Steel, Danielle: Message from Nam
(researched by Candice Pratsch)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Steel, Danielle: Message From Nam. Published by Delacorte Press, Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc, New York, New York, 1990. Copyright 1990 by Danielle Steel. Published simultaneously in Canada by Delacorte, June 1990.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
First American edition published in trade cloth binding.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
This book includes two pages at the beginning with Roman numerals on which is printed a poem called "The Boys Who Fought in Nam." Pages separating the book into two parts (part one = before the war / part two = during the war) are not numbered. There are five unnumbered pages at the beginning, although the book begins on page 3. 204 leaves, pp. [i-x] xi-xiii [5] 3-162 [163-164] 165-389 [3]
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
Includes publisher advertisement for other books by Danielle Steel. No editor or introduction. Book is dedicated to author's family. On the ninth unnumbered leaf (ix) there is a quote from John F. Kennedy, relating to the time period of the novel and the subject of youth as discussed in the book. On following leaves (xi-xiii), there is a poem called "The Boys Who Fought in Nam," also relating to the events and emotions discussed in the book.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
There are no illustrated plates.
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?)
The pages measure approximately 9 inches in length by 6 inches in width. The text is justified and measures 6 Ω inches in length by 4 inches in width. The margins are unequal. The top margin measures approximately 1 º inches, while the bottom margin is slightly longer at about 1 Ω inches. The outer margin of each pages measures æ of an inch, while the inner margin (next to the binding) measures 1 1/8 inches. The text is a 47.5R, and there is 0.5 cm between the lines, which makes the text easy to read.There is no type description noted on verso of the title page. Overall, the book is in fair condition for it's age (presently 10 years old). The binding is cracked in many places, as indicative of a well-read novel.
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?)
Book is printed on wove paper with no watermarks. The book is made of one kind of stock. Pages are fairly thick, and do not transmit much light. The pages are cream-colored and not stained. The pages are generally in good condition, which makes the book easy to read. The edges of the paper are slightly rough where they were cut.
11 Description of binding(s)
The binding is dark blue cloth with a criss-cross grain. The binding is 1 Ω inches wide. The pages are glued to the cream-colored muslin lining. The paste-down end paper is a different color than the rest of the pages. It is white with a rough texture. The front cover is signed in gold writing by the author. There is nothing on the back cover. The author's name, the title of the book, and the publisher's name are stamped in gold on the spine. Transcription of spine: DANIELLE STEEL | MESSAGE FROM NAM | Delacorte Press. There is a dust jacket with a brief summary of the novel, begun on the front flap and continuing onto the back flap. The front cover of the dust jacket is patterned in camouflage, with a drawing of a helicopter in between the author's name and the title of the book. On the back of the dust jacket is a photo of the author and her typewriter. The inside back flap of the dust jacket lists copyrights (without dates) for the photo, jacket design, and lettering design. Author's photo copyright by Roger Ressmeyer. Jacket design copyright by Andrew M. Newman Lettering design copyright by Dave Gatti.
12 Transcription of title page
Recto of title page: DANIELLE STEEL | MESSAGE FROM NAM | Delacorte Press Verso: Published by | Delacorte Press | Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. | 666 Fifth Avenue | New York, New York 10103 | Copyright 1990 by Danielle Steel
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
The manuscripts reside with the author, according to an email received from her.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
This book is dedicated to the author's family as follows: To the love of my life, | John, | who makes every moment | worth living. | And to our beloved boys, | Trevor, Todd, | Nicholas, Maxx, | may you never, ever | have to fight a war, | like this one. | With all my heart | and love, | d.s. The dedication is found on page [vii]. On the following leaf (as referred to in item #5), there is a quote from J.F.K's inaugural address: The torch has been passed | to a new generation. The anonymous poem referred to in item #5 reads as follows: THE BOYS WHO FOUGHT IN NAM | Passed hand to hand, | the wishes, | the dreams, | the hopes | of an entire generation | an entire nation | sent to war, | a score | of old men | leading all our boys | to die, | while we watched | in horror, | in pain, | in grief, | the disbelief | that we had to lose | so many of our boys, | their toys | barely left behind, | their eyes | so young, | so bright, | so full of hope, | the fight | so long, | so sad, | the pain | so bad, | the wounds | so deep | until at last | our young men sleep | in their maker's arms again, | their names carved | in stone, | never to come home, | never to touch our tears | againÖ | lest we forget, | lest we grow old, | our hearts must never | be so cold, | we must not run and hide, | we must remember them, | the boys who | diedÖ | let it not be in vain, | let us not forget, | the pain, | the cries, | the agonies, | the braveries, | the heroes, | and the smiles, | the time that was | so long ago, | across so many miles | in a land so bright | so green | caught in a place | just in between | hope and lies, | we must remember still, | must promise that | we always will | touch their hearts | while still | we can, | remember friendsÖ | rememberÖ | the boys who died, | who lived, | who cried, | the boys | who fought | in Nam. At the bottom of the title page, there is a stamp: Jefferson-Madison | Regional Library | Charlottesville, Virginia On the back past-down end paper, there is a stamp reading "June 1990," probably put there by the above-mentioned library.
