Sparks, Nicholas: A Walk to Remember
(researched by Catherine Hauptfuhrer)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Nicholas Sparks. A Walk to Remember. New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1999. Copyright: 1999 by Nicholas Sparks Enterprises, Inc.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The first edition was published in hardcover on October 7, 1999. Random House printed a parallel large-print hardcover in October, 1999 as well. In September 2000, the first Mass Market paperback was printed.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
There are 127 leaves, with 240 pages devoted to the actual story. [i-viii] ix-xi [3] 1-240 [2]
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
This book is not edited. On one of the front fly leaves, two other novels by Sparks are listed: The Notebook and Message in a Bottle. The novel is dedicated to his parents, ìwith love and memories,î and to his siblings, ìwith all my heart and soul.î Then, Sparks includes two pages of ìAcknowledgmentsî where he thanks his wife, children, editor, agent, and others. On the next page, Sparks begins a three page ìPrologue.î
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
There are no illustrations.
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
The book is in excellent condition, without staining or smudging. The print is readable and large (97R), with ample margins, 1.5 inches above and below the text, and 1 inch on the sides. The book measures 19.5 cm by 13.3 cm. There are 13 numbered, but not titled, chapters. The font is "Baskerville." The dust jacket features a blurred picture of autumn foliage with enticing colors. Above the picture is a black box that contains the authorís name embossed in large, bold font and the title in smaller, plain font. The authorís name is just below a small message: ìA novel by the New York Times bestselling author of MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE and THE NOTEBOOK.î The authorís name and the title of the book descend down the side of the dust jacket. All of this writing is in gold print. The back of the dust jacket is a photograph of Nicholas Sparks.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The paper is not glossy, and is a little rough. It is thick and of good quality. The edges are deckled on the sides, but not on the top and bottom. There are no stains on the pages, nor any marks from folding. The color is a creamy off-white.
11 Description of binding(s)
The cardboard cover is a "reddish Brown" (according to Gaskell), and the binding is a "yellowish Brown." Along the binding, the author's name and the title descend into the Warner Books' seal and name, which are horizontal. This seal is also embossed on the back cover. The book has an adhesive binding. The outer leaves are glued to the cover, and there is one leaf of thicker paper on each end, which are of the same color as the other pages. The binding is a coarser, tape material with vertical and horizontal ribbing.
12 Transcription of title page
Transcription of the Recto of the title page: NICHOLAS SPARKS | [scroll symbol] | A Walk to Remember | [Warner Books symbol] | Warner Books | A Time Warner Company Transcription of the Verso of the title page: This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and | incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are | used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, | locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental. | Copyright [copyright symbol] 1999 by Nicholas Sparks Enterprises, Inc. | All rights reserved. | Warner Books, Inc., 1221 Avenue of the Americas, | New York, NY 10020 | Visit our Web site at www.warnerbooks.com | [Warner books symbol]A Time Warner Company | Printed in the United States of America | First Printing: October 1999 | 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 | Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data | Sparks, Nicholas | A walk to remember / Nicholas Sparks. | p. cm. | ISBN 0446-52553-7 | I. Title | PS3569. P363W35 1999 | 813'.54--dc21 99-12079 | CIP | Book design by Giorgetta Bell McRee
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
No information as of November 2002.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
The flap of the dust jacket provides a synapse of the novel and a brief biography of the Nicholas Sparks. On the back flap, it is written that this novel is "A Main Selection of the Literary Guild and of Doubleday Book Club." It requests the reader to "Visit our Web site at www.twbookmark.com." It mentions that the jacket was designed by "Flag" and that the jacket photograph is by Michael Orton/Tony Stone Images. This copy has no inscriptions, and the previous owner left no evidence of it being used.
