Rossner, Judith: Looking for Mister Goodbar
(researched by Gwendolyn Kern)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
U.S. first edition: Judith Rossner. Looking for Mr. Goodbar. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1975. (284 pp., 21 cm., ISBN# 067122025X)

Parallel first edition: London: Jonathan Cape, 1975. (284 pp., 21 cm., ISBN# 0224011790)

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
First American and first British editions simultaneously published in trade cloth binding.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
144 leaves, [2] pp. [1-8] 9-11 [12] 13-19 [20-22] 23-284 [2]
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
Neither edited nor introduced.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
Not illustrated. There is a small graphic of a walking man on page [1], but whether it is peculiar to this title or merely to the publisher is unclear.
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?)
101R. Page size: 208 mm by 130 mm. Text size: 160 mm by 100 mm.

The typesetting makes the book easy to read. The margins seem neither wide nor narrow, and the text is optimally positioned slightly above the center of the page. The type appears to be approximately 10 or 11 point, and it is single-spaced. The font is serif and resembles Times New Roman.

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?)
Printed on wove paper with an even, granulated texture. The paper is of a very fine texture, and seems durable. The pages are quite opaque. The paper appears to have yellowed over time, and is now a light cream color.
11 Description of binding(s)
Bound in medium brown cloth, embossed linen grain.

The cover is neither stamped nor illustrated.

The endpapers are dark brown, and are not illustrated.

Transcription of the spine: Judith | Rossner | Looking for Mr. Goodbar | Simon and | Schuster
Transcription of the front cover: LOOKING FOR | MR. GOODBAR | A NOVEL | JUDITH ROSSNER
Transcription of the back cover: JUDITH ROSSNER'S previous novels are Nine | Months in the Life of an Old Maid, To the Precipice, | and Any Minute I Can Split.

12 Transcription of title page
Recto: Looking for | Mr. | Goodbar | Judith Rossner | . . . | Simon and Schuster | New York

Verso: Any resemblance between characters in this book and any persons living or | dead is purely coincidental. | Copyright © 1975 by Judith Rossner | All rights reserved | including the right of reproduction | in whole or in part in any form | Published by Simon and Schuster | Rockefeller Center, 630 Fifth Avenue | New York, New York 10020 | SBN 671-22025-X Casebound | Designed by Elizabeth Woll | Manufactured in the United States of America | by The Book Press, Brattleboro, Vermont | 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 | Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data | Rossner, Judith | Looking for Mr. Goodbar. | I. Title | PZ4.R834L0 [PS3568.0848] 813'.5'4 75-2317 | ISBN 0-671-22025-X

13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
Unknown (author is living as of May 2000).
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
A bookplate is glued to the inside of the front cover. It reads, "IN MEMORY OF | DAN AND KATHRYN NORTON", and has a picture of leaves on it.
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
Simon & Schuster also issued two book club editions: New York: Simon & Schuster, 1975. (217 pp., 22 cm.) New York: Simon & Schuster, 1975. (249 pp., 22 cm.)
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?
There were at least 10 printings of the first edition in 1975. The total number of printings is unavailable.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Editions from other publishers include: New York: Pocket Books, 1975. (390 pp., 18 cm., ISBN# 0671496220) New York: Pocket Books, 1976. (390 pp., 18 cm., ISBN# 0671718432) New York: Pocket Books, 1976. (390 pp., 18 cm., ISBN# 0671735756) New York: Pocket Books, 1976. (280 pp., 18 cm., ISBN# 067180409X) New York: Pocket Books, 1976. (390 pp., 18 cm., ISBN# 0671818813, sold for $2.50, "A Kangaroo book") New York: Pocket Books, 1975. (390 pp., 21 cm., ISBN# 0671019015) London: Pan Books, 1991. (287 or 288 pp. [sources disagree], ISBN# 0330317458, sold for £4.99) London: Coronet, 1976. (287 pp., 18 cm., ISBN# 034020818X).
Also found was a reference to an edition that is probably erroneous: New York: Warner Books, 1976. (253 pp., ISBN# 044689169X)
Searches for this book by ISBN number in Worldcat and RLIN turned up nothing, and a Publisher's Weekly article on the books specifically states that Warner did not acquire the paperback rights.