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
Large Print Edition: Delacorte Press, 1990. Braille Edition: Delacorte Press, 1990. 389p, 25cm. Book Club Edition: Delacorte Press, 1990. 411p, 22cm. Large Print Book Club Edition: Delacorte Press, 1990. 609p, 22cm. Sources: WorldCat and Books in Print database
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?
ìMessage From Namî was published on June 21, 1990, with 925,000 copies in print, and spent a total of 36 weeks on the New York Timesí Best Sellers List, after debuting at #2 on June 29, 1990. Consulting a recent (February 2000) copy of the book revealed that the latest date of printing was May 1991. Judging from this information, the book has had at least two printings. Sources: Publisherís Weekly, June 29, 1990, p. 112 Bestseller Index, 1998.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Braille Editions: William A. Thomas Braille Bookstore, 1992. [ISBN 1569562822; vinyl bound; 670 pages] Dell Publishing, 1990 [417 pages; 18 cm.] Large Type Editions: Bantam Doubleday Dell Large Print Group, Inc., May 1990. [ISBN 0385299079; Trade cloth binding; 408 pages] Bantam Doubleday Dell Large Print Group, Inc. (Limited Edition), May 1990. [ISBN 0385301367; Trade cloth binding; 672 pages] Macmillan Library Reference, Oct. 1993. [ISBN 0816157944; trade paper binding] Ulverscroft, 1990. [ISBN 0708986021; 414 pages] G.K. Hall, 1993. [ISBN 0816157944; 512 pages; 24 cm.] Mass Market Paper Edition: Dell Publishing, April 1991. [ISBN 0440209412; 432 pages] Other Editions: Corgi Books [London], 1990. [ISBN 0552135240; 476 pages; 18cm.] Sources: Books in Print database, WordCat.
6 Last date in print?
According to the "Books in Print" database, "Message From Nam" is still in print as of February 21, 2000.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
According to The Bowker Annual, "Message From Nam" was the fifth best-selling book of 1990, with 1,037,006 copies sold (# of copies shipped and billed). This ranking was determined by sales figures provided by the publisher, for the calendar year 1990, but does not include books that were still on bookstore and wholesale shelves, books on their way back to the publisher's warehouse, or returned books.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
After an extensive search of The Bowker Annual and Publisher's Weekly (May 1990 - May 1991), no information on sales figures could be found.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
This book was advertised in the January 26, 1990 issue of Publisher's Weekly (p.66), in an advertisement promoting upcoming Delacorte Press books for spring/summer 1990. The ad read as follows: MESSAGE FROM NAM | Danielle Steel | Fiction | 0-385-29907-9 | $21.95/$27.50 Can. | Large-print edition: | 0-385-30136-7 | $24.95/$29.95 Can. | Signed, limited, slipcased | edition: | 0-385-30137-5 | $125.00/$150.00 Can. Message From Nam was also advertised in the New York Times on Sunday, June 17, 1990, as follows: Now more than ever | America reads Danielle Steel | In this, her twenty-fifth bestselling novel, Danielle Steel takes us to the | war in Viet Nam with all its power and tragedy and excitement. In this | monumental work about America's most recent past, Danielle Steel | creates a powerful portrait of those who sent a MESSAGE FROM NAM. | It is a message you will never forget.
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
A210191000221224842.jpg
11 Other promotion
According to the April 6, 1990 issue of Publisher's Weekly (p. 26), the book was also promoted by personal appearances by the author. The book was made into a movie in 1993, and the typescript was written by Suzanne Clauser, titled "Danielle Steel's Message from Nam, " and published as a book in 1993.
