O'Connor, Edwin: The Edge of Sadness
(researched by Ryan Mattie)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Edwin O'Connor. "The Edge of Sadness". Boston: Atlantic - Little, Brown Books, 1961. Copyright:1961 by Edwin O'Connor Atlantic - Little, Brown Books are published by Little, Brown & Company in Toronto, Canada, in association with The Atlantic Monthly Press, printed in the United States. My copy of the book is a first U.S. edition that was printed in Boston, Mass., and it was printed simutaneously in Toronto, Canada.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The First American Edition is published in trade cloth binding.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
240 leaves,[12][1-2]3-172[173-174]175-285[286-288]289-378[379-380]381-460[8]
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
The first edition is neither edited nor introduced. However, there is list of the author's other books on the fourth unnumbered page, a dedication on the ninth unnumbered page, and a note to the reader on the eleventh unnumbered page. Transcription of other novels listed: Books by Edwin O'Connor|THE ORACLE|THE LAST HURRAH|(Atlantic Prize Novel, 1955)|BENJY|THE EDGE OF SADNESS Transcription of dedication: For|Frank O'Malley Transcription of note to the reader: All characters and situations in this novel are|fictional, and any resemblence to any per-|sons living or dead is purely coincidental.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
The first edition is not illustrated.
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?)
Overall the appearance of the book is in great condition with the consideration that it is more than 40 years old. The pages have only yellowed very slightly, but are in very good condition. The text is large and clear and has not worn, and the lines are set well apart from each other. The type is a roman font, possibly Jaeger Daily News. The type at the beginning of the chapters has the first two words in a larger size, all capital letters, with the first letter of the first word being an even larger size and slightly ascending and descending the following letter. Throughout the book, the title is always expressed in all capital, bold letters, but their size varies on different pages. Page size: 208mm x 140mm Top margin: 15mm Bottom margin (from text): 33mm Bottom margin (from pg.#): 25mm Side margin: 22mm Text measurement: 160mm x 96mm (90R) Height between ascender and descender of a singel line: 4-4.5mm Approximate 20 line height: 80-90mm Line spacing (height between descender of upper line and ascender of lower line): 2mm
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 pages of the book are thick and smooth and of even texture, with the end pages being slightly thicker and stronger. The text pages have held up very well, showing no tears or cracks or creases. The pages are a creamy, off-white color, and this seems to be the desired color and not the result of aging. They may have only slight discoloration and yellowing. There are no stains throughout the book except on page 204, where part of the text has been smeared/smudged/blurred. A few corners of the pages have been slightly bent, probably due to mishandling. The 240 leaves of the book measure approximately 38mm in thickness.
11 Description of binding(s)
The binding is cloth and the grain type is probably a calico texture cloth. The color is a medium greyish blue (denim-like). The cover is stamped with a rectangular publishing ornament in gilt gold. There is a texturized stamp on the back of the binding of a picture that is too worn to make out. It is probably the colophon. There are no illustrations. The endpapers are the same color as the text pages, but maybe a little more yellow. Transcription of front cover: [rectangular, ornamental publishing desing, 13mm x 50mm] Transcription of back cover: N/A Transcription of spine: [ornamental publishing design, 9mm x 30mm]|THE|EDGE|OF|SADNESS|[circular publishing mark, 6mm diameter]|EDWIN|O'CONNOR|[ornamental publishing design, 9mm x 30mm]|Atlantic|Little, Brown
12 Transcription of title page
First title page: "THE EDGE|OF|SADNESS"|[rectangular, ornamental publishing design, 4mm x 13mm] Second title page/Main title page (recto): "THE EDGE|OF|SADNESS"|[rectangular, ornamental publishing design, 8mm x 25mm]|BY|EDWIN O'CONNOR|An Atlantic Monthly Press Book|LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY|BOSTON TORONTO Second title page/Main title page (verso): COPYRIGHT 1961 BY EDWIN O'CONNOR|ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO PART OF THIS BOOK MAY BE REPRODUCED IN|ANY FORM OR BY ANY ELECTRONIC OR MECHANICAL MEANS INCLUDING|INFORMATION STORAGE AND RETRIEVAL SYSTEMS WITHOUT PERMISSION IN|WRITING FROM THE PUBLISHER, EXCEPT BY A REVIEWER WHO MAY QUOTE|BRIEF PASSAGES IN A REVIEW.|LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOG CARD NO. 61-5738|0104|FIRST EDITION|ATLANTIC-LITTLE, BROWN BOOKS|ARE PUBLISHED BY|LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY|IN ASSOCIATION WITH|THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY PRESS|Published simutaneously in Canada|by Little, Brown & Company (Canada) Limited|PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
I have been unable to find where the manuscripts for this book are held or if they even exist.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
The Dust Jacket: The dust jacket for the book is brown with bold, black, capital lettering that gives the title, the author, and a note on the title of his previous book. It was in relatively good condition, although slightly torn. The back of the jacket had a black and white photo of the author. On the inside jacket in the front of the book was a brief summary of the book as well as a reference to one of his other books. The jacket was designed by Samuel H. Bryant. On the insided of the jacket in the back of the book is a brief account of the author's life. It also says that the photograph of Edwin O'Connor was taken by Hans Namuth. There is the publishers info. and a note that says, "A Book-Of-The-Month Club Selection" at the very bottom. The Section Pages: The book is divided into three sections. The pages that denote the sections do not have numbers on them. The section page has an ornamental design (10mm x 30mm) and the roman numeral of the section below it. Note: An order has been placed for the images of the book from special collections and will be supplemented later on.