6 Last date in print?
Looking for Mr. Goodbar is in print as of May 2000. Pocket Books carries two paperback editions: one perfect bound, which sells for $14.00, and one mass market, which sells for $5.95. Only the former is available at Amazon.com and bn.com (Barnes and Noble's online store).
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
Cumulative sales figures are unavailable.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
The first hardcover edition sold 163,700 copies in 1975, and the first (mass market) paperback edition sold 3,030,000 copies in 1976. Sales figures for subsequent years are unavailable.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
The only print ad that could be located was on the back cover of the March 24th issue of Publisher's Weekly. Partial text reads as follows:
"The spellbinder of the year. And we have reserved your personal reading copy so you can see for yourself whyÖ * We have tripled our initial advertising budget. (This full-color PW ad is just one indication of how strongly we expect to advertise and promote) * We have quadrupled our first print order * The Literary Guild has made it a Featured Alternate * The Woman Today Book Club has chosen it for an alternate * English rights have been bought before publication * The paperback sale was over $300,000 LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR: A novel by JUDITH ROSSNER"
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
A210191000412182125.jpg
11 Other promotion
An interview with Judith Rossner ran in the April 14, 1975 issue of the Village Voice. The interviewer was Linda Abrams.
On June 2, 1975, Rossner appeared on NBC's "Today Show" in an interview with Barbara Walters. Also that June, Rossner was on ABC's "A.M. America."
When Pocket Books announced the April 1976 publication of the mass market paperback, the Publisher's Weekly announcement said, "Major national advertising, promotion and publicity campaign. Author tour."
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Paramount Pictures bought the movie rights for Looking for Mr. Goodbar on August 26th, 1975, and paid $200,000 on signing plus various bonuses and a percentage of the profits. The film, starring Diane Keaton and Richard Gere, was released in 1977.
The script was published as follows:
Brooks, Richard. Looking for Mr. Goodbar. (Release dialogue script, 11/20/77.) 222 leaves; 28 cm. Hollywood: Script City, 1977.
The movie has also been released on videocassette and on laserdisc.
Videocassette: Hollywood: Paramount Pictures Corp., 1994 (c1977). (136 min., ISBN# 0792104722)
Laserdisc: Universal City, CA: Paramount Home Video, 1983 (c1977). (136 min., 2 laserdiscs)
The book is also available on tape: Charlotte Hall, MD: Recorded Books, Inc., 1980. (7 cassettes, unabridged, 9 hrs., 30 min., read by Susan Adams)
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
The book has been translated into many different languages, including:
CHINESE. I-hao TsÍng, translator. Ch'un kuei y¸an. Taipei: Huang kuan ch'u pan shÍ, 1985. (272 pp., 21 cm.) SPANISH. Fernando Novoa, translator. Buscando al Sr. Goodbar. Madrid: Editorial Cosmos, 1976. (249 pp., 23 cm., ISBN# 8474080053, sold for 425 pesetas) JAPANESE. Misuta Guddoba o sagashite. Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobo, 1976. (278 pp.) Mr. Goodbar o sagashite. Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobo, 1979. (388 pp., 16 cm.) HEBREW. Mifgash Goodbar. Tel Aviv: Zmora, Bitan, 1975. (239 pp., 22 cm.) ITALIAN. In cerca di Goodbar. Milan: Mondadori, 1976. (343 pp., 21 cm.) FRENCH. Une femme. MontrÈal: Presses Select, 1976. (316 pp., 23 cm.) Une femme. Paris: J.C. LattËs, 1976. (316 pp., 23 cm.) SERBO-CROATIAN. Tra*ze*ci gospodina Goodbara. Rijeka: Otokar Keröovani, 1981. (404 pp., 20 cm.) GERMAN. Auf der suche nach Mr. Goodbar. Munich: R. Piper & Co. Verlag, 1976. (301 pp., 22 cm.)
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
The book was not serialized.
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
There are no sequels or prequels to the book.
