Evans, Richard Paul: The Christmas Box
(researched by Esther Haley)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Richard Paul Evans. The Christmas Box. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993. Copyright: 1993 by Richard Paul Evans Sources: First Trade Edition, first printing, and WorldCat.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
Simon & Schuster published the first trade cloth American edition in 1993. Richard Paul Evans, Inc. also published an American edition in paperback in 1993. WorldCat lists 64 libraries that own Evan's edition, leading one to assume that this publication was separate from the 20 copies that he made for family and friends originally. See "Other" for a further discussion. Sources: WorldCat; first trade edition, first printing.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
64 leaves, pp. [1-15] 16-29 [30-33] 34-41 [42-45] 46-59 [60-63] 64-88 [89-91] 92-107 [108-111] 112-119 [120-123] 124-125 [126-128] Source: first trade edition, first printing
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
The first edition contains no introduction, nor does it have an editor. The author dedicated the book on page five: For my sister Sue. | Whom I love and I miss. The book also contains a quote before the first chapter on page 11: No little girl could stop the world | to wait for me. | --Natalie Merchant Source: first trade edition, first printing
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
There are no illustrations. However, decorative lettering and screens do appear. Decorative lettering appears on pages 15, 33, 45, 63, 91, 111, and 123. The letters are Roman and seem to conform to the Arabesque and/or Lettre Fleurie styles (as determined by looking at Stephen Harvard's descriptions of decorative lettering in Ornamental Initials). They are red. Screens appear in red on pages 3, 7, 9, 13, 31, 43, 61, 89, 109, and 121. The size of grid appears to be 85. The same screen is repeated throughout the book; it depicts a little angel. Source: Stephen Harvard's Ornamental Initials: The Woodcut Initials of Christopher Plantin (1974) and Marshall Lee's Bookmaking: the Illustrated guide to design/production/editing (1979).
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?)
Page measurements: 176.5 mm x 125 mm Text measurements: 131 mm x 76 mm 125R The book has been beautifully designed by Pei Koay. The margins are large, but not large enough for the text to seem lost on the page. No cracking, or type wear is apparent. The spacing between lines and the type size are suitable, and do not strain the eye. The book has a serif font. The typeface is Weiss Roman. Source: The Complete Font Reference Guide, 1995; first trade edition, first printing; and Professor Terry Belanger, Book Arts Press.
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 a woven, off-white eggshell finish. It is probably Mohawk Superfine. It has a deckled edge. The end papers are tan speckled and of a smoother texture than the rest of the leaves. I examined a first trade edition from the UVA library's general circulation which had paper in excellent condition (despite a coffee stain). Also, the mint condition first trade edition, first printing that I examined for this project also had held up well over time. Sources: Professor Terry Belanger, Book Arts Press; E.J. Labarre's Dictionary and Encyclopaedia of Paper and Paper-Making (1969); Marshall Lee's Bookmaking: the Illustrated guide to design/production/editing (1979); first trade edition, first printing; first trade edition, first printing (Clemons PS 3555.V259 C48 1993).
11 Description of binding(s)
Material: natural linen/calico textured cloth Color: dark/medium red Spine: stamped in "very yellow" - gilt Transcription of spine: Richard Paul Evans The Christmas Box Simon & Schuster The endpapers are tan and speckled with no illustrations. It has a red and yellow headband. The dust jacket has been preserved on the edition I examined. Sources: Professor Terry Belanger, Book Arts Press; Marshall Lee's 1979 book Bookmaking: the Illustrated guide to design/production/editing; Gaskell's A New Introduction to Bibliography.
12 Transcription of title page
Recto: Richard Paul Evans | [diamond decoration] The Christmas Box [6.4 cm x 6.5 cm screen] [diamond decoration] | SIMON & SCHUSTER | New York London Toronto Sydney Tokyo Singapore Note: screen behind words The Christmas Box also used on pages 3, 7, 9,13, 31, 43, 61, 89, 109, 121, and follows the theme of the decorative letters appearing on pages 15, 33, 45, 63, 91, 111, 123. Source: first trade edition, first printing Verso: [trademark/logo of Simon & Schuster, a man moving forward] | Simon & Schuster | Rockefeller Center | 1230 Avenue of the Americas | New York, NY 10020 | This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, | and incidents either are products of the author's imagination | or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or | locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. | Copyright © 1993 by Richard Paul Evans | All rights reserved, | including the right of reproduction | in whole or in part in any form. | SIMON & SCHUSTER and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster Inc. | Designed by Pei Koay | Manufactured in the United States of America | 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 | Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data | Evans, Richard Paul. | The Christmas Box/Richard Paul Evans. | p. cm. | 1. Christmas stories, American. | PS3555.V259C48 1995 | 813'.54-dc20 95-20026 | CIP | ISBN 0-684-81499-4 Source: first trade edition, first printing
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
Evan's personally keeps the manuscript. Source: Email from Richard Paul Evans.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
Particular to this copy: The words on the spine are printed at a diagonal beginning in the lower left and rising to the upper right corners. Since the book has a dust jacket, one better understands why this copy only has the title and author's name on the spine (as opposed to being prominently printed on the front of the book). Also, this copy was probably presented as a Christmas gift. Dust jacket: The border is the same color as the off-white eggshell finish paper. Two large burgundy colored rectangles framed in a raised gold border are centered on the front and back covers; tracery work surrounds them, and detailed drawings (tracery work) appear in the corners of the rectangle. A large star sits in between the title of the work and the authors name. Inside the jacket, the price remains - $12.95 in the United States and $16.95 in Canada. A note from the author appears in the front inside flap. A brief biography of Evans appears on the back inside flap, along with a note advertising other versions of the book. ìThe Christmas Box is also available in a Spanish-language edition, El Regalo De Navidad, and in English from Simon & Schuster Audio.î The jacket was designed by Mary Schuck. It carries a copyright of 1995, Simon & Schuster. First Edition information: The author's self-published paperback of The Christmas Box preceded the Simon & Schuster 1993 edition. The author originally made 20 copies for family and close friends; the date of this publication is 1992 according to WorldCat and 1993 according to Richard Paul Evan's personal website. The 20 copies of the book that Evan's originally had published were passed around to such a great extent that people started asking bookstore's if they carried copies of the book. So, in October 1993, Evans brought it out in the Salt Lake City market - they sold out "two weeks before Christmas at 20,000 books. It was released nationally in September of 1994. According to WorldCat, the first trade cloth edition was published in 1993 by Simon and Schuster. However, according the New York Times, Simon and Schuster did not acquire the hardcover rights to the book until 7 February 1995. There seems to be confusion about this fact. Nevertheless, Simon and Schusterís edition still remains the first trade cloth edition of The Christmas Box. Sources: WorldCat; http://www.richardpaulevans.com/biography.html; Simon and Schuster first trade edition, first printing; Lawrence Van Gelder, "The Media Business," The New York Times 26 December 1994: A57; Tabor, Mary B.W. "Book Notes," The New York Times 8 February 1995: C18.