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
The original publisher may have published the book in more than one edition. The Little, Brown Company in Boston is the original publisher, and searching showed that the book was published by them twice in 1961. The first edition is listed as having 460 pages, and the other publication listing says that there are 414 pages. The difference in page numbers between the first edition and the other listing may mean that it is a different edition. I have not been able to view this possible other edition and therefore can not compare the distinguishing features. Also, The Little, Brown Company Published The Edge of Sadness along with O'Connor's previous novel, The Last Hurrah. There are 6 separate listings for this dual printing, all by the Little, Brown publishers. Here are the dates for each publication listing: 1) Little, Brown, 1956 (1st. Edition) 2) Atlantic (part of the Little, Brown publishings), 1956 3) Little, Brown, 1961 4) Little, Brown, 1961 5) Little, Brown, 1962 6) Little, Brown, 1961 (1st. Edition) The first five listings above all contain 670 pages, and therefore it might be deduced that 2, 3, 4, and 5 are subsequent printings of the first edition (number 1). The sixth listing, however, has 460 pages and is probably a different edition altogether. I also found that the edition listed as 6) Little, Brown, 1961 (1st. Edition), above, was a Book Club Edition, and that is probably why it was given a separate listing from the one with the 1956 publication date.
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
There are at least 10 printings of the first edition. I know this only because the book I borrowed from Clemons Library says "Tenth Printing" on the back of the title page. I also found that "during the first 8 months, the hardcover edition went through five printings; in the following few years, the paperback edition had eleven printings" (Rank, 120).
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
1) Chicago: Thomas More Press, 1961 2) Pleasantville, NY: Reader's Digest Association 1961 - part of the Reader's Digest Condensed Books: Volume Four, 1961, Autumn Selections 3) London: Max Reinhardt, 1961 4) Franklin Center, PA: Franklin Library, 1978 - part of the Pulitzer Prize [Library] 1962 5) Thomas More, January 1991 6) Thomas More, February 1991 (Reprint Edition) 7) Buccaneer Books, Incorporated, January 1991 (Hardcover) 8) Buccaneer Books, Incorporated, June 1991 (Reprint Edition - Hardcover) 9) Buccaneer Books, Incorporated, October 1991
6 Last date in print?
The last date in print noted was by Buccaneer Books, Incorporated in October 1991. However, the company me be reprinting this edition as needed to keep up with sales. Having checked the Books In Print Database on October 9th, 2002, the status for this October 1991 edition was listed as "Active Record".
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
No information available.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
No information available.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
An advertisement for The Edge of Sadness was in the June 4, 1961 edition of "The New York Times Book Review". The article was written by John V. Kelleher and was on the front page. There is a large picture of a church in the center of the page with the text of the article around it. The title reads: CURIOUS INDEED THE WAY GOD WORKS and there is a smaller subtitle below it that reads: How a Lost Man Found Place and Purpose|Is the Theme of Edwin O'Connor's Novel Note: I chose to upload this advertisement because it is the first advertisement chronologically.
