Crichton, Robert: The Secret of Santa Vittoria
(researched by Jessica Silcox)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Robert Crichton. The Secret of Santa Vittoria. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1966. No simultaneous publications found. Copyright: Robert Crichton, 1966.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
First edition published in trade cloth binding.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
224 leaves; [10] 11-14 [15-16] 17-72 [73-74] 75-120 [121-122] 123-180 [181-182] 183-241 [242-244] 245-286 [287-288] 289-333 [334-336] 337-396 [397-398] 399-447 [448]
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
Not edited. Brief introduction by the author, but as part of the body of the text. Advertisement for other books by Robert Crichton located on reverse side of first leave (upper left corner of title page). Two introductory quotes on front of leave four, both from characters in the novel. Dedication to wife Judy.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
No illustrations. Jacket design by Paul Bacon. Small black and white image of Simon & Schuster logo on front of leave one, not credited.
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?)
Readability is mostly excellent, print is a little small. Relatively no stains. Slight yellowing of paper probably from age, although this copy seems barely used. A few scratches can be found on the page edges. Chapters are numbered on their own separate leave, with capitalized print and a stylized font for the number. Each chapter has unnumbered subsections, each beginning with a letter in the same stylized font as the chapter numbers. Subsections also capitalize the first several words of the first sentence. 84R. Book size: 210mm. by 135mm.; Size of text: 156mm. by 102mm.
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 book is on wove paper, slightly aged but smooth. Little wear.
11 Description of binding(s)
Front and back cover: Navy cloth. No artwork or text. Spine: Trade cloth binding, diagonal, cream-colored, calico-textured cloth, reddish-orange stamping. Endpaper is either cream, or originally white. Transcription of Spine: THE | SECRET | OF SANTA | VITTORIA | [By] | Robert Crichton | SIMON AND | SCHUSTER |
12 Transcription of title page
BY ROBERT CRICHTON | The Secret of Santa Vittoria | The Rascal and the Road | The Great Imposter | The Secret of Santa Vittoria | a novel by | ROBERT CRICHTON | SIMON AND SCHUSTER NEW YORK Viewer should note that the Title page covers two leaves; the text spreads from the back of one to the front of another, with the advertisement on the upper left of the first leave, and the publisher on the bottom of the second leave. Title page verso transcription: The Santa Vittoria of this novel is a real place, | but none of the characters described or mentioned | in the novel are real, and any resemblance to living | persons is purely coincidental. | All rights reserved | including the right of reproduction | in whole or in part in any form | Copyright © 1966 by Robert Crichton | Published by Simon and Schuster | A Division of Gulf & Western Corporation | Simon & Schuster Building | Rockefeller Center | 1230 Avenue of the Americas | New York, New York 10020 | Manufactured in the United States of America | DISTRIBUTED BY FUNK & WAGNALLS, INC.
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
Information not yet found.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
No markings specific to this copy other than some scratches on the page-ends.
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
After extensive research, no other First editions printed for the general public have been found. However, according to the June 27, 1966 edition of Publisher's Weekly, there was a Special Paperbound Advance Reading Edition published for booksellers. This was available through any Simon and Schuster sales representative or by writing Simon & Schuster care of 'AMS'. See item nine (9) for transcription of this advertisement.
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?
As found in Publisher's Weekly, May 23, 1966 to September 25, 1967. The First printing of the book yielded 25,000 copies. No exact information on the second and third printings could be found. However, when the fourth printing was completed going into the fourth week of publication, there were a total of 85,000 copies in print. In only two months of publication, there were 115,000 copies in print with the Sixth printing. The December 26 edition of PW notes that an Eighth printing had been ordered, bringing the total number of copies in print to 146,000. Its Ninth printing consisted of 10,000 copies, leaving 156,000 copies in print. At its 11th month on PW's bestseller's list, the first edition had 156,151 copies in print. No subsequent printings of the first edition were ordered.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
5. Editions of other publishers include: Dell Publishing Co., 1967. 416 p. ; 18 cm. (Paperback, $0.95) Hodder & Stoughton, 1967. 447 p. ; 23 cm. World Books, 1968. 382 p. ; 20 cm. Hodder & Stoughton, 1985. 448 p. ; 23 cm. (later printing) Lorevan Publishing, 1986. 416 p. ; 17 cm. Carroll & Graf, 1986. 416 p. ; 18 cm. Buccaneer Books, 1993. Sources: WorldCat and RLIN