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
Judith (Perelman) Rossner was born on March 31st (Dictionary of Literary Biography) She was born to Joseph George and Dorothy (Shapiro) Perelman in New York City, and it wasn't long before it was clear she would be a writer. "I was dictating to my mother when I was five," Rossner says in an interview in Publisher's Weekly. She attended New York public schools, including the City University of New York, from which she dropped out at age 19 to marry Robert Rossner, a teacher and writer. She got her first job that same year, working in the ad department at Scientific American (CA, 2), but that didn't last long. "Right away I knew I'd have to go to work in real estate or something else or I could never finish my novel," she says (PW). "Writers are the lunatic fringe of publishing, and they shouldn't be involved in it except as writers." Rossner left her job at Scientific American and took a series of secretarial positions, including one at a real estate office. "For me," Rossner told Bruce Cook of the Detroit News, "the more interesting the 9-to-5 work is, the more it takes away from my real work, which is writing." At the age of 31, after the birth of her son Daniel, Rossner finished her first novel, To the Precipice, which was published by Morrow in 1966. To the Precipice concerns itself with selfishness versus altruism, as would Rossner's later books (most notably Looking for Mr. Goodbar), but it was not commercially successful (DLB). Rossner told Curt Suplee of the Washington Post, "My first book took five years to write and I made $1,000 on it and I was in heaven. The second took three years and I made $3,000. All this time I was a housewife being supported by a husband. I was very lucky..." The "second book" to which Rossner refers is Nine Months in the Life of an Old Maid, published by Dial in 1969. Her third novel, Any Minute I Can Split, was probably her best received to date, garnering favorable reviews from the New York Times Book Review and the Saturday Review, among other publications. It deals with a woman who left her husband while pregnant with twins to join a commune. Eventually, after taking a lover, giving birth to her twins, and experiencing life at the commune, she decides that she would rather go back to living with her rich but abusive husband. The events of the novel loosely parallel those in Rossner's life: in the late 1960s, she and her husband left New York City to start a free school in New Hampshire (CA, 3). Things clearly didn't work out, as Rossner returned to the city in 1971 and divorced her first husband in 1973. After the publication of Any Minute I Can Split, Rossner decided that she no longer wanted to be a secretary. "I was 37 years old," she told Suplee. "It was like being in drag. I wanted to support myself by writing." As a single mother with two children (Jean was born in 1960), she had to guarantee herself some income. The idea for Looking for Mr. Goodbar came from the real-life murder of 27-year-old schoolteacher Roseann Quinn. Originally, Rossner was supposed to write an article for Esquire on the death of Quinn, who was killed by a man she had picked up at a singles bar, but lawyers for Esquire killed the story before Rossner had finished it. Her reaction: "Fine, I'm a lousy journalist anyway" (Suplee). She decided to use the story as the basis for her next novel, which she wrote for money.

And money she got. Looking for Mr. Goodbar had barely been published in 1975 when Paramount bought the movie rights for more than $200,000; Pocket Books secured paperback rights before the book ever saw shelves, paying $300,000 for them. Goodbar was made into a movie, starring Diane Keaton and Richard Gere, which was released in 1977 and garnered an Oscar nomination for Gere. An article in the Washington Post that same year follows Rossner to a screening of the movie and sees her cringing all the way through. When it's all over, according to the Post article, the first thing out of her mouth is, "I'd like to get out of here without having to talk to the producer." However lousy the movie may be, Looking for Mr. Goodbar is almost universally regarded as the best of Rossner's books. The Dictionary of Literary Biography notes that since its publication, some of Rossner's earlier novels have been republished with the billing "by the acclaimed author of Looking for Mr. Goodbar." Ads for her subsequent novels in Publisher's Weekly bill them the same way. Naturally, expectations were high for her next book, Attachments (1977), but its odd storyline (about two women who marry Siamese twins) and intrusive narration bothered critics. Emmeline, a loosely fact-based novel after the fashion of Looking for Mr. Goodbar, followed in 1980, the year after her second marriage to magazine editor Mordeccai Persky (they are now divorced). Reviews were mixed: some focused on the lack of credibility of the plot, while others found it "chilling" and "convincing." Emmeline was adapted into an opera by composer Tobias Picker and poet J.D. McClatchy, which premiered at the Santa Fe Opera on July 27, 1996. The opera received more positive reviews than did the novel, and it was later featured on PBS and performed by the New York City Opera. Rossner's next novel, August, was also widely acclaimed, perhaps because its