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
An audio recording of the book was made in 1993 by Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio Publishing. It consisted of two sound cassettes (180 min.) and was Dolby processed. The audio version was abridged and performed by Richard Thomas. (ISBN # 0553452819). Source: WorldCat - First Search. Another audio recording of the book was published by the Library of Congress in 1990. It consisted of 6 sound discs, 8 rpm, 9 in. It is narrated by Pam Ward and published in a series for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Source: WorldCat - First Search A movie was made from Suzanne Clauser's script (please see # 11) in 1993, It was produced by Douglas S. Cramer, directed by Paul Wendkos and starred Jenny Robertson as main character Paxton Andrews. Source: Internet Movie Database The movie version was distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment (NBC Productions) in 1993, on 1 videocassette (184 min.) [ISBN # 1560689668]. The same version was also published by Columbia House in 1998 on 2 videocassettes. Source: WorldCat - First Search
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
ìPayamî [Persian], Nashr-i Janan, 1998. [ISBN 9649144137; 451 pages; 22 cm.] ìSaigonî [Hungarian], Maecenas, 1997. [ISBN 9639025534; 340 pages; 21 cm.] ìSaigonî [Hungarian], Victoria, 1990. [ISBN 9637660402; 277 pages; 18 cm.] ìEl Mensajeî [Spanish ñ Barcelona], Ediciones Grijalbo, 1990. [ISBN 8425322251; 424 pages; 20 cm.] ìMensaje de Namî [Spanish ñ Mexico], Editorial Grijalbo, 1991. [ISBN 9700502384; 425 pages; 20 cm.] ìWiesci z Wietnamuî [Polish], Amber, 1998, 1995. [ISBN 8371695535; 319 pages; 21 cm.] ìMessaggio dal Vietnamî [Italian], Sperling & Kupfer Editori, 1996. [ISBN 8878246549; 435 pages; 20 cm.] ìNachat? snachala : romanî [Russian], Kron-Press, 1996. [ISBN 5232003321; 446 pages; 21 cm.] ìNachat? snachala : romanî [Russian], Prem?era, 1995. [ISBN 5236000254; 387 pages; 21 cm.] ìSouvenirs du Vietnamî [French ñ Montreal], Libre Expression, 1991. [ISBN 289111504x; 313 pages; 22 cm.] ìSouvenirs du Vietnam : romanî [French ñ Paris], Presses de la Cite, 1991. [ISBN 2258030242; 313 pages; 22 cm.] ìBrev fran Vietnam : karlek i krigets skuggaî [Swedish], ManPocket, 1993, 1991. [ISBN 9176428389; 319 pages; 18 cm.] ìViesteja Saigonistaî [Finnish], W. Soderstrom, 1993, 1990. [ISBN 9510175374; 377 pages; 21 cm.] ìNachricht aus der Ferne : Romanî [German], Goldmann, 1995. [ISBN not given in First Search database; 408 pages; 18 cm.] Source: WorldCat ñ First Search
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
Excerpts first appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine. No further information as to the issue date could be obtained, although an extensive search revealed that the book was not serialized in any 1990 issue of Cosmopolitan. Source: Publisherís Weekly, April 6, 1990, p.26.
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 a biographical overview of the author's life, please see Selena Stellute's entry. In contrast to Stellute's entry, however, Steel was married four times to four different people. She had her first child in 1968 while she was married to her first husband, Claude-Eric Lazard. She later married and divorced ex-convict Danny Zugelder, but the marriage produced no children. Then, she married Bill Toth in the late 1970s. They had one child, but soon divorced. During her fourth marriage to John Traina, she acquired two stepchildren, and had 5 more of her own.) In 1990, while Danielle Steel was writing her twenty-fifth best-selling novel, "Message From Nam," she was married to John Traina, and living in the upscale San Francisco neighborhood of Pacific Heights. During the fall of 1989 through the fall of 1990, Steel and Traina bought the multi-million dollar Spreckels' mansion, a San Francisco landmark. While two of her books ("Star" and "Daddy") were published in 1989, and two ("Heartbeat" and "No Greater Love") were published in 1991, "Message From Nam" was her only book published in 1990. During the fall of 1989 and into the spring of 1990, Steel negotiated with NBC to produce some of her books as movies for television. In an interview with McCall's, Steel said that the deal became a burden because she spent most of her time reading, editing, and commenting on the scripts (Bane 259). People magazine writers Vickie Bane and Lorenzo Benet wrote the following about Steel's role in the movie process in their 1994 biography of Steel: "Two writers who wrote scripts for NBC-produced Steel movies? said that the author was instrumental in the process from the start. Lefcourt, who scripted one of the first books under Danielle's new NBC deal, said he noticed that the producers and network executives were very "solicitous" of Danielle, unusual treatment for a novelist by a medium that ideally prefers to dispatch with the book writer (Bane 259)." Anchor Bay Entertainment (NBC Productions) turned "Message From Nam" into a movie in 1993. Suzanne Clauser wrote the script for the movie, which was produced by Douglas S. Cramer and directed by Paul Wendkos. Clauser's script, titled "Danielle Steel's Message From Nam," was published as a book in 1993. Two audio recordings of the book were made in 1990 and 1993. Steel did not narrate either version (Internet Movie Database, WorldCat). There is little evidence to suggest that the events in Steel's life surrounding the publication of "Message From Nam" had any effect on the novel. She appears to have been living a quiet family life in her San Francisco home. As for her professional life in early 1990, Steel did not experience any significant change in the relationship between herself and her publisher (in comparison to the early 1980s, when she won a struggle with Dell to publish her books in hardcover format. "The Ring" [1980] was her first hardcover novel). "Message From Nam" does not mark any major change in Steel's career or have an impact on her reputation as an author. There is no evidence that anyone close to Steel fought in