6 Last date in print?
6. According to the Books in Print database, the novel is listed as an "Active Record" as of February 21, 2000, the most recent printing coming from Buccaneer Books in 1993.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
7. No comprehensive breakdown of selling history found, however as deduced from issues of Publisher's Weekly, estimated sales are as follows: Original edition sold at $5.95. PW (Sept. 12, 1966): in August week of publication, 7,800 copies sold, in the week following, 5,700. PW (Nov. 7, 1966): in the week of Oct. 23, a little over 8,500 copies sold. PW (Nov. 28, 1966): reported that weekly sales have been running over 8,500 copies. PW (Dec. 26, 1966): listed that in the second week of Dec., Simon & Schuster sold just under 11,000 copies. PW (Jan. 9, 1967): book has sold 116,000 total copies by the week before Christmas. PW (Jan. 30, 1967): book has sold 116,704 copies in only 4 months. (This figure also noted in Hackett's 80 Years of Best Sellers) PW (Apr. 10, 1967): total copies sold to date: 140,000. Noted that edition was offered as a book club promotion, 3 titles for one dollar. Title of article "Newest Top Sellers for 33 1/3 Cents." PW (June 26, 1967): 148,000 total copies sold.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
8. Only yearly sales information found indicates that book was 3rd in overall best selling fiction for the year.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
Publisher's Weekly, June 27, 1966. Huge two-page spread advertising upcoming release. Across the top of both pages in large print is the question: WHAT IS THE SECRET OF SANTA VITTORIA? (with cover design) Text reads: "Is it the hiding place of the million bottles of fat black wine- the life-blood and treasure of the Italian hill town of Santa Vittoria- that the villagers are determined to keep from falling into the hands of Nazi invaders? Is it the elaborate plan that the German captain, Von Prum (charged with capturing the wine) evolves for outwitting and cowing the town? Is it the source of strength that enables Bombolini, the town's clownish wine merchant, to become- in this moment of supreme danger- a leader of men, a fount of courage in the mounting struggle with Von Prum? It's all this, and something more. The real secret, the secret of the The Secret of Santa Vittoria is this. Robert Crichton's big dramatic novel-comic, serious, roaringly human- has a powerful core and a delectable surface. Its comedy overlies compassion. Its unremitting page to page excitement grows out of its brilliantly dramatized test of strength between two opposing concepts of manhood. Its artistry wells up with warmth and simplicity that excludes no lover of fiction. It is the kind of book that will make you glad that you are a reader and a book seller, as it makes us glad that we are readers and publishers." On the opposite page is a box outlining publishing information: "The Secret of Santa Vittoria will be published on August 29th, after four years in work. First printing is 25,000 copies. Initial advertising: $15,000. Price $5.95. A Special Paperbound Advance Reading Edition for booksellers is ready now. To get a copy ask your Simon and Schuster salesman, or write us care of AMS. Robert Crichton is know for his non-fiction bestseller, The Great Imposter. For his first work of fiction, The Secret of Santa Vittoria, we predict an even greater immediate critical and bookselling success. We will give it a full scale send-off- with all the bells ringing." Publisher's Weekly, July 18, 1966. As part of a cover ad "Memo to Booksellers from Simon & Schuster," ad copy reads: "Robert Crichton's The Secret of Santa Vittoria has just been made special alternate selection of Book-of-the-Month Club. If you have not sent for a copy of the special paperback advance reading edition, as offered in our recent PW spread, don't delay. Wonderful reactions coming in. Publication date: Aug. 29. $5.95.
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
Publisher's Weekly, Nov. 7, 1966. Noted in the "Media" section that Robert Crichton is set to appear on "Bookbeat" on WTTW-TV Chicago Nov. 7 at 8:30 pm. Reader should note that a later article in PW (March 20, 1967) attributes much of novel's success to early marketing. It states "reviewers explained their excitement came from campaign of personal letters and telephone calls from Simon & Schuster well in advance of publication." In the March 27th issue, its listed that Robert Crichton and his wife were scheduled for a trip to London to meet with Hodder & Stoughton where his novel was predicted to be headed for the same success Simon & Schuster experienced. PW of July 3, 1967 discusses the advertising plans of Dell Publishing, who purchased the paperback rights: " Öto be published Oct. 3, 1967 ($0.95). The print order will be one million copies- the largest reprint order for a paperback in Dell history. Major promotion and advertising are planned, including advertising in 28 major cities, prepacks, dump bins, rack cards, giant posters, book-shaped window stickers, plus a unique teaser promotion piece to be mailed to booksellers on Aug. 1."