portrayal of gay characters and its detailed description of psychoanalysis were fashionable at the time of its publication in 1983. Critics praise Rossner's character development and narration, which is remarkable because her next book, His Little Women (1990) was so widely hated that it is almost impossible to find information about it. Perhaps the only positive review of it in existence, on a literary club's website, describes it as "a timely, scathing portrait of life in Hollywood." Rossner published Olivia: or, the Weight of the Past in 1994, a sort of culinary novel of which Publisher's Weekly said at the time, "Anyone who likes to eat, cook or read about food will savor Rossner's descriptions of tasty dishes and culinary love, conveyed with gusto and sensuous detail." As of March 2000, her most recent novel is Perfidia (1997), another novel with a real-life basis, about a teenage girl who kills her abusive mother. Looking at Rossner's literary career as a whole, Looking for Mr. Goodbar clearly stands out as the peak of her success, both critically and commercially. In an interview in Publisher's Weekly, she recounts the story of an early rejection slip she received from a women's magazine to which she had submitted a short story: "When all is said and done," it said, "she does not wear sufficiently rose-colored glasses for us." In fact, it is almost certainly Rossner's refusal to don those glasses that is responsible for the intensity of both the positive and negative reviews of her novels. As of March 2000, Judith Rossner is living in New York City. As of the publication of her last novel in 1997, her editor was Nan Talese at Simon & Schuster. Works Cited: Bannon, Barbara A., interviewer. Publisher's Weekly, August 22, 1980. Cook, Bruce, qtd. in Contemporary Authors Online, the Gale Group, 1999. Contemporary Authors Online. The Gale Group, 1999. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume VI: American Novelists Since World War II. Gale, 1980. Harbourfront Reading Series Bio. October 11, 1997. http://www.icomm.ca/ifoa/ifoa97/rossner.html Harris, Art. "Rossner: Looking for Her ?Goodbar' in the Film." Washington Post, October 21, 1977. Suplee, Curt. "Judith Rossner, Together Again; A New Novel, and Comfort In the Family of Women." Washington Post, August 1, 1983.

Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Contemporary reviewers, both in general-interest magazines and in publications aimed at book lovers, were extremely mixed in their reactions toward Looking for Mr. Goodbar. Not only did the general tone of the reactions to the book vary greatly, reviewers could not seem to come to a consensus on whether any single aspect of the book was good or bad. The validity of nearly every character, scene, and aspect of Rossner's writing seem to have been in dispute. Unsurprisingly enough, since Theresa Dunn's moral schism is the core of Goodbar's plot, critics disagreed about whether or not her character was sympathetic. In a May 1975 article in Newsweek, Walter Clemons writes of Theresa: "We learn to like her more than she is able to like herself; the closer we come to the ending we already know, the more we resist it. We can hardly bear for Theresa Dunn to die, even if she herself seems to welcome it." New Republic fiction columnist Alfred Kazin disagrees, saying: "There is no one in Looking for Mr. Goodbar who is more real than a picture in the paper, more real than still another explanation by a columnist, no one who is near our necessary attention." Other reviewers felt that Theresa did not deserve the sympathy that Rossner seemed to expect her readers to feel toward her. An article in the New Yorker describes Theresa as "a maimed self-hater, so filled with fear and shame as a result of a childhood polio-induced curvature of the spine (now cured) that she feels safe only when she's being degraded." Some reviews even suggest that part of the draw of the book is the feeling that Theresa may have brought her death on herself. Also in dispute is the message that this portrayal of a young woman experimenting with her sexuality sends to Goodbar's readers. In a July 1975 article in Time magazine, Martha Duffy points out that "feminists have already taken [Theresa Dunn] up as a victim in a male-oriented world. . . . But the woman is no Little Ms. Victim. When she was being put together, the killer instinct was not overlooked. . . . She tells a lover of her random leching with mean gusto. One can even have some sympathy for her killer." In the New Statesman, Elaine Feinstein writes of the moral ambiguity of Goodbar, pointing out that the presence of the promiscuous protagonist who dies from her sins might be attractive to women who want to explore their sexuality without seeming immoral. "Perhaps," she says, "we have an interesting piece of double-think which allows the righteous housewife to indulge her fantasy and satisfy her sense of ultimate retribution." One more subject on which reviewers' opinions vary wildly is the quality of Rossner's writing. There are even inconsistencies of opinion within individual reviews. A columnist in the New Yorker writes, "Pulp trash? Yes. Except that Miss Rossner's knowing descriptions of a rootless, lonely single girl's life in the city, and her sympathetic charting of the perilously unguided journey the girl makes