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
Warner Books issued the novel as a windows-compatible ebook in October 1999. The file size is 261K, and the format is Microsoft Reader. Also in October 1999, a 797K Adobe Reader ebook was published, compatible with Macintosh OS software version 9.0 or 9.1. The novel was published in a Mass Market paperback edition in September 2000, with 240 pages. The cover of this edition, shown below, features Shane West and Mandy More, stars of "A Walk to Remember" the movie. The Peanut Press produced a hardcover edition in May 2000. In December 2001, Warner published a movie tie-in paperback edition.
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
The first printing was 650,000. The second printing made the total 675,000. As of October 2, 2000, there were 950,000 copies of the hardcover and 1.75 million of the paperback in print.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Random House Trade published a hardcover edition in September 1999. Issued on January 1, 1999 by Time Warner Audio Books, the unabridged audiobook is narrated by Nicholas Sparks, himself, and runs for 5 hours. Time Warner Audio Books published an abridged audio book edition in October 1999. Also in October 1999, Random House Large Print published a large print hardcover edition, with 352 pages. A softcover large print edition was produced by Random House Large Print in September 2000 with 308 pages. A library binding edition was printed in September 2000 by Bt Bound. Turtleback Books Distributed by Demco Media printed a paperback edition in January 2000. Twtp Assorted printed a hardcover edition in September 2000. Oxmoor House printed a hardcover edition in May 2000. Warner Home Video published a hardcover edition in January 2002 by Joann A. Grote, which is 103 pages.
6 Last date in print?
As of October 2002, both the large print hardcover and softcover editions are in print, as well as the mass market paperback and the library binding edition. The other physical-book editions are of "limited availability" according to amazon.com, October 2002.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
Based on sales from 2000, the novel sold 1,675,951 copies, according to Publisher's Weekly.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
In its first week, the hardcover novel hit the #2 spot on the bestselling fiction list, and enjoyed 21 weeks of bestselling status. By November 1999, 860,652 copies were "shipped and billed" domestically. (Publisher's Weekly) When the paperback was published, it was #3 on the mass market chart by November 2000. When the novel became a movie, Warner Books planned "an initial mass market run of 450,000" books. (Publisher's Weekly)As of March 11, 2002, the novel had been on the bestsellers list for over five months.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
A full page advertisement appeared in the New York Times Book Review of October 3rd, 1999. The page features the headline "True love never ends..." above a picture of the book. On the bottom, "Available in hardcover and as a Time Warner AudioBook wherever books are sold" is written. The advertisement graces the fifth page of the review. No such advertisement is found in the "Book World" section of October 3rd's Washington Post. A Press Release was created by Time Warner Books indicating the bestseller status of his first two books, and that they expected the same for "A Walk to Remember." A synapsis of the book is given, as is a brief biography of Sparks. Jennifer Romanello is given as the contact name, with her phone number.
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
In fall 1999, Sparks toured 37 cities, beginning in New Bern, N.C., selling more than one thousand books at his first six stops. He also toured a few European cities. Time Warner's website, twbookmark.com, recommended his book in October (no year specified) for Geminis, and in November for Sagittarians.
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Film rights to the novel were given to Denise DiNovi of Warner Brothers, who produced Spark's novel-turned-movie "Message in a Bottle." Starring Mandy More and Shane West, the movie drew an adolescent and family audience. Its budget was $11 million, and it premiered on January 27, 2002. Drawing $12.177 in the opening weekend, the movie premiered on 2411 screens. The movie also enjoyed success in Australia (July 2002), Italy (September 2002), and the United Kingdom (September 2002). By April 28, 2002, the movie had grossed $41.227 million in the United States alone. A soundtrack was made, featuring Mandy More among other artists. The movie won the 2002 MTV Movie Award for Breakthrough Female Performance (Mandy More), and the 2002 Teen Choice awards for Choice Breakout Performance, actress (Mandy More), and Choice Chemistry (More and West). As of September 2002, the DVD/video sales were "in the $60 million range". (Publisher's Weekly) The movie has an official website, www.awalktoremember.com, with a downloadable screen saver, trailer, and movie stills.