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Film: The Secret of Santa Vittoria. 1969. Prod. And Dir. by Stanley Kramer. United Artists. Writing credits: Ben Maddow, William Rose. Comedy/Drama. Starring Anthony Quinn, Hardy Kruger et al. Technicolor. 2 hours, 19 minutes. (Video released 1995 by MGM/UA Home Video). Tagline: In the beginning there was Bombolini the fool, Bombolini the drunk, Bombolini the joke. In the end there was Bombolini the mayor, Bombolini the hero, Bombolini the beautiful. In between is the secret of Santa Vittoria. Awards: 1970: Nominated for Oscar: Best Film Editing, Best Music/Original Score 1970: Nominated for Eddie: Best Edited Feature Film 1970: Won Golden Globe: Best Motion Picture- Musical/Comedy Nominated for Golden Globe: Best Director, Best Actor-Musical/Comedy, Best Actress- Musical/Comedy, Best Original Score, Best Original Song. Music: "Original Great Film Themes" 1970, United Artists. Recording. (Includes "The Song of Santa Vittoria", the theme song from the movie) "The Secret of Santa Vittoria Original Motion Picture Score." 1970, United Artists. Recording conducted and composed by Ernest Gold. 1 sound disc (30 min.): analog, 33 1/3 rpm, stereo. ; 12 in. "The Song of Santa Vittoria." United Artists Music Co. : distributed by Big 3, 1969. Recorded by Sergio Franchi on United Artists Records. Audiocassettes: "The Secret of Santa Vittoria Set." Audio cassette, 900 minutes, Blackstone Audio Books, Incorporated, September 1997. Read by Christopher Hurt. $13.95 on borders.com. "The Secret of Santa Vittoria." Recording. 3 sound cassettes. For use by the blind and physically hanicapped. 1992.
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
Title: Das geheimnis von Santa Vittoria : Roman Edition: Vollst?ndige Taschenbuchausg. Physical description: 380 p. ; 18 cm. Publication info: M¸nchen : Droemer Knaur, 1970 Personal author: Gr¸nau, Werner von, 1910-1974. Series: Knaur-Taschenb¸cher ; 221 Title: Das geheimnis von Santa Vittoria : Roman Physical description: 486 p. ; 22 cm. Publication info: Frankfurt : B¸chergilde Gutenberg, 1969 Personal author: Gr¸nau, Werner von. Title: Das Geheimnis von Santa Vittoria : roman Physical description: 486 p. ; 21 cm. Publication info: M¸nchen : Verlag Kurt Desch, 1967 General note: Translation of: The secret of Santa Vittoria. Title: Taina Santa-Vittorii : roman Physical description: 413 p. : ill. ; 20 cm. Publication info: Moskva : Izd-vo "Pravda," 1970 General note: Translation of: Secret of Santa Vittoria. Title: Taina Santa-Vittorii : roman Physical description: 460 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. (some col.) ; 20 cm. Publication info: Moskva : Izd-vo "Pravda," 1987 General note: Translation of: Secret of Santa Vittoria. Title: TajemstvÌ Santa Vittorie Edition: Vyd. 1. Physical description: 406 p. ; 21 cm. Publication info: Praha : Svoboda, 1977 General note: Translation of: The secret of Santa Vittoria. Series: *Clensk· kni*znice Title: Il segreto di Santa Vittoria Physical description: 437 p. ; 20 cm. Publication info: Milano : Bompiani, 1968 General note: Translation of: The secret of Santa Vittoria. Title: Le Secret de Santa Vittoria Place: Paris Publisher: Flammarion, 1967. Format: 433p. 19 cm.
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
According to research in Publisher's Weekly, the novel did not seem to be serialized.