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
A210191021009221550.jpg
11 Other promotion
Another advertisement was found in the July, 1961 issue of the "Atlantic Monthly" Magazine. The Advertisement is on page 129 and is a square measuring approximately 4 inches x 4 inches. In it there is a picture of Edwin O'Connor, as well as the following passage transcribed below. EDWIN O'CONNOR|delighted millions|with his memorable best seller|THE LAST HURRAH|He now offers|a new and unforgettable|reading experience|THE EDGE OF|SADNESS|A book destined|to become|one of the most important and|widely read novels|of our time. There is an article in the September, 1961 issue of the "Atlantic Monthly" Magazine that mentions O'Connor's The Edge of Sadness. The article is about his previous novel, The Last Hurrah, and how it was inspired by the former mayor of Boston, James M. Curley. In the introductory paragraph to the article though, there is a sentence that mentions his upcoming novel. That sentence is transcribed below. Five years have gone into the planning and writing of his|new novel, THE EDGE OF SADNESS, a pensive, penetrating study to the dedication of a Catholic priest. A third article was found on the New York Review of Books website. The article was written by Dennis Donoghue on June 18, 1970. Edwin O'Connor died in 1968 and this article goes over his life and his work as an author. It is not clear if this is necessarily a promotional article, but it does mention all his novels and other stories. The article is titled: Language Barriers with a subtitle of: The Best and the Last of Edwin O'Connor
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
1) Sound Recording (LP) - CMS Records, 1969 2) Sound Recording (Cassette) - New York, NY: CMS, 1969 3) Sound Recording (LP) - New York: CMS, 1969 (The Edge of Sadness - Selections) It is interesting to note that Edwin O'Connor's novel previous to The Edge of Sadness, The Last Hurrah, was inspired by the life of Boston Mayor, James Curley, and was made into a movie starring Spencer Tracey. There are, however, no other productions in any other form of The Edge of Sadness.
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
1) Milano: Rizzoli, 1963 - [Translation in Italian] 2) Utrecht: Uitgeverij De Fontein, 1961 - [Translation in Dutch]
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
It is unclear as to whether or not the book was serialized. The dual publishing of The Last Hurrah and The Edge of Sadness is listed in WorldCat, and under "Series" it says "Atlantic Monthly Press Book". Having searched the "Atlantic Monthly" magazines though, there is no sign that the book was published in series.
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)
It wasn't until 1946, at the age of 38, that Edwin O'Connor decided to concentrate on his own writing. He lived in Boston in various boarding houses and became a free-lance writer, and although he enjoyed little success with his early stories, he did manage to eke out a living writing a column three times a week for the Boston Herald. It wasn't until ten years later though, with the publishing of his second book, The Last Hurrah (1956), that O'Connor was finally embraced with success. The book was published in February of 1956, and by October of that same year, it had already gone through fifteen printings in hardcover (more than 300,000 copies), and in the following years the paperback sales would exceed a million copies. The Last Hurrah was also selected for the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Reader's Digest Condensed Books, and would later go on to win the Atlantic Prize Novel Award (1955). "Without exaggeration, there was a rags-to-riches quality to O'Connor's experience. Within weeks, an unknown writer had become a best-selling author" (Rank, 60). Success, however, did not change O'Connor as a person; even after he received prize money and royalties, he never left the Boston Common area where he began his work as a writer. The city was his inspiration for The Last Hurrah, and it would also be his inspiration for his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Edge of Sadness. Edwin Greene O'Connor was born on July 29, 1918 in Providence, Rhode Island. He was the first child of Doctor John V. O'Connor and Mary (Greene) O'Connor. His father started out as a pharmacist, but sold his drug store and enrolled in medical school. He graduated in 1911 and interned for five years before getting married. After his graduate studies at John's Hopkins and Harvard, he moved back to his hometown of Woonsocket, Rhode Island where he practiced as a specialist in internal medicine. Edwin, along with his younger brother John (born in 1923), and his younger sister Barbara (born in 1928) were raised in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Edwin attended a public elementary school, but his family thought he ought to have some religious schooling at the secondary level (Rank, 18). In 1931, Edwin entered LaSalle Academy in Providence, a parochial boys' school run by the Christian Brothers (Rank, 18). Although he had never given much thought to going to college, O'Connor ultimately applied to the University of Notre Dame during his senior year of high school. Later, in a Boston Post interview, O'Connor said, "I don't know to this day why I chose Notre Dame. I just thought I'd like to go there, and that was all right with my father" (February 13, 1956). Because of the influence of college professor, Frank O'Malley, whom he deemed "the single greatest help for me in college", Edwin was steered away from a journalism major in favor of English (Rank, 19). Edwin would later dedicate ,The Edge of Sadness to Professor