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
Rights were sold in Korea, Germany, Norway and Turkey. The movie is available in French, Spanish, and English with subtitles. Amazon.com lists "Un Pasaje De Amor" by Nicholas Sparks, published in August 2002. This is the Spanish translation, published by Distribooks Intl. in a paperback. The German version, "Zeit im Wind" is located on the amazon.de website, and costs EUR 7,95.
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
No serialization.
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)
Known for his tragic love stories and voted the "#1 Best Author" by Entertainment Weekly in 2001, Nicholas Sparks enjoys domestic and international bestseller status. As of October 2002, two of his novels, "Message in a Bottle" and "A Walk to Remember," have become feature films, and movie rights to "The Notebook" have been sold. He is certainly a success. Nicholas Sparks was born eight minutes prior to 1966, to Patrick and Jill Sparks in Omaha, Nebraska. Sparks "grew up on powdered milk and ate tons of potatoes," because his father was a student at the University of Minnesota and the University of Southern California. "I never noticed how poor we really were," wrote Sparks. (www.nicholassparks.com) Modest beginnings did not thwart Sparks' ascent to fame. Valedictorian of his high school, Sparks broke track records while working thirty hours a week. As a result, Sparks earned a full scholarship to the University of Notre Dame. Sparks' auspicious athletic future ended with injury. Sparks had reset the 4x800 record at the Drake Relays; but after muscle strain halted his career. To distract him, Sparks' mother proposed writing. His wrote two unpublished novels, "The Passing" and "The Royal Murders." He then graduated with honors from the University of Notre Dame in 1988, with a B.A. in finance, and married Cathy, a student he met during spring break. In 1990, Sparks coauthored "Wokini: A Lakota Journey to Happiness and Self Understanding" with Billy Mills. Published by Feather Publishing, it sold 50,000 copies. (www.nicholassparks.com) With two sons, Miles and Ryan, he resolved to become a novelist while he worked in pharmaceuticals, beginning "The Notebook" in 1994. Time Warner bought the rights for $1 million. "Message in a Bottle" was published in 1998, and "A Walk to Remember" in 1999. "The Rescue" was next, published in 2000, the same year as the birth of his son, Landon. "A Bend in the Road" came in 2001, as did his twin daughters: Lexie and Savannah. These novels were domestic and international bestsellers. "Nights in Rodanthe" was published in 2002. Sparks, as of October 2002, is writing "The Guardian." All of Sparks' published novels, except for "Nights in Rodanthe," reflect personal experience. "A Walk to Remember," Sparks' favorite to write, is his sister Danielle's story. The protagonist, Jamie Sullivan, named after his editor, Jamie Raab, manifests Danielle. Jamie, like Danielle, is socially unpopular, but happy and religious. Despite contracting cancer, both marry their sweethearts, tragically leaving widowers. "This was a story of the beauty, power and innocence of first love," writes Sparks. (www.nicholassparks.com) While Sparks' novels are touched by tragedy, his New Bern, North Carolina life seems ideal. With five children and a devoted wife, Sparks was named the "Most Romantic Husband in America" by Ladies Home Journal. (www.barnesandnoble.com) At 5'10", 180 lbs., and with a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, he was voted the "Sexiest Author Alive" by People Magazine in 2000. (www.people.com) His publisher is Warner Books, and his agent is Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, Inc.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Nicholas Sparks' A Walk to Remember is often grouped with his prior novels, Message in a Bottle and The Notebook in terms of style and success. According to Greenville News, the novel has "the indelible Sparks romantic stamp" that proved so lucrative in the past. Book Page notes that "Nicholas Sparks waves his magic romance wand again? Sparks is a modern master of fateful love stories." Sparks' 1999 novel shares many of his traditional bittersweet elements, according to critics. Indeed, Sparks' "calculated ability to throw your heart around like a yo-yo? will certainly reel in fans." (amazon.com) Common phrases used to describe A Walk to Remember are "Tearjerker," "romantic," and "sentimental." "Sparks generates genuine emotional power" raves USA Today. Sparks' Christian undertones are