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)
American novelist Robert Crichton was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico on January 29, 1925 to Kyle (also a writer) and Mary Crichton. Joining the U.S. Army in 1943, he later became a sergeant and was awarded a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and a Presidential Unit Citation before ending his military career in 1946. Crichton then went on to receive his B.A. at Harvard University in 1950. He married T.V. Producer Judy Feiner on July 16, 1966 and together they produced four children: Sarah, Rob, Jennifer, and Susan. Before becoming a writer, Crichton spent time as a chicken farmer and a magazine editor prior to the publication of his first biographical work, "The Great Imposter" in 1959. This book received favorable reviews, and placed Crichton among the ranks of 'established authors' according to a Time magazine article in December of 1966. This article details the career of Random House publisher Bennett Cerf, and speaks of how difficult it can be to hold on to writers once they become successful. According to Time, Cerf did not want to publish Crichton's second novel "The Rascal and the Road" (1961), an autobiographical account of his own experience of writing and marketing a novel. Cerf felt it would not sell as well as his first book, and ironically, the very marketing "hoop-la" written of in the novel wouldn't be enough to prove Cerf wrong. Dissatisfied with Random House, 41 year-old Crichton took his next book "The Secret of Santa Vittoria" to Simon & Schuster, where it became one of the bestsellers of 1966. As Lewis Nichols writes in his New York Times Book Review article about the inception of the novel, the story of Santa Vittoria's development is in itself almost as dramatic as the result. In Crichton's first fictional attempt, he tells the story of a small town in Italy during World War II, and the townspeople's attempt at hiding their beloved collection of wine from the invading Nazis. Crichton first heard the story at a party in New York City. Intrigued at the PR possibilities, he convinced a wine distributor to pay his airfare to Italy. Once there, he was disenchanted with the actual location of the event. Taking full artistic license, he relocated twice and eventually found himself in the town of Santa Vittoria. He then befriended the residents, but only after being hit by a car and robbed. Barely able to speak Italian, he limped from house to house until he was able to learn all he could about the people. After several drafts, the final manuscript was completed in 21 days. According to Nichols, Crichton collapsed at its completion, and spent the following summer recovering on Long Island. His following literary attempt The Cameron (1972) was not as successful. He also wrote his own biography Memoirs of a Bad Soldier in 1979 (note: this may be the same novel that Contemporary Authors (1974) lists as a 'work in progress' called "The Poor Miserable Stinking Infantry", which never appears on lists of his life's work). Although he did contribute to several periodicals as a free-lance writer, Robert Crichton never really achieved the same acclaim as with "The Great Imposter" and "The Secret of Santa Vittoria". (Despite the fact that both were made into popular and successful films.) He died of heart failure on March 23, 1993, in New Rochelle, New York. He was 68. Robert Crichton best describes the importance of writing in an interview with Contemporary Authors: " I continue to maintain that telling a story to convey feeling and experience is, despite all efforts to disown it, as natural to man and as vital to man, and as intuitive and ageless, as is the urge to laugh or cry, as to embrace when in love and to flee when in fear. Some form of the novel will always exist because there is no other way to convey certain things in life that are precious or fearful to us." Works Consulted: Time Magazine; June 29, 1959 Time Magazine; December 16, 1966 Contemporary Authors (First Revision, Vol. 17-20) The New York Times Book Review; September 18, 1966 ("In & Out of Books" by Lewis Nichols) Biography Resource Center (Online Database), Gale Research Group
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Often when a book becomes a bestseller the critics do not always agree on its validity. However, in the case of Robert Crichton's The Secret of Santa Vittoria the critics not only agreed, but also probably aided to the book's enormous success. Almost all of the reviewers seemed to agree on two things: one, that the book while not a ?literary masterpiece', still serves as an enjoyable piece of fiction, and two, that Crichton's ability to create rich and dynamic characters while relaying a story transcends the book's shortcomings. In one of the most quoted reviews in ads promoting the novel, David McDowell of the New York Times Book Review says: "its flaws seem somehow unimportant when one is under the spell of its runaway zest for life and living" and "in Mr. Crichton's hands the result is that most welcome rarity, a novel that is a joy to read, its hallmark something impossible to fake: a rollicking narrative drive that never lets up." McDowell even goes on to compare some of the novel's scenes with the writing of Kafka and T.S. Eliot. Praise indeed for an author's fictional debut. Newsweek called it "a chunk of narrative gold" and said "Crichton handles the characterization so deftly that the caricatures become portraits." Booklist called it "suspenseful and amusing" and said that it was "full of colorful, eccentric characters." Publisher's Weekly said it "makes grand reading." And Barbara Pfrogner writes for the Library Journal that The Secret of Santa