O'Malley. "By his senior year, O'Connor had decided to be a writer. His record at that time was scanty ? a few publications in his hometown newspaper and six or seven rejection slips from national magazines ? but his determination was set" (Rank, 21). Early in 1940, O'Connor joined WPRO in Providence as an announcer. Later in 1940, O'Connor enlisted in the Coast Guard and was stationed in Boston. He served for three years and he wrote an autobiographical manuscript that tells of his first year in the service. Also while in the service O'Connor began working on a novel, but only fragments of it exist and it is not known how much more of the story O'Connor wrote. After he left the coast guard, Edwin briefly returned to radio as a writer-announcer for WNAC before deciding to free-lance write. O'Connor wrote a number of stories that went unpublished, but he developed a relationship with the Atlantic and began to write essays for them. His first published story, "The Gentle Perfect Knight", came in the September, 1947 issue of the Atlantic. He was 29. He published several subsequent stories for the Atlantic, and at the age of 33 he published his first novel titled, The Oracle (1951). While The Oracle was published, O'Connor was working on The Last Hurrah. Published in 1956, The Last Hurrah, O'Connor's second novel, became a best seller and made O'Connor a nationally known author. The Last Hurrah would go on to win the Atlantic Prize in 1955. Edwin O'Connor would go on to publish 3 other novels and 1 play: Benjy (1957), The Edge of Sadness (1961), I Was Dancing (play, 1963), and All In The Family (1966). The Edge of Sadness won Edwin the Pulitzer Prize in 1962, but many felt this was only compensation for The Last Hurrah, which was the leading contender for the award in 1956, a year in which no award was given due to a judge's deadlock. On September 2, 1962, Edwin O'Connor married Veniette Caswell Weil and they lived together in Boston. After the publication of his final novel in 1966, Edwin worked on one play (The Traveler From Brazil, 1967), and two manuscripts ("Cardinal" and "Boy", 1968). O'Connor died on March 23, 1968 in Boston, Massachusetts at the age of 49 from a severe cerebral hemorrhage. Sources Consulted: Contemporary Authors ? on Virgo Biography Resource Center ? on Virgo Dictionary of American Biography, pgs. 476-77 Current Biography, 1963, pgs. 304-306 Edwin O'Connor by Hugh Rank ? PS 3565.C55 Z85
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Edwin O'Connor's The Edge of Sadness received a wide variety of reviews. There were those critics who passed it off as a rewrite of his earlier novel, The Last Hurrah; there were those who hailed it as the definitive novel of Irish Catholic life in America; there were those who felt it was an above-average novel that showed O'Connor's skill as a writer; and there were those who thought it was simply mediocre, and even a bit formulaic. Regardless of how critics felt about this particular novel, it is clear that all of them respected O'Connor's ability as a writer. It was Edwin O'Connor's, The Last Hurrah, that brought him literary success and praise for his authorship; as a result, The Edge of Sadness is often set in comparison to it (perhaps this is because both novels deal with Irish Catholic life in Boston). Some critics seemed to think The Edge of Sadness was merely a "re-hash" of The Last Hurrah and did not see it as a critical or definitive piece of literature. L.W. Griffin wrote that, "Though it lacks some of the color and excitement of The Last Hurrah, Edwin O'Connor's latest novel is a deeply felt and eloquently expressed work...a quiet, gentle novel of considerable insight and charm" and Patrick Donovan of the "New Republic" wrote, "I personally believe that Mr. O'Connor will write a great novel. But either this particularly Irish seam of his is running out, or else he must attack it with new and sharper tools". Other critics, however, felt that The Edge of Sadness, when given deeper consideration, surpassed its predecessor. Granville Hicks of the "Saturday Review" wrote, "The Edge of Sadness has less excitement in it than The Last Hurrah and it may not be so popular, but I think it is a sounder piece of work. Even the minor characters are sharply defined, and the two themes, as I have said, are firmly integrated". To go even further, John V. Kelleher of "The New York Times Book Review" wrote that, "To hail this book as the definitive Irish-American, middle-class, Catholic novel would do it an injustice. It is all of that, much more than The Last Hurrah. And there were critics like Francis King of "The New Statesman" who felt that the main character "Charlie Carmody is as brilliant a feat of characterization as the crude, venial, appealing politician in The Last Hurrah. When being compared to The Last Hurrah, The Edge of Sadness is categorically placed as either less-than, greater-than, or equal-to, and where it is placed is dependent upon the individual critic. Because of its religious content, certain critics were skeptical as to how the book would be received in the Catholic community. S.P. Ryan from "Catholic World" thought that "Certain readers will find some aspects of The Edge of Sadness unacceptable. Certain Catholics may well be offended by the portrait of Father Kennedy or by some of the more sharply critical passages in the novel". But this is only a minor concern, as Ryan went on to say in his review that the book "is a solid, workmanlike job which opens up a whole new approach to the problem of the image of the priest in fiction". A.P. Klauser of the "Christian Century" echoed this point by saying that, "O'Connor succeeds in delineating poignantly