recognized by reviewers. The protagonist, Jamie, is religious, the daughter of a Baptist minister. Laura Bagby, a CBN.com producer, lauds the novel: "finally there is a romantic drama that portrays what true love and true living is really all about while keeping morals? intact." Highly praised by Christian press, the Christian Science Monitor writes "Sparks has a winning combination of style and story." Robin Russo, of The Hoya, states, "He manages to work religious wisdom into the book without turning his story into any sort of evangelical sermon." Many critics use Sparks' promise in his prologue that "first you will smile, then you will cry" to begin their reviews. Both amazon.com and Robin Russo call this a "presumptuous pledge" but both decide that he "delivers." It seems as if amazon.com's phraseology is influential because other reviewers either quote from the site, or use their phrases. "The Mirror," "Entertainment Weekly," and "The Hoya" all begin their reviews with this quote. Some reviewers predicted even more sales of A Walk to Remember than his other books enjoyed. Both of Spark's previous novels earned bestseller status, and his third "will no doubt follow its predecessors." (www.businessknowhow.com) The St. Louis Post-Dispatch asserted, "This one may be even better [than] his bestselling novel The Notebook." Given the season it was released, and its Christian undertones, critics claimed that the novel targets the holiday reader. Patricia Ann Jones of businessknowhow.com writes, "considering the time of publication, just before the holiday season, "A Walk to Remember" will prove a much appreciated gift for all ages from 17 to 70." Similarly, Booklist wrote, "this bittersweet tale? should be a big hit during the holiday season." Other reviews criticized Sparks' novel's ambition to be a holiday bestseller. Kirkus Reviews called the novel "weepy wisdom aimed at the holiday trade." While A Walk to Remember ultimately became a bestseller, it is criticized for hackneyed writing. Even amazon.com cedes "the plot may not be the most original," and the Library Journal concludes "the novel is predictable, to be sure." Nevertheless, both sources end recommending the novel, despite its clichés. The Sunday New York Post comes to a similar conclusion: "every now and then you stumble across an extraordinary book that first appears like countless others, unremarkable and easy to overlook. But then you read it and are amazed with the treasures hidden within. Nicholas Sparks' A Walk to Remember is such a book." Other critics were not as forgiving. Kirkus Reviews writes the has "an old premise, slow windup, and wobbly pitch." Christy Lemire of the Associated Press writes that the novel is "a bit cliché" with all of the typical elements: "the pretty-ugly girl..; the shallow popular guy, who undergoes a moral transformation, thanks to the pretty-ugly girl; his scorned ex-girlfriend who seeks revenge?" According to Entertainment Weekly, with "its cliché-ridden prose, and its plot twists that can be predicted after reading the prologue, [the plot is] like the script for a bad after-school special." So artificially dramatic is the novel, asserts Entertainment Weekly, that is sardonically writes, "Tragedy ensues. Lives Change. Violins, please." The novel is given a D- and was named the Worst Novel of 1999. Similarly, the novel's nostalgic pining is "used like a bludgeon for the sole purpose of making readers cry, [and thus] it becomes chintzy." [http://shopping.yahoo.com] It should be noted, however, that positive remarks praising the "deeply moving, beautifully written, and extremely romantic" novel were more prevalent than the negative reviews. (Booklist)
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Nicholas Sparks' A Walk to Remember is often grouped with his prior novels, Message in a Bottle and The Notebook in terms of style and success. According to Greenville News, the novel has "the indelible Sparks romantic stamp" that proved so lucrative in the past. Book Page notes that "Nicholas Sparks waves his magic romance wand again? Sparks is a modern master of fateful love stories." Sparks' 1999 novel shares many of his traditional bittersweet elements, according to critics. Indeed, Sparks' "calculated ability to throw your heart around like a yo-yo? will certainly reel in fans." (amazon.com) Common phrases used to describe A Walk to Remember are "Tearjerker," "romantic," and "sentimental." "Sparks generates genuine emotional power" raves USA Today. Sparks' Christian undertones are recognized by reviewers. The