from the Irish nuns of the Bronx to the swingers and eventual tragedy of Greenwich Village, make it all appallingly, depressingly readable." In the New York Times Book Review, C.E. Rinzler is much more positive: "The sureness of Rossner's writing and her almost flawless sense of timing create a complex and chilling portrait of a woman's descent into hell that gives this book considerable literary merit." Perhaps only Walter Clemons has come up with a statement on which everyone can agree: "Judith Rossner's three earlier novels went unnoticed," he says. "She'll be noticed from now on." Works Cited: "Books: Briefly Noted." pp. 98-99, New Yorker, July 14, 1975. Clemons, Walter. "Do It Do It Do It." pp. 86-87, Newsweek, May 19, 1975. Duffy, Martha. Time, 7/7/75, qtd. in pp. 1092-1093, Book Review Digest, 1975. Feinstein, Elaine. "Defectors." p. 313, New Statesman, 12 September 1975. Kazin, Alfred. "Alfred Kazin on Fiction." pp. 18-19, New Republic, December 6, 1975. Rinzler, C.E. NY Times Book Review, 6/8/75 p.24, qtd. in pp. 1092-1093, Book Review Digest, 1975. Todd, Richard. "Escaping False Categories." p.84, Atlantic Monthly, September, 1975.
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Contemporary reviewers, both in general-interest magazines and in publications aimed at book lovers, were extremely mixed in their reactions toward Looking for Mr. Goodbar. Not only did the general tone of the reactions to the book vary greatly, reviewers could not seem to come to a consensus on whether any single aspect of the book was good or bad. The validity of nearly every character, scene, and aspect of Rossner's writing seem to have been in dispute. Unsurprisingly enough, since Theresa Dunn's moral schism is the core of Goodbar's plot, critics disagreed about whether or not her character was sympathetic. In a May 1975 article in Newsweek, Walter Clemons writes of Theresa: "We learn to like her more than she is able to like herself; the closer we come to the ending we already know, the more we resist it. We can hardly bear for Theresa Dunn to die, even if she herself seems to welcome it." New Republic fiction columnist Alfred Kazin disagrees, saying: "There is no one in Looking for Mr. Goodbar who is more real than a picture in the paper, more real than still another explanation by a columnist, no one who is near our necessary attention." Other reviewers felt that Theresa did not deserve the sympathy that Rossner seemed to expect her readers to feel toward her. An article in the New Yorker describes Theresa as "a maimed self-hater, so filled with fear and shame as a result of a childhood polio-induced curvature of the spine (now cured) that she feels safe only when she's being degraded." Some reviews even suggest that part of the draw of the book is the feeling that Theresa may have brought her death on herself. Also in dispute is the message that this portrayal of a young woman experimenting with her sexuality sends to Goodbar's readers. In a July 1975 article in Time magazine, Martha Duffy points out that "feminists have already taken [Theresa Dunn] up as a victim in a male-oriented world. . . . But the woman is no Little Ms. Victim. When she was being put together, the killer instinct was not overlooked. . . . She tells a lover of her random leching with mean gusto. One can even have some sympathy for her killer." In the New Statesman, Elaine Feinstein writes of the moral ambiguity of Goodbar, pointing out that the presence of the promiscuous protagonist who dies from her sins might be attractive to women who want to explore their sexuality without seeming immoral. "Perhaps," she says, "we have an interesting piece of double-think which allows the righteous housewife to indulge her fantasy and satisfy her sense of ultimate retribution." One more subject on which reviewers' opinions vary wildly is the quality of Rossner's writing. There are even inconsistencies of opinion within individual reviews. A columnist in the New Yorker writes, "Pulp trash? Yes. Except that Miss Rossner's knowing descriptions of a rootless, lonely single girl's life in the city, and her sympathetic charting of the perilously unguided journey the girl makes from the Irish nuns of the Bronx to the swingers and eventual tragedy of Greenwich Village, make it all appallingly, depressingly readable." In the New York Times Book Review, C.E. Rinzler is much more positive: "The sureness of Rossner's writing and her almost flawless sense of timing create a complex and chilling portrait of a woman's descent into hell that gives this book considerable literary merit." Perhaps only Walter Clemons has come up with a statement on which everyone can agree: "Judith Rossner's three earlier novels went unnoticed," he says. "She'll be noticed from now on." Works Cited: "Books: Briefly Noted." pp. 98-99, New Yorker, July 14, 1975. Clemons, Walter. "Do It Do It Do It." pp. 86-87, Newsweek, May 19, 1975. Duffy, Martha. Time, 7/7/75, qtd. in pp. 1092-1093, Book Review Digest, 1975. Feinstein, Elaine. "Defectors." p. 313, New Statesman, 12 September 1975. Kazin, Alfred. "Alfred Kazin on Fiction." pp. 18-19, New Republic, December 6, 1975. Rinzler, C.E. NY Times Book Review, 6/8/75 p.24, qtd. in pp. 1092-1093, Book Review Digest, 1975. Todd, Richard. "Escaping False Categories." p.84, Atlantic Monthly, September, 1975.