Vittoria is filled with "outstanding characterizations and a setting that rings absolutely true and make this novel, Mr. Crichton's first, one that should be in all libraries." The humanistic element most prevalent in the novel seemed to spread to the reviews. The novel's optimism and hopeful nature caused them to write about how it "bubbles with gaiety and wit, bursts with laughter and throbs with the sheer joy of life"(New York Times). The novel seemed to fill a refreshing need, extending its humor to the reviews. Time magazine wrote: "Crichton tells his story with grace, pace, warmth, and a wonderful free-reeling wit that skips among the vineyards like an inebriated billygoat." The most important statement of criticism that The Secret of Santa Vittoria put forth is that Crichton did not try to make the novel anything more than it needed to be. Being that there were no real expectations on Crichton's first fictional piece, critics reacted to it with enormous enthusiasm. Orville Prescott in the New York Times wrote ten days prior to the books release: "If I had my way, the publication of Robert Crichton's brilliant novel would be celebrated with fanfares of trumpets, with the display of banners and with festivals in the streets." The critics most appreciated this sentiment of simplicity. James Dickenson wrote of himself in the National Observer: "one apparently nonplused reviewer was reduced to asking himself how to write about a book that tells a good story, makes no pretense to greatness, and is neither trivial nor trite. Perhaps rarer though, in an age of megatons and megadeaths, is its positive statement of an increasingly quaint concept: the dignity of man and the preciousness of even a single human life." However, not every critic got swept up in the Santa Vittoria fury. Whitney Balliett in the New Yorker wrote about the novel's tendency to be over-visual: "after the book is finished, its five and ten moral props soon blow away, leaving the realization that the humor consists almost wholly of sight gags?it is closer to a movie than to a book?but maybe we will be able to read the movie version." And William Hill writes in America that: "It is not certain that this author knows a great deal about Italy; his one example of brutal American airmen is atypical, if not entirely unlikely, and his ignorance of Catholicism is annoying." Despite these exceptions, the novel was met with overwhelming acclamation, such praise that well matched if not surpassed the novel's public success. As Clarence Petersen said in his Book World paperback review: "critics have practically exhausted the vocabulary of acclaim." Works Cited: Balliett, Whitney. New Yorker. December 10, 1966. p 235. Booklist. December 15, 1966. p 441. Dickensen, James. National Observer. October 3, 1966. p 26. Hill, William. America. November 26, 1966. p 708. Kitching, Jessie. 'Forecasts." Publisher's Weekly. July 18, 1966. p 73. McDowell, David. New York Times Book Review. August 28, 1966. p 5. Newsweek. August 29, 1966. p 70. Petersen, Clarence. Book World. December 3, 1967. p 45. Pfrogner, Barbara. Library Journal. July 1966. p 3467. Prescott, Orville. "A Book to Bring Joy to the Heart." New York Times. August 17, 1966. p 41M. Time. August 12, 1966. p 80.
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Often when a book becomes a bestseller the critics do not always agree on its validity. However, in the case of Robert Crichton's The Secret of Santa Vittoria the critics not only agreed, but also probably aided to the book's enormous success. Almost all of the reviewers seemed to agree on two things: one, that the book while not a ?literary masterpiece', still serves as an enjoyable piece of fiction, and two, that Crichton's ability to create rich and dynamic characters while relaying a story transcends the book's shortcomings. In one of the most quoted reviews in ads promoting the novel, David McDowell of the New York Times Book Review says: "its flaws seem somehow unimportant when one is under the spell of its runaway zest for life and living" and "in Mr. Crichton's hands the result is that most welcome rarity, a novel that is a joy to read, its hallmark something impossible to fake: a rollicking narrative drive that never lets up." McDowell even goes on to compare some of the novel's scenes with the writing of Kafka and T.S. Eliot. Praise indeed for an author's fictional debut. Newsweek called it "a chunk of narrative gold" and said "Crichton handles the characterization so deftly that the caricatures become portraits." Booklist called it "suspenseful and amusing" and said that it was "full of colorful, eccentric characters." Publisher's Weekly said it "makes grand reading." And Barbara Pfrogner writes for the Library Journal that The Secret of Santa Vittoria is filled with "outstanding characterizations and a setting that rings absolutely true and make this novel, Mr. Crichton's first, one that should be in all libraries." The humanistic element most prevalent in the novel seemed to spread to the reviews. The novel's optimism and hopeful nature caused them to write about how it "bubbles with gaiety and wit, bursts with laughter and throbs with the sheer joy of life"(New York Times). The novel seemed to fill a refreshing need, extending its humor to the reviews. Time magazine wrote: "Crichton tells his story with grace, pace, warmth, and a wonderful free-reeling wit that skips among the vineyards like an inebriated billygoat." The most important statement of criticism that The Secret of Santa Vittoria put forth is that Crichton did not try to make the novel anything more than it needed to be. Being that there were no real expectations on Crichton's first fictional piece, critics