Vietnam. It appears that none of Steel's husbands fought in the war. An article in the San Francisco Chronicle quotes Steel, and reveals her fears of writing about the war: " ?I began this book with great trepidation,' she says in an author's note on the back of her advance galleys ? ?fear of treading in places where perhaps I didn't belong, and of offending those who lived it.' .. ?I was young then, very young,' she writes, ?and everything that mattered to me, and that happened, happened with that extreme intensity of youth.' Now after 20 years of thought and research for this book, ?I couldn't have given you more than I have here?and I think, like Vietnam, this book will not be easily forgotten' (Holt, San Francisco Chronicle, 1990)." While no aspects of Steel's life in 1990 bear any relation to events in the book, some similarities do exist between Steel's life in the late sixties and early seventies and the novel, which takes place during the same time period. As Jerry Carroll points out in his 1997 online summary of an interview with Danielle Steel, "She is the sort of writer who mines the ore of direct experience for her tales" (http://www1.omnitel.net, 3/27/00). Like the novel's heroine, journalist Paxton Andrews, Steel enjoyed an aristocratic lifestyle as a child. Also like Paxton, Steel did not get along very well with her mother, according to Bane and Benet's book. Like Paxton, Steel found freedom from her structured life in San Francisco. Both Paxton and Steel never finished college ? Steel dropped out with four months to go, while Paxton left with only a few weeks to go. Both fell in love with older men. While Steel married her 26-year-old groom when she was 18, Paxton decides not to marry her fiancé until after college. Perhaps Steel would not allow her heroine to repeat her own mistakes. In the novel, the 1970s find Paxton flying back and forth from Vietnam to San Francisco to New York to cover her stories, while that same decade found Steel doing much the same thing. Steel was flying back and forth from New York to San Francisco, researching and writing her first book, Going Home. Steel had a close relationship with her first husband's grandfather in San Francisco, who almost became like a father to her (Bane 19). Paxton, similarly, found a surrogate father in her fiancé's father who also lived in San Francisco. While Steel did not travel to Saigon to cover the war as Paxton did, she fought her own battles against the war here in the United States. In 1972, Steel attempted to free Bruce Neckels, a friend who had been imprisoned for openly protesting against the war. Similarly, Paxton's fiancé, Peter, was imprisoned for protesting against the war, although the novel does not focus on his imprisonment. As of 1994, "Message From Nam" was one of only two of Steel's books to stall at the #2 spot on the New York Times' Bestseller List. ("Vanished" was the other.) Since the publication of "Message From Nam," Steel has divorced Traina and lost her second child, Nick, to manic depression (please see Stacy Dudley's entry on Steel). She has been the National Chairperson for The American Library Association, a spokesperson for the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse, and the national spokesperson for the American Humane Association. Sources: Bane, Vickie L. and Lorenzo Benet. "The Lives of Danielle Steel." New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994. Danielle Steel - An interview with Danielle Steel http://www1.omnitel.net/arkadija/steel_interview Entertainment Weekly Online "Steel Magnolia" - feature story on Danielle Steel wysiwyg://150/http://www.ew.com/ew/archives Gale Literary Databases ? Biography Resource Center http://www.galenet.com Internet Movie Database WorldCat Holt, Patricia. "Steel's Fantasy Look at Vietnam." San Francisco Chronicle, 6/18/90. Page 4.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Reviews of Message From Nam written during the time of the book's publication seem to dismiss it as the latest "trash novel" from Danielle Steel. Most reviewers whose articles were published in popular newspapers or magazines regard the book as an example of a typical Steel novel, complete with banal writing and a predictable plot. Critics seem to agree that Steel crams in too many issues from the turbulent sixties, thus trivializing the Vietnam War for many who lived through the horror. Most literary critics who reviewed the book in the early nineties agree that Steel includes too many serious events in the 389 pages of her novel. In a review for Publisher's Weekly, Sybil Steinberg says, "Steel awkwardly shoehorns in a veritable almanac of historical facts and such painful milestones as the assasinations of JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr." Steinberg says that the novel "merely skims the surface of that turbulent era." (Publisher's Weekly, 4/13/90) Similarly, Ellen Goodman says, "Paxton's story is thrown across time, rather like a Frisbee, skimming the years from the Kennedy assassination to the final helicopters leaving Saigon." (New York Times, 6/10/90). Harry Levins, a reviewer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, says that the novel "reduces a serious matter to two dozen sheets of Kleenex." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 6/24/90) Reviewer David Gates comments that "It is ? sleazy to use a national nightmare as a backdrop for a trash best seller." (Newsweek, 6/25/90) As support for their claims that Message From Nam is no more than a trash best seller, many critics cite Steel's poor writing, predictable plot, and lack of character development. Harry Levins sums up his opinion of Steel's writing in the following sentence: "The plot is hokey, the writing is banal, and even the sex is tepid." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 6/24/90) Patricia Holt of the San Francisco Chronicle says, "?Steel feeds Vietnam and Paxton's love life into the usual formula: an episode of romantic bliss, followed by sudden tragedy, then deepest, darkest despair, gradual recovery, renewed resolve, the glimmerings of attraction, new romantic bliss, sudden tragedy?Depth, complexity, and irony are missing in the one book Steel herself wanted so much to be deep and complex, and that is perhaps the most heart-wrenching aspect of Message From Nam." (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/18/90). Ellen Goodman even describes Steel as "a speed-writer of fiction, so breathless to get to the finish line, she doesn't even stop for character development or for rewriting. Occasional characters are introduced for no apparent reason. A roommate enters in one chapter, only to fade away. A journalist is introduced and promises to be of some prominence in the novel, only to be reduced to a cameo role." (New York Times, 6/10/90) Ralph Novak's review of the novel suggests that Steel further trivializes the Vietnam War through her lack of background research and the obvious discrepancies in her writing: "Despite the dates and details idly sprinkled through the novel, Steel's knowledge of Vietnam seems to have been gleaned from World War II movies. She constantly refers to U.S. servicemen as 'our boys' and 'the boys,' often uses the word 'mission' when she means 'patrol' and has one soldier end a radio conversation by saying 'over and out'?She seems ignorant of the fact that the common GI slang for 'many' in Vietnam was the French word 'beaucoup' - not her rendering of it, 'bokoo.' She also forgets from one page to the next what she has said. On page 96, for instance, Paxton is described as 'far beyond her years in her wisdom.' On page 97, she is 'too wise for her years.' On page 190, Steel describes a 'beautiful summer morning:' on page 193 only minutes have elapsed, but 'the weather itself was unspeakable.' ?As reading material, this book is preferable to sweepstakes-offer packets." (People Weekly, 8/20/90) While the actual "message" that readers are supposed to take from Message From Nam is unclear, the message from critics is clear: "don't read this novel unless you have to review it," as Ellen Goodman states (New York Times, 6/10/90). Sources: Sybil Steinberg. "Message From Nam." Publisher's Weekly. April 13, 1990 v 237 n15 p56 [found by searching Biography Resource Center, http://www.galenet.com] The following articles were found by searching the Lexis-Nexis Database: Novak, Ralph. "Message From Nam." People Weekly. Aug. 20, 1990 v34 n7 p30 Gates, David. "A Mixed Bag for Summer; Message From Nam." Newsweek. June 25, 1990. P.58 Levins, Harry. "Little Virtue in the Vice of Reading Danielle Steel." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. June 24, 1990. P. 5C Goodman, Ellen. "Saigon Swap." New York Times. June 10, 1990. Section 7, page 14, Column 1; Book Review Desk. Holt, Patricia. "Steel's Fantasy Look at Vietnam." San Francisco Chronicle. June 18, 1990. P. F4.
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Reviews of Message From Nam written during the time of the book's publication seem to dismiss it as the latest "trash novel" from Danielle Steel. Most reviewers whose articles were published in popular newspapers or magazines regard the book as an example of a typical Steel novel, complete with banal writing and a predictable plot. Critics seem to agree that Steel crams in too many issues from the turbulent sixties, thus trivializing the Vietnam War for many who lived through the horror. Most literary critics who reviewed the book in the early nineties agree that Steel includes too many serious events in the 389 pages of her novel. In a review for Publisher's Weekly, Sybil Steinberg says, "Steel awkwardly shoehorns in a veritable almanac of historical facts and such painful milestones as the assasinations of JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr." Steinberg says that the novel "merely skims the surface of that turbulent era." (Publisher's Weekly, 4/13/90) Similarly, Ellen Goodman says, "Paxton's story is thrown across time, rather like a Frisbee, skimming the years from the Kennedy assassination to the final helicopters leaving Saigon." (New York Times, 6/10/90). Harry Levins, a reviewer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, says that the novel "reduces a serious matter to two dozen sheets of Kleenex." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 6/24/90) Reviewer David Gates comments that "It is ? sleazy to use a national nightmare as a backdrop for a trash best seller." (Newsweek, 6/25/90) As support for their claims that Message From Nam is no more than a trash best seller, many critics cite Steel's poor writing, predictable plot, and lack of character development. Harry Levins sums up his opinion of Steel's writing in the following sentence: "The plot is hokey, the writing is banal, and even the sex is tepid." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 6/24/90) Patricia Holt of the San Francisco Chronicle says, "?Steel feeds Vietnam and Paxton's love life into the usual formula: an episode of romantic bliss, followed by sudden tragedy, then deepest, darkest despair, gradual recovery, renewed resolve, the glimmerings of attraction, new romantic bliss, sudden tragedy?Depth, complexity, and irony are missing in the one book Steel herself wanted so much to be deep and complex, and that is perhaps the most heart-wrenching aspect of Message From Nam." (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/18/90). Ellen Goodman even describes Steel as "a speed-writer of fiction, so breathless to get to the finish line, she doesn't even stop for character development or for rewriting. Occasional characters are introduced for no apparent reason. A roommate enters in one chapter, only to fade away. A journalist is introduced and promises to be of some prominence in the novel, only to be reduced to a cameo role." (New York Times, 6/10/90) Ralph Novak's review of the novel suggests that Steel further trivializes the Vietnam War through her lack of background research and the obvious discrepancies in her writing: "Despite the dates and details idly sprinkled through the novel, Steel's knowledge