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Arguably, Looking for Mr. Goodbar could be assigned to many different categories of bestsellers: those whose movie rights were bought before or immediately after their publication; those that garnered negative reviews initially but eventually became hailed as their authors' best work; those that contain extensive foreshadowing (Goodbar opens with the confession of the man that eventually murders its heroine); those whose protagonists are not entirely sympathetic; those with graphic cover art; those that contain (or are at least purported to contain) graphic or shocking depictions of sex; and those that fit in nicely with the literary environment at the time of their publication. Although all of these categories are interesting and worth examining, it is the last three that will be discussed in the most detail here. It is not at all difficult to compile a collection of 20th century American bestsellers that, either in their original editions or in later ones (especially the mass-market, airport-novel variety), attempt to grab potential readers with their cover art. The original edition of Erica Jong's How to Save Your Own Life, for example, is emblazoned with a close-up photo of two people kissing passionately. Although Michael Crichton's Disclosure is not actually primarily about sex, the paperback version of it published after the movie release shows Demi Moore whispering provocatively into Michael Douglas's ear. Anaïs Nin's volume of erotica, Delta of Venus, has a dimly lit photo of a nearly nude woman on the front cover. And, even more obvious in its sexual content, Naked Came the Stranger, by the fictional author Penelope Ashe, features a rear view of a naked woman on her haunches, accompanied by a tally written in lipstick (presumably of the woman's recent conquests). By these standards, Goodbar's cover photo seems almost tame. Although it depicts a woman lying in bed with no indication of clothing, there's also nothing particularly sexual about the picture. Of all the aforementioned cover photos, though, Goodbar's is uniquely ambiguous. It alone can be interpreted either as sexual or as violent. [See the cover images for hardcover and paperback editions of the book in Assignments 1 and 2 above.] If Looking for Mr. Goodbar's cover art was intended to allude to the protagonist's death (which seems almost obvious after reading the book), it is in good company among books that wear their violence on their sleeves (as it were). The first edition of Peter Benchley's Jaws features a solitary swimmer looking down at the huge white shark looming below her; the mass market paperback in print as of May 2000 shows an even more graphic closeup of a shark with its mouth wide open, staring out from the cover. The Deep, Benchley's follow-up to Jaws, depicts another female swimmer, this one drowning. Robin Cook's Fatal Cure illustrates its title with a dead body covered with a sheet, its flatlining heart rate superimposed on the image. And the most direct of this group is undoubtedly the first edition of Ian Fleming's You Only Live Twice. In case potential readers are not familiar with the standard James Bond plot, Fleming's publishing company clears things right up with the cover image: a solitary splotch of blood. It's clear that cover art that is sensationalistic is good for catching a customer's eye in the display-oriented environments of airport newsstands, supermarket paperback aisles, and warehouse-style bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble. But cover art can also illuminate where titles are obscure. By title alone, there's no way to know that K is for Killer and To Kill a Mockingbird aren't two books in the same series. But after looking at the covers (K is for Killer's title emblazoned in an ominous-looking typewriter font, and To Kill a Mockingbird's posed delicately in old-fashioned type above a serene painting of a tree and a bird in silhouette), there is no question which one of them is about murder. Looking for Mr. Goodbar is clearly one of these books that uses its cover art not just to snag potential buyers, but to give people an idea of what the book is really about. In these terms, it is Disclosure's antithesis. [Sidebar: See "Supplementary Materials" below for several of the aforementioned cover images.] And what Looking for Mr. Goodbar is about, in large part, is sex. Like its famous predecessor, Erica Jong's Fear of Flying (not an annual bestseller but nonetheless an extraordinarily popular book), Looking for Mr. Goodbar contains all sorts of forbidden sex that's "bad" in all sorts of ways. Shortly after Rossner introduces the protagonist, Theresa Dunn, she launches into Theresa's fear of, pursuit of, loathing of, love for, and ultimately seduction by her English professor, Dr. Martin Engle. A scene right before their first sexual encounter illustrates the strained, ambivalent nature of their relationship:
He always worked in the room while she was there, sometimes on his poetry (by hand on legal pads), sometimes on his scholarly manuscript (on the typewriter), sometimes, it seemed, just fussing with the papers she'd done or some other odds and ends. She would work in the big chair, watching him surreptitiously when she was supposed to be concentrating on the papers. Sometimes he just pulled dry leaves off his plants or stared out the window. He told her he didn't know how he had ever managed without her. Occasionally she asked him a question about some paper and then he might lean over her to see what she was talking about. Once in the spring she looked up as he was doing that and he kissed her mouth. Then he walked away. The next time she asked him a question he stayed in his chair and told her to read it aloud to him. (60)
Goodbar echoes Fear of Flying in that it includes scenes of sex in which one or both people are uncomfortable, as well as scenes of people who don't entirely like each other having sex. The major sex scene between Theresa and Martin (which I will not include here because it's so painfully mechanical) is an example of the former; the relationship Theresa later develops with James is a prime example of the latter. James Morrisey is a trial lawyer whom Theresa meets just before getting involved with a heroin-addicted mechanic named Tony. He is the only man introduced in the book who does not try to manipulate Theresa in some way. But she is more put off than endeared by his kindness, and rather than getting to know him, she uses him to boost her ego.
She went out with him six times before he kissed her goodnight. She became almost eager for him to do it, not because she wanted to kiss him but to get it over with. His kiss was light on her lips, as she would have expected. She was unmoved by it. As she would have expected. She smiled naughtily. "Now you're not a virgin any more." "Ah, Theresa," he said. "You're so cruel to me. Why?" Because you like me too much, was what came into her head. But of course that was ridiculous. It wasn't that simple. (179)
After forcing herself to socialize with James for a while, Theresa begins to wish heartily that she were attracted to him. Finally, she throws in the towel and decides to sleep with him, but the experience is no less painful than it was for her with Martin. This time it is not because she feels unloved, but because she feels loved and doesn't know how to deal with it. But Theresa's troubles with sex don't stop there. Her relationship with Tony is also problematic. The only sex scenes in Goodbar that even approach eroticism are those in which Theresa and Tony make love, or, as she says, "...fucking, she should call it, since it was hard to see how anything she did with him could be about love" (167). She and Tony play roles for each other. He is tough because she likes it when men are tough; when he sees that she's unhappy, he becomes sensitive, but only until he sees that the disaster has been averted. Sex is the couple's solution for everything, and it doesn't work very well. Looking for Mr. Goodbar sold copies because a lot of people enjoy reading books with lots of sex in them. But sex is more than a source of voyeurism in Goodbar: the fact that Theresa has such various problems with it leads some readers to identify with her. Maribel Vega says in her Amazon.com review, "I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in reading about the inner turmoil women face when confronted with situations where their sexuality faces off with their morality." In another Amazon.com review, B. Scarpone explains, albeit ungrammatically, "This book gets to a matter that is very seldom explored by the people reading it?their own deep dark insecurities." Certainly, these are not the only readers who are attracted to Goodbar because it encourages them to think about their attitudes about sex and intimacy. How to Save Your Own Life and Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita bring up many of the same questions. Unlike bodice-ripping romance novels, these books deal with both the up and down sides of sex. Looking for Mr. Goodbar is a classic example of this genre. Not only does Looking for Mr. Goodbar fit comfortably into this subgroup of fiction bestsellers, it was published at a time when many nonfiction bestsellers were also focusing on sex. Three sex-related nonfiction books made it onto the annual bestseller lists in the 1960s: Sex and the Single Girl, written by former Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Helen Gurley Brown; Human Sexual Response, by the legendary Masters and Johnson; and Phyllis Diller's Marriage Manual. Of the three, only Human Sexual Response is in print as of May 2000. By contrast, seven sex-related books were annual bestsellers in the 1970s, all of them between 1970 and 1976. They are as follows:
  • Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex but Were Afraid To Ask, by David Reuben, M.D. #1 in 1970.