reacted to it with enormous enthusiasm. Orville Prescott in the New York Times wrote ten days prior to the books release: "If I had my way, the publication of Robert Crichton's brilliant novel would be celebrated with fanfares of trumpets, with the display of banners and with festivals in the streets." The critics most appreciated this sentiment of simplicity. James Dickenson wrote of himself in the National Observer: "one apparently nonplused reviewer was reduced to asking himself how to write about a book that tells a good story, makes no pretense to greatness, and is neither trivial nor trite. Perhaps rarer though, in an age of megatons and megadeaths, is its positive statement of an increasingly quaint concept: the dignity of man and the preciousness of even a single human life." However, not every critic got swept up in the Santa Vittoria fury. Whitney Balliett in the New Yorker wrote about the novel's tendency to be over-visual: "after the book is finished, its five and ten moral props soon blow away, leaving the realization that the humor consists almost wholly of sight gags?it is closer to a movie than to a book?but maybe we will be able to read the movie version." And William Hill writes in America that: "It is not certain that this author knows a great deal about Italy; his one example of brutal American airmen is atypical, if not entirely unlikely, and his ignorance of Catholicism is annoying." Despite these exceptions, the novel was met with overwhelming acclamation, such praise that well matched if not surpassed the novel's public success. As Clarence Petersen said in his Book World paperback review: "critics have practically exhausted the vocabulary of acclaim." Works Cited: Balliett, Whitney. New Yorker. December 10, 1966. p 235. Booklist. December 15, 1966. p 441. Dickensen, James. National Observer. October 3, 1966. p 26. Hill, William. America. November 26, 1966. p 708. Kitching, Jessie. 'Forecasts." Publisher's Weekly. July 18, 1966. p 73. McDowell, David. New York Times Book Review. August 28, 1966. p 5. Newsweek. August 29, 1966. p 70. Petersen, Clarence. Book World. December 3, 1967. p 45. Pfrogner, Barbara. Library Journal. July 1966. p 3467. Prescott, Orville. "A Book to Bring Joy to the Heart." New York Times. August 17, 1966. p 41M. Time. August 12, 1966. p 80.
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
It is not a surprise that Robert Crichton's 1966 bestseller The Secret of Santa Vittoria was met with enormous critical and public success. By slightly embellishing a true story, Crichton developed a novel that pleased almost all readers. In the midst of the political and social unrest of the 1960s, Crichton returned the reader to a time and place where despite being at war, life remained fairly simple. No doubt this appealed to the slightly older generations who remembered World War II with a nostalgic perspective. The Secret of Santa Vittoria used humor to approach a tender subject and struck a chord with a generation that wanted to remember the feelings of hope and patriotism before one of the most dynamic decades in history. However, at the same time the novel held the values that younger generations were all about: freedom, community, and love. Crichton expanded his audience by combining several genres to formulate his tale, in doing so creating a novel that dominated the top of the bestseller lists in 1966. Although Robert Crichton was already somewhat established as a writer of biographies, he broached his first fictional attempt with cautious enthusiasm. Very careful in his research, he traveled to Italy himself to learn about the life he would later illustrate. Partly based on a true story, it can be said that the novel is a work of historical fiction. Crichton's writing approach intrigues the reader, prefacing the novel by claiming the story came from a manuscript left on his doorstep. The reader cannot possibly tell without further research if Crichton is telling the truth, and frankly it is more likely that the reader does not care. One would want to believe that out of the hell and destruction of World War II, this little story, like the characters within it, could survive. The story is as simple as the life it describes, although it contains moments so dramatic they seem to not come from the same source. It is set in the small Italian village of Santa Vittoria during the Germany's WWII occupation of Italy. Crichton wonderfully lays out the scene and brings the simplicity of village life and the necessity of its harvest together in the early pages of the novel: "Santa Vittoria is grapevines; it is wine. That is all there is. Without the wine, as they say here, even God Himself could not invent a reason for Santa Vittoria" (Crichton 8). Immediately, we are drawn in to this town that knows, or cares, nothing of the world outside its own vineyards. The mission is simple as well: the German captain (Von Prum) is to find and confiscate the town's enormous cache of wine. The town, led by the 'idiot' mayor Bombolini, invents a plan to hide the wine from the Germans. What transpires subsequently is an examination of how much one group of people can come together, and how much they will risk to save their livelihood. As many bestsellers do, the plan comes to a successful, although not perfect, conclusion. Once again good triumphs over evil, and in this case the evil is one of the most destructive political and military forces in human history. The book was hugely successful, and not just because Crichton could tell a good story. Simon & Schuster was ready to market this book as much as possible, and word of mouth to and by the reviewers sold this book before it was even released. Critics loved its honesty. The New