of Vietnam seems to have been gleaned from World War II movies. She constantly refers to U.S. servicemen as 'our boys' and 'the boys,' often uses the word 'mission' when she means 'patrol' and has one soldier end a radio conversation by saying 'over and out'?She seems ignorant of the fact that the common GI slang for 'many' in Vietnam was the French word 'beaucoup' - not her rendering of it, 'bokoo.' She also forgets from one page to the next what she has said. On page 96, for instance, Paxton is described as 'far beyond her years in her wisdom.' On page 97, she is 'too wise for her years.' On page 190, Steel describes a 'beautiful summer morning:' on page 193 only minutes have elapsed, but 'the weather itself was unspeakable.' ?As reading material, this book is preferable to sweepstakes-offer packets." (People Weekly, 8/20/90) While the actual "message" that readers are supposed to take from Message From Nam is unclear, the message from critics is clear: "don't read this novel unless you have to review it," as Ellen Goodman states (New York Times, 6/10/90). Sources: Sybil Steinberg. "Message From Nam." Publisher's Weekly. April 13, 1990 v 237 n15 p56 [found by searching Biography Resource Center, http://www.galenet.com] The following articles were found by searching the Lexis-Nexis Database: Novak, Ralph. "Message From Nam." People Weekly. Aug. 20, 1990 v34 n7 p30 Gates, David. "A Mixed Bag for Summer; Message From Nam." Newsweek. June 25, 1990. P.58 Levins, Harry. "Little Virtue in the Vice of Reading Danielle Steel." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. June 24, 1990. P. 5C Goodman, Ellen. "Saigon Swap." New York Times. June 10, 1990. Section 7, page 14, Column 1; Book Review Desk. Holt, Patricia. "Steel's Fantasy Look at Vietnam." San Francisco Chronicle. June 18, 1990. P. F4.
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Danielle Steel's "Message From Nam" "Message From Nam" shares many characteristics with other best-selling novels. Like many best sellers, "Message From Nam" did not receive favorable literary reviews, but generally was loved by those who read it. As Steel's 25th best selling novel, "Message From Nam" exemplifies a novel that owes its success in part to three things: readers' positive response to the author's previous works, the marketing of the novel by the publisher, and the coinciding of its release with the eve of the Gulf War. "Message From Nam" breaks the category of a typical, best-selling war novel, for it tells the story of a female's relationships during the war from a female's point of view, whereas the topic of war is a subject written about mostly by males. The novel follows Steel's best-selling model for romance in which a heroine finds true love, loses that love, then once again overcomes the odds to find love. Just like many books by best-selling authors Steven King and Jackie Collins, "Message From Nam" was scrutinized by literary critics, but embraced by the general public. Critics often dismiss King's writing for his lack of character development and simple sentence structure. For example, one reviewer for the New York Times describes King's writing as being filled with "tone-deaf narration, papier-mache characters, cliches, gratuitous vulgarity, [and] self-indulgent digressions (Andy Solomon, The New York Times, 9/2/90 [please see Sami Shah's database entry, Assn. 4])." This critical reception, however, does not coincide with many readers' responses to his fictional horror stories. While Collins writes romance novels instead of horror novels like King, she has encountered harsh critics, but has also been loved by her readers. Reviewers often criticize her novels as being predictable and full of vulgarity and sex. Reviewer Joy Fielding of the Toronto publication "Globe & Mail" says "One does not?pick up a novel by Jackie Collins expecting something even approaching what is loosely defined as literature." She characterizes Collins' work as "sex-drenched, best-selling sleaze" (http://www.galenet.com, as of 4/21/00). Like these authors, Steel has encountered her share of criticism. "Message From Nam" was not the first of Danielle Steel's best-selling novels to be blasted by reviewers. "The Long Road Home," is just one example from her dozens of best sellers to have been criticized upon its publication. In "The Long Road Home" Steel tells the story of a young girl, abused by her mother, only to become a nun whose affair with a priest causes his suicide. The heroine of the story, however, soon finds new love and achieves happiness through her own writing. One review of the novel appeared in Publisher's Weekly and states: "Scandal, betrayal and treachery do little to animate this dreary saga from the prolific Steel?Steel's latest attempt at a redemption story falls flat because of repetitious prose and two-dimensional characters. The inevitable happy ending, when it finally arrives, can't make up for a plodding narrative lacking in any real suspense" (Books in Print Database). The numerous unfavorable critical reviews of "Message From Nam" do not appear to have an effect upon the novel's popularity with fans of Steel's writing. As support for their claims that "Message From Nam" is no more than a trash best seller, many critics cite Steel's poor writing, predictable plot, and lack of character development. Harry Levins sums up his opinion of Steel's writing in the following sentence: "The plot is hokey, the writing is banal, and even the sex is tepid" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 6/24/90). Despite harsh reviews like this, "Message From Nam" soared to the top of the New York Times Best Seller list almost immediately upon its release to the public. The novel was published on June 21, 1990, with 925,000 copies in print, and spent a total of 36 weeks on the list, after debuting at number two on June 29, 1990 a week after its publication (Publisher's Weekly; Bestseller Index). According to The Bowker Annual, "Message From Nam" was the fifth best-selling book of 1990, with 1,037,006 copies sold in that