  • The Sensuous Woman, by "J." #3 in 1970.
  • The Sensuous Man, by "M." #1 in 1971.
  • Open Marriage, by Nena and George O'Neill. #3 in 1972.
  • The Joy of Sex, by Alex Comfort. #4 in 1973.
  • More Joy: A Lovemaking Companion to The Joy of Sex, by Alex Comfort. #4 in 1974.
  • The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality, by Shere Hite. #9 in 1976.
Of these seven, all but the last are in print as of May 2000. From this information alone, it would be easy to argue that since the 1970s are more recent than the 1960s, it is more likely for books from that decade to be in print in 2000. However, inspection of the bestseller lists from the 1980s show not a single sex-related nonfiction book on the annual bestseller list. In fact, none are on the list after 1976. The fact that not only did the 70s produce more non-fiction bestsellers than either the 60s or the 80s, but nearly all of them are in print more than 20 years later, suggests that these books attained "classic" status. So Looking for Mr. Goodbar, which was published in 1975, was released into an ideal literary environment. Rarely does a single attribute of a book propel it onto the bestseller lists. While many bestsellers are controversial, many controversial books alienate potential readers before they ever pick the books up off the shelf. Many bestsellers are based on true stories, but countless novelizations of real-life events never hit the shelves of major bookstores, let alone the bestseller lists. Because it combines sensationalistic cover art with graphic sex scenes, and because it was published at a time when audiences were clearly looking for such books, Looking for Mr. Goodbar provides a powerful example of what can happen when several factors come together to produce a bestseller. Works Cited/Consulted: Bass, Elizabeth. Database entry on Disclosure, by Michael Crichton. Books In Print. Chen, Su-Hou. Database entry on K is for Killer, by Sue Grafton. Cymes, Alina. Database entry on Naked Came the Stranger, by Penelope Ashe. Goudar, Ranjit. Database entry on Fatal Cure, by Robin Cook. Jong, Erica. Fear of Flying. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1973. Lewis, Scott. Database entry on Jaws, by Peter Benchley. Lists of annual bestsellers for the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. http://www.engl.virginia.edu/courses/bestsellers/best60.html, http://www.engl.virginia.edu/courses/bestsellers/best70.html, and http://www.engl.virginia.edu/courses/bestsellers/best80.html. Luckey, J.C. Database entry on To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Maloney, Joseph. Database entry on You Only Live Twice, by Ian Fleming. Romano, Christina. Database entry on Delta of Venus: Erotica, by Anaïs Nin. Scarpone, B. "Touches a Reality That Most of Us Don't Want to Face." http://www.amazon.com, as of 5/1/00. Schroeder, Heidi. Database entry on How to Save Your Own Life, by Erica Jong. Sutton, Brian. Database entry on The Deep, by Peter Benchley. Vega, Maribel. "A Penetrating Glance Into the Psyche of a Fallen Woman." http://www.amazon.com, as of 5/1/00.
Supplemental Material
The inside flap of the dust jacket of the first edition reads: Looking for Mr. Goodbar is the story of the life and death of Terry Dunn?an attractive young schoolteacher, educated in parochial school, from a respectable family?the kind of girl you don't notice very much, the kind of girl who seems to have everything under control... until one New Year's Day when she is murdered. In this spellbinding novel, Judith Rossner writes with haunting intensity of the temptations and problems of a young woman of today alone in a big city where there are opportunities for a different kind of life?a life that relieves the boredom of work or dispels the chill of solitude, a life where you can have sex with strangers, where "Mr. Goodbar," the right bar, is always the next one?the final escape from another restless night at home. With this brilliant book, which evokes the power and tension of such best sellers as The Collector and In Cold Blood, Judith Rossner emerges as a major talent in American fiction.
Graphic cover art (see Assignment 5)
Back cover of mass market paperback
Sample chapter page from mass market paperback
Movie poster
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