protagonist, Jamie, is religious, the daughter of a Baptist minister. Laura Bagby, a CBN.com producer, lauds the novel: "finally there is a romantic drama that portrays what true love and true living is really all about while keeping morals? intact." Highly praised by Christian press, the Christian Science Monitor writes "Sparks has a winning combination of style and story." Robin Russo, of The Hoya, states, "He manages to work religious wisdom into the book without turning his story into any sort of evangelical sermon." Many critics use Sparks' promise in his prologue that "first you will smile, then you will cry" to begin their reviews. Both amazon.com and Robin Russo call this a "presumptuous pledge" but both decide that he "delivers." It seems as if amazon.com's phraseology is influential because other reviewers either quote from the site, or use their phrases. "The Mirror," "Entertainment Weekly," and "The Hoya" all begin their reviews with this quote. Some reviewers predicted even more sales of A Walk to Remember than his other books enjoyed. Both of Spark's previous novels earned bestseller status, and his third "will no doubt follow its predecessors." (www.businessknowhow.com) The St. Louis Post-Dispatch asserted, "This one may be even better [than] his bestselling novel The Notebook." Given the season it was released, and its Christian undertones, critics claimed that the novel targets the holiday reader. Patricia Ann Jones of businessknowhow.com writes, "considering the time of publication, just before the holiday season, "A Walk to Remember" will prove a much appreciated gift for all ages from 17 to 70." Similarly, Booklist wrote, "this bittersweet tale? should be a big hit during the holiday season." Other reviews criticized Sparks' novel's ambition to be a holiday bestseller. Kirkus Reviews called the novel "weepy wisdom aimed at the holiday trade." While A Walk to Remember ultimately became a bestseller, it is criticized for hackneyed writing. Even amazon.com cedes "the plot may not be the most original," and the Library Journal concludes "the novel is predictable, to be sure." Nevertheless, both sources end recommending the novel, despite its clichés. The Sunday New York Post comes to a similar conclusion: "every now and then you stumble across an extraordinary book that first appears like countless others, unremarkable and easy to overlook. But then you read it and are amazed with the treasures hidden within. Nicholas Sparks' A Walk to Remember is such a book." Other critics were not as forgiving. Kirkus Reviews writes the has "an old premise, slow windup, and wobbly pitch." Christy Lemire of the Associated Press writes that the novel is "a bit cliché" with all of the typical elements: "the pretty-ugly girl..; the shallow popular guy, who undergoes a moral transformation, thanks to the pretty-ugly girl; his scorned ex-girlfriend who seeks revenge?" According to Entertainment Weekly, with "its cliché-ridden prose, and its plot twists that can be predicted after reading the prologue, [the plot is] like the script for a bad after-school special." So artificially dramatic is the novel, asserts Entertainment Weekly, that is sardonically writes, "Tragedy ensues. Lives Change. Violins, please." The novel is given a D- and was named the Worst Novel of 1999. Similarly, the novel's nostalgic pining is "used like a bludgeon for the sole purpose of making readers cry, [and thus] it becomes chintzy." [http://shopping.yahoo.com] It should be noted, however, that positive remarks praising the "deeply moving, beautifully written, and extremely romantic" novel were more prevalent than the negative reviews. (Booklist)
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Published in October 1999, Nicholas Sparks' novel, A Walk to Remember, followed his two prior novels to bestselling status. With a confident first printing of 650,000 and a full-page advertisement in the New York Times Book Review, A Walk to Remember's success was predicted by its publisher, Warner Books. The follow-on novel retained the bittersweet temperament of Sparks' previous writings in the telling of the romance between Jamie, the sick, Baptist girl, and Landon, the son of a wealthy politician. Told by aged Landon, remembering his tragic love, the novel has a nostalgic pining for small-town life in 1958 North Carolina. As Landon falls in love with the once seemingly stodgy and bizarre Jamie, he learns morality from her Baptist theology. He also learns that appearances can hide the truth; the outwardly healthy Jamie has a rare and fatal form of leukemia. This