York Times Book Review called it a "mélange of allegory and symbolism" noting the underlying implications of what was being written (NYTBR Aug. 28, 1966). Choice Books for College Libraries said that it was "a fascinating portrayal of Italians who remain true to their own culture by a theme that is relevant to our own culture" (Choice Jan.1967). Clearly, as much as people gushed about the 'picaresque' novel that Crichton created, many seemed to be aware of its relevance to the American sentiments of the 1960s. America was in the process of attempting to let go of the fifties ideal, a world where everyone was alike and conformed to the same philosophy. As children of the depression, the adults of the fifties were bombarded with a new world of materialism and growth. The sixties' disruption of this mold came in ideas like freedom for all people, regardless of gender or color. Interestingly enough, The Secret of Santa Vittoria contains aspects of both eras, which undoubtedly helped propel it to the top of the bestseller lists. In discussing the war, the novel found an audience of people for some of which the psychological wounds were still healing. The fifties allowed people to gloss over and not really talk about what happened; instead pushing America into the Korean War without giving time to what many Americans had just been through. It was as the Vietnam War loomed ahead that people examined the value of each human life and what every casualty of war stood for. Still, this novel brought back the sentiments of World War II without shoving them in the readers' face. Crichton instead uses a subtle approach laced with humor to describe the destruction in terms of one town's struggle. This is not an original technique; it is also used by Joseph Heller in his 1961 masterpiece Catch-22, where "he satires the horrors of war and the power of modern society" (www.levity.com). However, Crichton can take this attitude because he himself fought in World War II. If he had not, the reader would be less likely to accept his humor with as much favorable reception. In one passage, Crichton overshadows the German officer's affinity for manipulation of the town's spokesman: "I'll try not to underestimate him. I try to remind myself that even clowns can possess a kind of cunning, and even wisdom, although I must admit in this case it is hard to see" (Crichton 228). Crichton almost has the ability to make Von Prum affable, however at some point the opposition must become obvious. It is in the descriptions of torture inflicted on the townspeople in an attempt to uncover the secret that the subtlety begins to disappear: "After that they did things with the blowtorch on Copa's body that cannot be written down. After the torch they cooled him with water. He was still conscious and they put the funnel in his mouth so that it went far down his throat and they bent his neck back and brought him to the point of drowning" (Crichton 323). Able to laugh throughout most the book, the reader is forced to recognize the reality of war and the suffering that comes with it. However, it is this type of text that sides the reader with the villagers, and creates the David and Goliath tale that so many bestsellers have come to emulate. Irving Stone's 1961 bestseller The Agony and the Ecstasy brought together the concept of one man's triumph over evil (in this case the backbreaking task of painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel) and the beauty and historical attraction to Italy. Although this novel was not critically acclaimed, it had the characteristic of impossible success that people get drawn into. The Secret of Santa Vittoria astonishes the reader with passages that describe the entire town forming a human chain and passing over a million bottles of wine into a mountainous hiding place, all in the span of two days. Often it is these tall, but seemingly possible tales that inspire people to read in the first place. The fact that this inspiration comes in the midst of such terrible tragedy increases its uplifting value. The novel not only touched something inside veterans of World War II, but it also reached the young peacemakers of America. The idealistic belief in one man's worth just tacked onto the prevailing ideas of equality that the 1960s presented. With an idea set forth by Kennedy when he said "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," this novel tapped into what many Americans were beginning to hope was true: that one person can truly make a difference, not to mention a whole community when it works together. Organizations like the Peace Corps capitalized on this argument and still exist today. Even when one looks at the non-fiction bestseller lists for the decade, the lasting impression of the Kennedy-era is obvious. At least six novels can be found there discussing the late president and his ideals. Today America is still spellbound from 'Camelot;' the memories being revisited with last year's death of John Kennedy Jr. War novels have always been popular; there is something surrounding the drama and romanticism of conflict that makes for great reading. Other writers would capitalize on the success of Crichton's foray into the WWII genre. In 1971, the Herman Wouk epic novel The Winds of War was hugely successful and provided a much more graphic insight into the events of the crisis in Europe. Even before Crichton's success there is an uncountable number of war novels, including such books as Mila 18 by Leon Uris and Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. The sixties were also the decade where the 'spy' novel became a part of pop culture. The works of Ian Fleming and John Le Carre explored and benefited from the American obsession