the overwhelming spiritual storms of the soul which assail the conscientious clergyman (whether Protestant or Roman Catholic)" and that "the story of Father Frank Kennedy carries a Christian universality which will strike a responsive cord in most readers". Overall, critics felt that O'Connor produced an honest view of Catholic life. In the "Christian Science Monitor" it was written that "Readers who have never glimpsed the tight, family-centered world of second and third generation Catholic immigrant parishes, could ask no more perceptive a guide than Mr. O'Connor's Father Kennedy". Some critics felt that the story was not strong, and that O'Connor could have done a better job developing the characters and the plot. Thomas Curley of the "Commonweal" felt that O'Connor did not put enough emotion and life into his characters. He wrote: "He does not push them to their limits. He does not demand of them so much as he would demand of himself". "Kirkus" felt that "The story is, perhaps, thin; the interest lies largely in the sensitive probing of basic human values rather than tenets of the fait". There were also sentiments expressed about the book being a bit too long. The "Times" London wrote that "There are moments when the reader must wonder whether, with the best will in the world, he will have time to plod through the book", and Isabel Quigly of the "Guardian" though it was "indigestibly long and rather terrifyingly professional, as if tailored for best-sellerdom from page one". There are many different reviews of this novel, encompassing the polar extremes, and whether O'Connor has "written a very good novel" (The New Yorker) and is a "brilliant disciplined American novelist" (San Francisco Chronicle), or he "lacks the craft for his cache" (Time), is left solely up to the reader. SOURCES 1)"Book Review Digest" 1961, pages 1075-76 -"Catholic World" (October, 1961) -"Christian Century" (August 2, 1961) -"Christian Science Monitor" (June 8, 1961) -"Commonweal" (June 16, 1961) -"Guardian" (September 29, 1961) -"Kirkus" (April 1, 1961) -"Library J" (May 1, 1961) -"New Republic" (July 24, 1961) -"New Statesman" (October 13, 1961) -"San Francisco Chronicle" (June 2, 1961) -"Time" (June 9, 1961) -"Times" [London] (October, 1961) 2)"The New York Times Book Review" June 4, 1961 pages 1 and 33 3)"Saturday Review" June 10, 1961 4)"The New Yorker" June 24, 1961
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Edwin O'Connor's The Edge of Sadness received a wide variety of reviews. There were those critics who passed it off as a rewrite of his earlier novel, The Last Hurrah; there were those who hailed it as the definitive novel of Irish Catholic life in America; there were those who felt it was an above-average novel that showed O'Connor's skill as a writer; and there were those who thought it was simply mediocre, and even a bit formulaic. Regardless of how critics felt about this particular novel, it is clear that all of them respected O'Connor's ability as a writer. It was Edwin O'Connor's, The Last Hurrah, that brought him literary success and praise for his authorship; as a result, The Edge of Sadness is often set in comparison to it (perhaps this is because both novels deal with Irish Catholic life in Boston). Some critics seemed to think The Edge of Sadness was merely a "re-hash" of The Last Hurrah and did not see it as a critical or definitive piece of literature. L.W. Griffin wrote that, "Though it lacks some of the color and excitement of The Last Hurrah, Edwin O'Connor's latest novel is a deeply felt and eloquently expressed work...a quiet, gentle novel of considerable insight and charm" and Patrick Donovan of the "New Republic" wrote, "I personally believe that Mr. O'Connor will write a great novel. But either this particularly Irish seam of his is running out, or else he must attack it with new and sharper tools". Other critics, however, felt that The Edge of Sadness, when given deeper consideration, surpassed its predecessor. Granville Hicks of the "Saturday Review" wrote, "The Edge of Sadness has less excitement in it than The Last Hurrah and it may not be so popular, but I think it is a sounder piece of work. Even the minor characters are sharply defined, and the two themes, as I have said, are firmly integrated". To go even further, John V. Kelleher of "The New York Times Book Review" wrote that, "To hail this book as the definitive Irish-American, middle-class, Catholic novel would do it an injustice. It is all of that, much more than The Last Hurrah. And there were critics like Francis King of "The New Statesman" who felt that the main character "Charlie Carmody is as brilliant a feat of characterization as the crude, venial, appealing politician in The Last Hurrah. When being compared to The Last Hurrah, The Edge of Sadness is categorically placed as either less-than, greater-than, or equal-to, and where it is placed is dependent upon the individual critic. Because of its religious content, certain critics were skeptical as to how the book would be received in the Catholic community. S.P. Ryan from "Catholic World" thought that "Certain readers will find some aspects of The Edge of Sadness unacceptable. Certain Catholics may well be offended by the portrait of Father Kennedy or by some of the more sharply critical passages in the novel". But this is only a minor concern, as Ryan went on to say in his review that the book "is a solid, workmanlike job which opens up a whole new approach to the problem of the image of the priest in fiction". A.P. Klauser of the "Christian Century" echoed this point by saying that, "O'Connor succeeds in delineating poignantly the overwhelming spiritual storms of the soul which assail