bildungsroman certainly has a moral lesson to offer: "the ?right thing'? [isn't] so bad after all." (p.137) Sparks promises: "first you will smile, and then you will cry" by the end of the tragic tale. (p.xi) Nicholas Sparks' A Walk to Remember held a lucrative reign because Sparks understood the contemporary book industry as well as his audience. By catering to both, Sparks manufactured a bestselling novel, even if not one to remember. In 1999, established authors dominated the bestseller lists. Publisher's Weekly asked, "So how did the 1999 bestsellers compare to previous years? As usual, the name is still the main part of the game." This article, titled "So Far, Little Has Changed," lists Grisham, King, Crichton, Steel, and Cornwell as such authors. Indeed, "the only newcomers to the top 15 are two books." (www.publishersweekly.reviewsnews.com) Causing this phenomenon of literary dominance are massive, costly campaigns to publicize the author and the book. The main goal: make the particular author and piece of literature recognizable. For a first time novelist, this task is daunting, competing against novelists like Stephen King and John Grisham. Augmenting the reign of returning novelists is the growing popularity, in 1999, of Amazon.com. Because the consumer could not physically browse through books, the authors' name became suddenly more salient. In May 1999, the website offered a fifty percent discount on New York Times bestsellers, clearly adding to the name recognition of popular authors. (www.salon.com) Once an author reaches bestseller standing, however, the hardest battle has been won: he has beaten the "big-names." Sparks enjoyed such a victory with his first novel, The Notebook. Even his next novel, Message in a Bottle, was a bestseller. The New York Times bestseller list of April 25, 1999 was the last week of Message in a Bottle's life on the list. Also gracing the April 25, 1999 list were familiar names: Mary Higgins Clark, Danielle Steel, John Grisham, and Nora Roberts (with two separate books). The recipe for success seemed clear cut: quickly written novels, by renowned authors, of the same genre as the last writing. Because "the right name makes the game," "it's nearly impossible to make a splash? if the author isn't already a known entity."(www.publishersweekly.com) Nicholas Sparks had the right name; he had made his splash with The Notebook. With his subsequent narratives, with A Walk to Remember, he simply had to keep swimming. Because Sparks understood the book industry, he kept his success afloat by writing A Walk to Remember in very much the same style as his previous books. His reliance on his previous accomplishments is demonstrated by the first edition of the novel. His fourteen letter name is drastically larger than the fifteen letter title. His photograph graces the entire back cover. Clearly the consumer is meant to recognize the name and face of the author, even if not the title of his new book. A Walk to Remember was created as an impression of the Sparks stamp; that was all that was necessary. "All of Sparks' novels include the same trademark elements: a love-challenged individual, a soul awakening, and an unexpected tragedy." (see assignment 4) Like his past two novels, his third was set in idyllic North Carolina, his home state. All three novels drew from Sparks' personal experiences. This novel centers on Jamie, modeled after his pious sister, who died of leukemia. All both girls crave is to be married, and both eventually are, but with a tragic end. Similarly, Nicholas Sparks' wife's grandparents inspired The Notebook's plot, and Message in a Bottle focused on Nicholas Sparks' father. (www.nicholassparks.com) Sparks retained the same publisher, Warner Books, through all three novels. He even sold the film rights of his third novel to Denise DiNovi, the same producer of "Message in a Bottle," the movie. Since Sparks had found his path toward fortune, he found no reason to depart from its sure course. Because "Sparks doesn't stray far from his bittersweet lost-love formula," A Walk to Remember "[seemed] poised to duplicate the success of his earlier works," predicted Publisher's Weekly. Indeed, Sparks' work of fiction enjoyed prepublication bestseller ranking in September 1999, according to Cahners Business Info. This occurred merely five months after the last date that Message in a Bottle resided on the bestseller list. Sparks had become one of the "heavy hitters;" like Grisham, Steel, and Roberts, Sparks had found his formula, and was utilizing it quickly. Contemporary profit