year alone. The novel is still in print (as of April 26, 2000) and available in local bookstores or through web sites such as Amazon.com and bn.com (the Barnes and Noble on-line bookstore.) As a testament to the book's popularity with readers, these web sites have published reviews of the novel written by the average reader. In general, most of these reviews are favorable. For example, one reader finds value in Steel's writing and contributed the following review to Amazon.com: "It was encouraging the way she went out into the battle field to find out what happened to the man she loved, even when the officials had given up. This is of inspiration to young people. It is not only one of pleasure, but also a lesson for keeping" (Amazon.com, as of 3/31/00). In addition to the novel's popularity in the United States, "Message From Nam" found universal appeal after its publication in 13 countries and its translation into 10 languages (WorldCat - First Search). Like many best sellers, "Message From Nam" owes its success partially to the readers' positive response to Steel's other works. As Sidney Sheldon and Mary Higgins Clark have proven, best sellers often succeed because of the fame of the author. As Ellen Birek says in her database entry on Clark, "The review in the April 5, 1991 issue of Publisher's Weekly called the book ["Loves Music, Loves to Dance"] a 'disappointing latest suspense novel' and claimed its success was only because of Clark's large fan base" (Publisher's Weekly, 4/5/91 [please see Birek's Assn. 4]). Like Steel, Clark also writes at least one best-selling novel each year. Similarly, critics of Sidney Sheldon often attribute the selling power of his newest novels to the popularity of his previous works. With several best-selling novels to date, Sheldon has developed a following of readers just as both Clark and Steel have done. Many critics acknowledge Sheldon's power to stay atop the New York Times Best Seller list, but say that his most recent novels demonstrate that his talent as a writer is decreasing. "Sidney Sheldon is living proof of how one keeps on keeping on, but perhaps he should have stopped short of 'The Stars Shine Down'," says one reviewer (http://www.galenet.com, as of 4/19/00). Like Clark and Sheldon, by the time that "Message From Nam" was published, Danielle Steel already had established herself as a best-selling author, and consequently had readers who consistently bought her books as soon as they appeared on the bookstore shelves. The success of Steel's subsequent novels is almost assured, as evidenced by the existence of the Danielle Steel Fan Club. By the year of "Message From Nam's" publication, 24 of Steel's novels had already reached best-seller status. Reader responses on Amazon.com attest to the promotion of "Message From Nam" by Steel's fans. One reader writes: "I recommend this book to anyone who is a true romantic or a Danielle Steel fan. Once again, I am blown away by her work" (Amazon.com, as of 3/31/00). Steel is even in the Guinness Book of World Records for "having at least one of her books on the Times' bestseller list for 381 consecutive weeks. But Guinness was premature. The fact is, one or more of Ms. Steels' novels have been on The New York Times bestseller list for over 390 consecutive weeks [as of 3/22/00]" (http://www.randomhouse.com, as of 4/19/00). In addition to relying on the fame of its author, "Message From Nam" teaches readers that a novel's best-selling status also may be attributed to the way in which the publisher markets the author's work. For example, both Sidney Sheldon and John Fox had their novels promoted by their publishers even before the novels had been made available to the public. Often, advertisements promote the author's name and fame more than promoting the novel itself. William Morrow and Company marketed Sheldon's "A Stranger in the Mirror" through an ad in Publisher's Weekly that promoted this novel as well as his previous novel, "The Other Side of Midnight" (please see Michael Beachy's database entry, Assn. 2). The advertisement, dated January 1, 1976, boasted the three and a half million copies sold of "The Other Side of Midnight." The publishers hoped that those who had bought Sheldon's previous novel would also purchase his newest novel. Sheldon also promoted his book through personal appearances. Similarly, John Fox's novel "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine," was heavily promoted by his publisher, Charles Scribner's Sons. As Michael Bernier notes in his database entry on the novel, Fox's publisher also promoted the novel through ads in Publisher's Weekly. In addition, Charles Scribner's Sons timed the publication of the novel with the Christmas gift-buying season, so that even more copies would be sold (please see Bernier's entry, Assn. 5). The marketing of "Message From Nam" undoubtedly contributed to its popularity. In January of 1990, six months before the publication of the novel, Delacorte Press advertised it in Publisher's Weekly as part of a campaign to promote upcoming publications. The New York Times also ran advertisements of the novel. As in the case of Sidney Sheldon, many of the advertisements that appeared to promote the novel, actually promoted the author. For example, Delacorte took out an ad in the New York Times promoting the novel, but the ad included a large picture of Steel with the caption, "Now more than ever, America reads Danielle Steel" in a font much bigger than the actual text that promoted the novel. Steel's picture was approximately six times larger than a picture of the cover of the novel. At the bottom of the ad are the words: "Over 130 million copies of her books in print." Also, like Sheldon, Danielle Steel promoted "Message From Nam" through personal appearances. After the novel's publication, it was made into two audio recordings, a movie, and the typescript from the movie was even made into a book, titled "Danielle Steel's Message From Nam." The paperback edition of the novel also promotes the book as well as other books by Danielle