the conscientious clergyman (whether Protestant or Roman Catholic)" and that "the story of Father Frank Kennedy carries a Christian universality which will strike a responsive cord in most readers". Overall, critics felt that O'Connor produced an honest view of Catholic life. In the "Christian Science Monitor" it was written that "Readers who have never glimpsed the tight, family-centered world of second and third generation Catholic immigrant parishes, could ask no more perceptive a guide than Mr. O'Connor's Father Kennedy". Some critics felt that the story was not strong, and that O'Connor could have done a better job developing the characters and the plot. Thomas Curley of the "Commonweal" felt that O'Connor did not put enough emotion and life into his characters. He wrote: "He does not push them to their limits. He does not demand of them so much as he would demand of himself". "Kirkus" felt that "The story is, perhaps, thin; the interest lies largely in the sensitive probing of basic human values rather than tenets of the fait". There were also sentiments expressed about the book being a bit too long. The "Times" London wrote that "There are moments when the reader must wonder whether, with the best will in the world, he will have time to plod through the book", and Isabel Quigly of the "Guardian" though it was "indigestibly long and rather terrifyingly professional, as if tailored for best-sellerdom from page one". There are many different reviews of this novel, encompassing the polar extremes, and whether O'Connor has "written a very good novel" (The New Yorker) and is a "brilliant disciplined American novelist" (San Francisco Chronicle), or he "lacks the craft for his cache" (Time), is left solely up to the reader. SOURCES 1)"Book Review Digest" 1961, pages 1075-76 -"Catholic World" (October, 1961) -"Christian Century" (August 2, 1961) -"Christian Science Monitor" (June 8, 1961) -"Commonweal" (June 16, 1961) -"Guardian" (September 29, 1961) -"Kirkus" (April 1, 1961) -"Library J" (May 1, 1961) -"New Republic" (July 24, 1961) -"New Statesman" (October 13, 1961) -"San Francisco Chronicle" (June 2, 1961) -"Time" (June 9, 1961) -"Times" [London] (October, 1961) 2)"The New York Times Book Review" June 4, 1961 pages 1 and 33 3)"Saturday Review" June 10, 1961 4)"The New Yorker" June 24, 1961
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
The Edge of Sadness has almost unanimously been diagnosed within the literary world as "Catholic Literature", and indeed, it contains all the necessary elements to be labeled as such; however, simply being labeled as "Catholic Literature" would certainly not explain the book becoming a bestseller ? there would have to be some element of the book that sets it apart, that somehow draws its readers in. The Edge of Sadness has that particular element. It is a novel that puts aside the view of the priest as "local hero" and "leader of the people", to instead tell a more realistic story of the struggling life of a city priest. Author Edwin O'Connor is the first to address the stereotypes associated with Catholic priests of the time, and to turn them upside down, disassembling the notions set in front of readers by television, movies, and novels such as The Cardinal by Henry Morton Robinson. Because this novel strays from the traditional and beaten path of "Catholic Literature" to expose more true-to-life emotions and problems for priests, it had a stronger appeal within the literary community and a tighter grasp on its readers, both of which are necessary elements for a book to become a bestseller. A sort of underlying purpose (aside from addressing the issues of the priest-novel) also exists within The Edge of Sadness. O'Connor can be considered somewhat of a formulaic writer in that he typically writes about the culture of middle-class, Irish-Americans. The Edge of Sadness, however, deals more with the death of Irishness in America, the loss of cultural identity, and the gap that exists between the generation of "old-world value" and "stubbornly traditional" fathers, and their "new-world" sons. Written at a time when people stopped being immigrants and started becoming Americans, The Edge of Sadness portrays the difficulties that arise within a family due to the changing ideals of each generation, and also the change in a community that is no longer of one cultural background. Upon its release in 1961, The Edge of Sadness was met with mixed critical review. Many critics felt the book was merely a re-hash of O'Connor's previous novel, The Last Hurrah, which also dealt with the Irish-American community in America. Indeed, there is not much to the plot of the book. As J.G. Dunne wrote in the National Review, "Despite promising materials, nothing happens in The Edge of Sadness" (October 7, 1961). For other critics, though, the novel was recognized as a major achievement, and it was seen as such because of its realistic portrayal of the priest and the destruction of the American Catholic ghetto stereotype. Thomas McDonnell of The Critic saw the novel's narrator and protagonist, Father Hugh Kennedy, as "the first dimensionally human priest to emerge from the pages of an American novel" (July, 1961). The Edge of Sadness deserves such praise because it does present a different, but straightforward view of the priest. What is more important, though, is the conflict that the book creates. Before this novel, there existed a "popular stereotype which dominated American Catholic ghetto literature for nearly a century" (Rank, 122). This stereotype pictured the priest as "an authoritarian leader, a busy executive, a competent administrator, a wise counselor and shepherd to his flock, a gregarious