaim Potok before reading The Chosen . The Chosen , however, probably did aid Potok in the success of latter novels, such as My Name is Ascher Lev. In conclusion, The Chosen tells us many things about the elements of a best seller. Though The Chosen is not the most typical best seller, it contains many elements which can be applied to other books. These aspects include the humanization of an enigmatic subculture, positive pre-release reviews, mixed reviews upon immediate release, and a society which was undergoing social events which in some ways lead to a piqued interest in the content of the book. In addition, it's unique theme and style of writing also shows us that all best sellers are not alike. Not all best sellers are easily translated into blockbuster movies, nor are they simply written to entertain the reader as they relax in the backyard or in their beds. This is not to say, however, that the process is completely random, but there is no exact science to writing a best seller. The Chosen relies on not only common elements such as the exposé of a closed group in society, the success of previous novels, or being sold by a large publisher, but also on intangible elements such as being released at the right time, when society was reading and eager to read such a story, and the extremely powerful social phenomenon of word of mouth.
You are not logged in. (Sign in)