Steel. The back cover of the paperback appears similar to the ad in the New York Times. There is a large picture of the author. Above the picture are the words: "Over 350 million of her novels sold!" and below it are the words, "Everybody [instead of America] Reads Danielle Steel." The last leaves of the paperback edition inform readers how to access the Danielle Steel web site, join the Danielle Steel fan club, and purchase her other best-selling novels. While Steel's fame and the marketing of the novel contributed to its success, the timing of the release of "Message From Nam" also affected its popularity. "Message From Nam" dealt with a previous war and was published during a time when America appeared again to be headed to war. This was not the first bestseller that dealt with a previous war to be released on the brink of another war. Margaret Mitchell's "Gone with the Wind" describes the struggles of Southerners during the Civil War and Reconstruction, and was released during the 1930s when America faced the possibility of entering into the war in Europe. Readers of Mitchell's novel may have identified with the characters who faced many of the same struggles that Americans faced in the 1930s and 1940s. Both readers and the characters faced an economic crisis, the rationing of goods, and the prospect of fighting in the war or having their loved ones sent to war. "Message From Nam" was published during the year of tensions that led up to the Gulf War. In May of 1990, shortly before the novel's publication, Iraqi leader Sudaam Hussein accused Kuwait of oil overproduction. In July, a month after the novel's publication, Iraq began a military buildup and accused Kuwait of stealing oil from a field on the Iraq-Kuwait border. Iraq invaded Kuwait in August, and the first U.S. military forces arrived in Saudi Arabia within days. Throughout these months of tension, "Message From Nam" remained on the New York Times Best Seller list. Readers who bought the novel in its first few weeks of publication may have wanted to remind themselves of the last war in which America had been involved. Many readers may have had loved ones going to war once again. As with the war in Vietnam, many Americans may have wondered what purpose Americans had in the war effort. Some readers may have sought the "message" from Vietnam, and attempted to find it by reading "Message From Nam." Also like "Gone with the Wind," Steel's novel approaches the traditionally male topic of war from a female's point of view. Both novels describe a female's relationships to the war effort and during the war. Typically, bestsellers that deal with warfare and military affairs are written by men and discussed from a male point of view. For example, Tom Clancy's "Patriot Games" rose to the top of the bestseller list in 1987. The novel tells the story of a male naval historian who uses his military training to free the captives of an Irish revolutionary group. Earlier in the century, Ernest Hemingway achieved bestseller status with "For Whom the Bell Tolls," describing the plight of soldiers during the Spanish Civil War. Female readers of "Message From Nam" may have found the telling of a war story from a female's perspective to be out of the ordinary, and therefore worth reading. The novel may have appealed to female readers for a number of reasons. First, women whose lives had been impacted by the war through the loss of a loved one may have identified with heroine Paxton Andrews. The novel centers on the struggles of this young woman and her eventual personal triumph over the war that took two lovers from her. Many readers who felt defeated by Vietnam may have felt as though they were living through Paxton as she attempts to find the "truth" and the real reasons for the war that took away her loved ones. Secondly, the book may have been read by women who could not experience the war first-hand. While women were allowed to participate in the war, they were not allowed direct combat roles. Reading novels about the war and watching war movies may have been the only way for many women to participate. Also, many women of Paxton's generation may have identified with her struggles as a young woman during the late sixties and early seventies. "Message From Nam" was not the first time that Steel had adopted a female perspective when discussing the topic of war. In fact, many of the reasons for the success of the novel stem from Steel's tendency to formulate her books. Also loved by readers, hated by critics, heavily marketed, and set against a background of warfare, are her novels "Wanderlust" and "Star." In "Wanderlust," young Audrey Driscoll finds love with a handsome writer, only to face misfortunes during the Depression in pre-war America and find true happiness in the end. "Star" depicts the story of a young heroine in America during World War II who finds love with an older man, loses that love, then once again overcomes the odds to reunite with her lover. While "Message From Nam" follows Steel's formula for romance and owes its success partially to the author's fame and marketing techniques, it also struck a chord with many of its readers who sought to identify with the heroine and her struggles during the Vietnam War. Sources: Danielle Steel web site - www.randomhouse.com www.amazon.com Gale Literary Databases - www.galenet.com Bestseller Database entries consulted: Beachy, Michael; A Stranger in the Mirror - Sidney Sheldon Sami Shah; Four Past Midnight - Stephen King Birek, Elizabeth; Loves Music, Loves to Dance - Mary Higgins Clark Bernier, Michael; The Trail of the Lonesome Pine - John Fox Books in Print Database WorldCat - First Search www.sparknotes.com The Gulf War Timeline - www.pbs.org Publisher's Weekly, June 29, 1990, p.112 Bestseller Index, 1998 New York Times, June 17, 1990 Internet Movie Database Steel, Danielle. "Message From Nam." New York: Dell, 1990. (paperback edition)
Supplemental Material
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Paperback Front Cover
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