extrovert, and a heroic celebate" (Rank, 123). Moreover, "according to the sociological studies done by Father Joseph Ficter, [this stereotype] was the dominant image held by the Catholic laity and priests alike in this era" (Rank, 123). O'Connor's realistic treatment of the clergy broke away from this stereotype and presented both the literary and Catholic community with a controversial and truth view of the priest. His novel is the pin that popped this inflated view of the ideal type of priest, and this was not easy for the Catholic community to accept. Stephen Ryan of Catholic World, in his review of the book, wrote the following: "Certain readers will find some aspects of The Edge of Sadness unacceptable. Certain Catholics may well be offended by the portrait of Father Kennedy or by some of the more sharply critical passages in the novel. This is to miss the point. The novelist has written frankly and honestly; he has described certain situations which only the willfully blind can claim as nonexistent" (October, 1961). O'Connor's priest is most definitely not the ideal ? he struggles with his own faith, his relationship with his church members, and, for a brief period of the novel, the reader learns the alcoholism the priest struggled with in his past, an illness that removed him from his parish for four years. This is a broken priest; this is a man; this is a fallible man; this is a character that until The Edge of Sadness had never appeared in American Catholic literature. Early in the novel, O'Connor's priest speaks of his own inabilities: "I've said, I think, that this is not the kind of parish in which a great rapport obtains between the shepherd and his flock. We are all more or less strangers to one another. And most of all, I'm afraid, I'm a stranger in this smallest and dreariest part of my parish where ? all moving pictures to the contrary ? I can assure you that the priest is not this legendary, revered, and welcome figure, capable of healing with a glance. Or in any case this priest is not" (107). Father Kennedy struggles with his parish, and he fails to make the connections with his people that were expected of a priest. This is a dramatic leap from the stereotype that existed at the time. The priest, a man to follow, a man to tell your problems to, a man to whom you go to seek advice, a man who you instill trust in, is now a man who does not even know who you are. Father Kennedy has no place in his community and no rapport with his church members. There is not a relationship in the church that generally derives from religion and the common sharing of beliefs. Catholicism places a great amount of emphasis on the priest as an iconographic teacher of the religion, but O'Connor's priest has no connection to this ideal, and though a struggling priest has probably existed in real life since the beginning of religious time, there had never before existed one in American literature. Perhaps the biggest problem with O'Connor's protagonist, or at least, the most controversial aspect of the character, was his drinking problem earlier in his career. After his father's death, Father Kennedy started drinking and slowly climbed the ladder to becoming a full blown alcoholic. His dependency became so overwhelming that he neglected his duty as a priest, neglected his church members, and stumbled along on late-night, drunken strolls through the church yard. Finally, the bishop in charge of the cities churches removed Father Kennedy from his parish and sent him to a rehabilitation center, and he remained there for four years. Again, this is not a topic associated with typical Catholic literature of the time. A story that deals with a priest and the story of "his own struggle with loneliness, alcoholism, and doubts about duty" totally diminished the "expected" character of a priest (Foell, 11). Prior to this novel, the only stories about Catholicism dealt with "sentimental stories, parochial special-pleadings, and romances in which the idealized priest-hero was in conflict with external antagonists, [and a novel with] its emphasis on inner conflict, about a priest-protagonist simply could not exist in [an] atmosphere in which the highly-inflated image of the priest denied any inner conflict" (Rank, 123). The character of Father Hugh Kennedy shows how the novel had an impact on the religious community, but the novel also takes on a cultural context. O'Connor focused on the late period of Irish-American history, approximately 1948-68, and he almost exclusively wrote about Eastern, urban, Irish-American Catholics. The Edge of Sadness deals with the effects of acculturation on their religion and family life. Critic J.V. Kelleher wrote in the New York Times Book Review that "To hail this book as the definitive Irish-American, middle-class, Catholic novel would do it an injustice. It is all of that" (June 4, 1961). Specifically though, the novel deals with the dissipation of a strictly Irish community, and the disappearance of the Irish culture within families as they move further and further from their roots in immigration. In essence, it takes as its subject the death of Irishness. For Father Kennedy, the Irish community was something of a memory from his childhood, but as an adult and a priest, this memory has faded. He is the priest in the ghetto where his church is no longer filled with Irish-Americans, but with Chinese and Egyptian and Polish immigrants, some of whom do not even speak English. This is part of the reason why Father Kennedy cannot establish a rapport with his members. They are not what he knows, they are not what he grew up with, and they are not Irish. His struggle to deal with himself and his own emotions during his