necessitated consistency and efficiency, if not quality. That is not to say Sparks was without his critics. Maggie Haberman sardonically called his writing a "celluloid-ready weeper." She continued, "Predictable? Schmaltzy? Of course." Written stylistically similar to his previous novels, the third inherited the same criticisms. According to People Magazine, "Like Sparks' previous novels? Walk is light on story and heavy on sentiment." Parodying the title, People told its readers to "Run, run" away from the novel. (www.people.com) Truly the novel is written in a colloquial tone, as the narrator speaks the story from memory, shying away from verbose passages and complex diction. A Walk to Remember is, admittedly, gorged with clichés. The Library Journal cedes, "the novel is predictable, to be sure." The staid Jamie is from the "other side of town," (p.71), is "misunderstood" (p.185), yet causes the wealthy, popular boy, Landon, to transform his outlook on life. This theme is not new in literature or in Sparks' prose. The text, similarly, is not innovative. During a sentimental moment, while pondering how Jamie changed his life, the narrator says, "Jamie helped me become the man I am today." (p.234) As Jamie helped Landon, "bodybuilding helped me become the man I am today," noted former Mr. Universe Bob Paris in 1998. (The Advocate) Correspondingly, in Al Higginbotham's book, By Faith? I'm Still Standing, he writes that God helped him "become the man I am today." (www.alspeaks.com) This diction is trite, causing an otherwise important, emotional moment to be downplayed if not trivialized. A Walk to Remember is a work of fiction about moral transformation; trivialization of the theme defeats its lesson. Judging from the sales of A Walk to Remember and his other novels, readers did not seem thwarted by his hackneyed style. Weathering twenty-one weeks on the hardcover bestseller list alone, the novel was a commercial triumph. Released just before the Millennium, this nostalgic, moral reinforcing tale tapped into the anxiety of the future. He clearly understood the shift in the audience's interests; A Walk to Remember presents unmistakable Christian dogma. Jamie, firstly, is the daughter of a Baptist minister. She totes a Bible with her at all times, and uses the phrase "the Lord's plan" liberally. During her gradual weakening, as the leukemia progresses, her faith proves steadfast, even though Landon likens her suffering to that of Job. Such a Christian emphasis is not underscored in the writing. In fact, part of Landon's transformation is his embracing of the Bible. Intense Christian ideals are also lucidly defined, including: abstinence, charity, and good will to all people. The novel's end even alludes that Landon is so affected by Jamie's goodness that he becomes a minister, like her father. Sparks makes this theme brazenly apparent; and in 1999 this strategy was lucrative. Both of the 1999 bestselling novels that were not written by past bestselling authors were biblically based. "Several other authors of religion and inspirational titles enjoyed increased sales in both general and Christian outlets." This was a result of "millennial fever [that was] everywhere." (www.publishersweekly.com) Sparks catered to this renewed religious craving, and was lauded by religious and secular readers alike for A Walk to Remember. To ensure his bestseller ranking, Sparks made a concession in A Walk to Remember: he did not let Jamie die. Having written the death of the protagonist of Message in a Bottle, he received many "really furious" complaints. "This was on my mind while writing [his next novel] and? if I killed off another major character, my readers would never forgive me." (www.nicholassparks.com) But, basing the novel on his sister Danielle's death, Sparks envisioned Jamie as dying. "It would have been dishonest," he notes, "to have Jamie suddenly cured." (www.nicholassparks.com) As a result of this dilemma, he left Jamie's fate an enigma. The story ends in the marriage of Landon and Jamie; her fate is left to the reader's imagination. Perhaps this ending gave Sparks even more success as interest was alighted as to her actual destiny. On Nicholas Sparks' website, the most frequently asked question is whether Jamie lives or dies. Because Sparks understood his audience, he was able to tailor his narrative to suit contemporary taste buds, resulting in a lucrative novel. Another facet of book writing during Sparks' time period was the intermingling of books and movies. Sparks' second novel, Message in a Bottle, was a box-office