with the Cold War. Not to say that The Secret of Santa Vittoria is a Cold War novel, but the storyline of one town withholding information from the Nazis is enough to resemble a tale of intrigue and espionage. Crichton's critical success was based upon his ability to create rich and dynamic characters, and he does so by using the basic formula found in any novel depicting a small town atmosphere. Other bestsellers of the twentieth century like Catherine Marshall's Christy and Grace Metalious' Peyton Place capitalized on this mentality. The microscopic exploration of a single community makes the small town a sort of microcosm within, but almost separate from, a greater environment. The novel is full of stock characters that pop up no matter which decade the story involves. There is Bombolini, the town drunk, Roberto Abruzzi, the American outsider who befriends the townspeople, and Tufa and Caterina, the young star-crossed lovers. Almost every conversation that is had could quite possibly be heard in small-town America, particularly the conversations that involve small-town pride. As universal as some of the themes in this book are, Crichton allows the town to turn inward on itself and create a world of its own. However, Crichton adapts his version of village life by forming scenarios where these typical characters can break the stereotypes of their personality and actually surprise the reader. Bombolini, despite being the town drunk, gets elected to the position of mayor and organizes the hiding of the wine. Roberto becomes the outsider who eventually saves the people by suggesting the plan in the first place. Caterina sleeps with Captain Von Prum in order to save Tufa's life, but she never loses her authority. In these miscalculations of what is expected lies much of the humor, but it is also what makes this novel different from small town stories such as Pollyanna where no one really breaks free from stereotypical behavior. Probably the most interesting character shift comes at the end of the novel, where a martyr is made from the character that nobody in the novel likes. Babbaluche sees his forthcoming execution (a sacrifice that Von Prum required for the town not revealing their secret) as one final joke; he calls it a joke because he is dying anyway. His family plays out this dramatic emotional scene when he is chosen to die, despite the fact that they hate him. Even in the harshest of moments in the book, Crichton looks to humor as an emotional relief. Two years after its reign on the bestseller list, The Secret of Santa Vittoria was also made into a successful film. Nominated for two Oscars, the film won the Golden Globe for Best Picture in 1970. This adaptation of the novel actually played into what some critics did not like about it: that it was too visual and read almost like a screenplay in the first place (New Yorker Dec.10, 1966). True, the book is filled with all sorts of eye-candy images like the human chain winding up the side of the mountain. However, it is the good versus evil plot that Hollywood can never resist. And there are still films specifically like this one that are popular today. Roberto Bengini received enormous acclaim for his account of one man's attempt at making the Holocaust seem like a game to his son in his film Life is Beautiful. That motion picture, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, capitalized on the same notion of finding hope amongst chaos and despair, and one man's ability to successfully do so. These are the stories many people want to hear, they want to be uplifted and told that as meaningless as life at times may feel, they can still inspire themselves and others to do great things. Unfortunately, Crichton never again was really able to live up to the expectations following his first novel and achieve commercial success. By using a formula involving several different genres and combining it with a story that reached out to not only a hopeful generation but also one that lived through the situation it dramatized, Crichton created a tale that captured America's attention. Crichton's "feel-good" theme of courage and hope is as timeless as the narrative and undoubtedly will appear in best-selling novels for years to come. Works Cited: Balliett, Whitney. New Yorker. December 10, 1966. Choice Books for the College Library. January 1967. Collogan, Lauren. Bestsellers Database for Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstasy. February 1999. Crichton, Robert. The Secret of Santa Vittoria. Simon & Schuster: New York. 1967. Dodd, Katie. Bestsellers Database entry for Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. Golden, Kate. Bestsellers Database entry for Herman Wouk's The Winds of War. Hudson, Kate. Bestsellers Database entry for Mila 18, by Leon Uris. February 2000. Internet Reference on Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. www.levity.com/courduroy/heller.htm Maloney, Joseph. Bestsellers Database entry for You Only Live Twice by Ian Fleming. Martin, Edward. Bestsellers Database entry for The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, by John Le Carre. McDowell, David. The New York Times Book Review. August 28, 1966. The Internet Movie Database: http://us.imdb.com
Supplemental Material
Robert Crichton also had another short story published in Reader's Digest in April, 1968. This same story appears in the Saturday Evening Post on December 30, 1967.
There is an excerpt (although slightly modified)that appeared in The Saturday Evening Post on December 17, 1966. It appears to be a rewritten portion of a story told at the beginning of the novel. It is much more detailed than the one actually used.
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