battle with alcoholism, transforms into an external battle of trying to reach out and connect with the culturally diverse. Father Kennedy battles with the notion that "a priest's marriage is to God, not to a particular ethnic group. His choice is either to become a model teacher for his curate and a true shepherd to his alien congregation, or else fail a second time as both priest and man" (Dillon, 116). The death of the Irish culture is also expressed within the different generations of one Irish family, the Carmodys. Here, O'Connor portrays an old-world father, Charlie, and the distance that exists between himself and his children. Charlie is 81 years of age, and he is most certainly of another era. He comes from a time when the world he lived in, his town and city, was filled with people just like him. But time has changed that world. It is more diverse, and at one point in the novel, when the characters are all talking at the birthday party of Charlie, the narrator (Father Kennedy) discusses the inherent differences between his own generation and the one before his. He writes: "But it was the same talk with which I had grown up, the talk which belonged, really, to another era, and which now must have been close to disappearing, the talk of old men and old women for whom the simple business of talking had always been the one great recreation. And so the result was the long, winding, old-fashioned parade of extraordinary reminiscence and anecdote and parochial prejudice and crotchety improbable behavior?the newer, smoother, tolerances had not yet arrived" (O'Connor, 70). This distinction between generations causes problems within the Carmody family. Father, Charlie, and son, John, share a difference of opinion on just about everything. Charlie remembers the way things were, and feels that they should still be the same, but John recognizes the changes; he recognizes how things really are. As a result, father and son do not get along and go through life without every feeling that they love one another. The book seems to have a subtle longing and a sense of nostalgia for what used to be, but still manages to focus more on dealing with the changes in an Irish-American community. "O'Connor is less concerned with the fate of Charlie Carmody and Father Kennedy than the fate of the entire Irish-American community in an unnamed city that is obviously Boston. What he feels elegiac about is the death of a separate ethnic cultural identity" (Time, June 9, 1961). What also might have drawn readers to The Edge of Sadness is simply O'Connor's ability to write and to produce meaningful, emotional prose, as well as memorable, heartfelt characters. Both Charlie Carmody and Father Kennedy make lasting impressions on the reader, and it is impossible not to feel some small bit of sadness for each of them. Charlie, on his deathbed, comes to the realization that he is not really loved or admired by anyone, despite what he tells his family and friends. And in Father Kennedy readers are forced to realize the unfortunate sadness the exists in life, and that is that the only positive outlook may come from the fact that "settling" in life might just turn out to be a blessing in disguise. If nothing else though, The Edge of Sadness was a follow-up to a bestseller. The Last Hurrah, its predecessor, put O'Connor on the literary map, and it is not uncommon that an author's previous works will have an affect on his current work. Although it had only a few subsequent reviews, later critics still acknowledged the importance of this novel. It presented a new image of religious life, and revealed for the first time in American literature that "the priest, like everybody else, has problems" (Donoghue). The novel also showed the developing melting-pot of culture that America had come to symbolize, and how that affected a single cultural background as well as the generations within that background. O'Connor's writing represents a specific people, it embraces them as well, and "in focusing on priests O'Connor is not, of course, dealing with the total Irish-American experience, only with its most representative elements" (Dillon). The Edge of Sadness, though, was a bestselling novel that was only a bestseller because of its time period. Having been the first novel to deal with the priest in a truthful light, it was very controversial at the time. Today, however, this is not the case. Church scandals and accusations of priest-child molestation grace the headlines of today's newspapers and magazines; a priest with a drinking problem is simply "no big deal" anymore. The fact that this book's "shock-value" could only exist when it did is a big reason why the book is not a continuing bestseller. There has not been a newly printed edition of the book in over ten years. The last new edition was printed in 1991, probably as an anniversary edition. The controversial issue lead to its immeadiately high shelf velocity when first published in 1961, but once the issue subsided, O'Connor was left with just a pretty good book without much of a plot. SOURCES 1)"Book Review Digest" 1961, pages 1075-76 -"Catholic World" Stephen Ryan (October, 1961) -"Time Magazine" (June 9, 1961) 2)"The New York Times Book Review" June 4, 1961 3)"The Critic" Thomas McDonnell (July, 1961) 4)"National Review" J.G. Dunne (October 7, 1961) 5)The Edge of Sadness Edwin O'Connor 6)Edwin O'Connor Hugh Rank 7) Contemporary Literary Criticism - Vol. 14, pages 390-395 -Denis Donoghue - "Language Barriers" - The New York Review of Books (June 18, 1970) -David Dillon - "Priests and Politicians: The Fiction of Edwin O'Connor" - Critique Vol. XVI, No. 2, 1974
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