hit, starring Kevin Costner. It was, thus, natural for A Walk to Remember to follow its path to the movie theater. From January to March 2002, nineteen movies based on popular fiction were released, signaling the conjoined relationship. (Cahners Business Info.) This prevalence of books-into-movies suggests that Sparks knew his third story would become a movie during its composition. Further hinting that Sparks wrote his book to become a movie is the fact that A Walk to Remember's film rights were sold prior to the novel's official publication. Starring Mandy More and Shane West, teen icons of the decade, the movie version certainly was profitable, yielding over $40 million by April 2002. (see performances in other media, assignment 2) Not only was the movie a theater hit, but it also spurred even greater profits for the actual book. Sparks probably predicted this; the same occurred after "Message in a Bottle" entered theaters. To further link the movie and the book, Warner Books released the movie-paperback tie-in, featuring the pop-culture More and West on the cover. Indeed, the paperback remained on the bestseller list through the movie's stay in the box office. Yielding praise from teenage fans and religious zealots alike, the movie garnered support for the book from new groups. Surely Sparks understood his market, and the role of film within in, exercising his experience to his advantage. An unanticipated event may have further granted A Walk to Remember appeal. Hurricane Floyd devastated the coasts of North Carolina in September 1999, causing forty deaths and $1 billion in damage. (www.hurricanehunters.com) Living on Bogue Banks Island, North Carolina, Sparks' home was destroyed. In an editorial to the New York Times, on September 19, 1999, Sparks proclaimed he would rebuild his home and remain in North Carolina because it is "one of the most beautiful places in the world." (www.nytimes.com) This article, entitled "I Will Rebuild," gave his name publicity one month before the publication of A Walk to Remember . It also caused state pride after such a disaster. Since Sparks' third novel followed the formula of the first two, it is set in North Carolina. A Walk to Remember lavishly details the state's beauty, so perhaps he enjoyed increased sales sparked by this patriotism. The south, indeed, is romanticized in this 1958 setting, where "people waved from their cars? whether they knew [you] or not." (p.1) Nicholas Sparks' actual neighborhood is even described in A Walk to Remember: "Eastern North Carolina is a beautiful and special part of the country? Nowhere is this more evident than Bogue Banks." (p.215) The novel clearly highlights southern culture, depicting scenes involving boiled peanuts, RC cola, and hushpuppies. Such cuisine is distinctly southern, as is this source of regional pride. Sparks' novels had always dealt with the south, but Hurricane Floyd perhaps gave this emphasis appeal. A Walk to Remember, while not innovative, grossed salient sales because of Sparks' ability to respond to the whims of his readers and to the climate of publication. Understanding the interrelationship of books and movies, he wrote his third story to translate well into a movie version, which undoubtedly was rewarding. Reacting to the negative comments regarding the death of Message in a Bottle's protagonist, Sparks learned and did not kill the protagonist, Jamie, in his next novel. He further understood the current outlook of the audience by publishing a Christian themed narrative just prior to the Millennium and to the holiday season. Since Sparks had written two bestselling novels, he was virtually assured a third bestseller. He made these adjustments in his style for A Walk to Remember, but retained the original, tried-and-bestselling Sparks formula. Consumers at this time bought novels from "dependable" authors; Danielle Steel predictably wrote romance, James Patterson wrote thrillers, and Nicholas Sparks wrote bittersweet love sagas. He did not need extravagant rhetorical devices and radically twisting plots to profit; clichés had proven sufficient. In the novel, Landon reacts to a community play, starring Landon and Jamie, reflecting, "To say that the play was a smashing success was to put it mildly. The audience laughed and the audience cried which was pretty much what they were supposed to do." (p. 136) The same is true of the novel; its commercial reign is undeniable. Sparks did what he was supposed to do to ensure this success: be predictable and opportune.
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