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
Simon & Schuster (New York) published a large print edition in 1995. It contained 142 pages and measured 22 cm (New York: Simon & Schuster, ISBN: 0684815907). (World Cat 8 Oct. 2002) While Simon & Schuster produced a London publication (1995) and other copies published with different cover art (1996), the page length (125) and the size of the book (19 cm.) did not vary. The latter leads me to believe that the latter were not separate editions. (World Cat 8 Oct. 2002)
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?
I found evidence of at least eight printings. First printing - 750,000 first printing (9 October 1995, Publishers Weekly, ìForecasts,î 77) Fourth printing - ìthe Simon & Schuster hardcover, which went on sale October 11, and has 945,000 copies in print after four trips to pressî (Maryles, 6 November 1995) Eighth printing - ìThe S&S hardcover has gone into eight printings for a total of 1.4 million copiesî (Maryles, 11 December 1995)
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
The parallel story to the Simon & Schuster publication of The Christmas Box involves the authorís self-publication in 1993 of a paperback version of the book, and his continued publication of the paperback with his own company after Simon & Schuster bought the hardcover rights. Evansí first edition consisted of 20 copies made at a Kinkos. The next printing of the book yielded 20,000 copies. Though it is unclear (given the unavailability of one of the original twenty copies) whether the first twenty differed from the 20,000 that were later printed, assuming that certain features of the typography were changed, one might posit that the 20,000 copies could be considered a second edition. These 20,000 were published by Richard Paul Evans Publishing company (or Steinway) and were only available in Utah (Nathan). After this press run, he printed another 400,000 before 26 December 1994 (Van Gelder). He also published an edition in Braille in 1994 (87 pages, 18 cm., Salt Lake City, Steinway), and at least two other paperback editions in 1994 (one that was 101 pages, 20 cm., Salt Lake City, Steinway, and one that was 96 pages). (Books in Print with Book Reviews, World Cat) Though mentioned in nothing else I found, Publishers Weekly declared on 9 October 1995 that ìBOMC, QPB, BOMC Homestyle Book Club, BOMC Craft Books Cub, BOMC Childrenís Book Club alternatesî would be published. Richard Paul Evansí website also contains supplemental discussion questions for book club groups, supporting the notion that a book club edition did come out. This book also had a prequel and sequel, both written after its publication. In 1998, The Christmas Box joined Timepiece and The Letter in The Christmas Box Collection published in English by Pocket Books (New York). It was 624 p. and 18 cm. (ISBN: 0671027646).
6 Last date in print?
In print as of October 2002 ñ (Books in Print) In fact, it ranked number nine on Publishers Weeklyís Religious Bestsellers on 14 January 2002.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
Richard Paul Evansí reputable website claims that more than 8 million copies exist in print world wide as of 10 October 2002. Bowkers Annual of 1998ís column ìNews of the Yearî reported that the book had sold seven million copies worldwide ìsince Chittenden acquired the book for S&Sî in 1995 (22). The BBC's website claimed on 9 December 2000 that "by the year 2000 more than seven million copies of his book had been sold worldwide."
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
1995 - In 1995, the book ranked number four on the Publishers Weekly 1995 Bestsellers list with sales totalling 1,275,000 (Bowkers, 1996 617)*. Newsweek claimed that there were more than 2 million copies in print as of 11 December 1995 (Jones). The Publishers Weekly report from the 1995 Christmas holiday stated that ìThe Christmas Box was clearly the hottest book aroundósales at the two chains totaled nearly 130,000 copies for the week ending December 23î (Maryles 1 January 1996). *Note that ìRankings are determined by sales figures provided by publishers; the numbers generally reflect reports of copies ëshipped and billedí in calendar year 1995 and publishers were instructed to adjust sales figures to include returns through Feb. 16, 1996. Publishers do not at that time know what their total returns will beóindeed, the majority of returns occur later in the yearóso none of these figures should be regarded as final net sales.î Also, ìSales figures were submitted to PW in confidence, for use in placing titles on the list. Numbers shown are rounded down to the nearest 25,000 to indicate relationship to sales figures of other titles." 1996 - Bowkers Annual's ìThe Fiction Runners-Upî stated that The Christmas Box (Simon & Schuster edition) hit 700,000 in sales in 1996 (with a note that these ìSales figures were submitted to PW in confidence, for use in placing titles on the list. Numbers shown are rounded down to the nearest 25,000 to indicate relationship to sales figures of other titlesî) (595). In January of 1996, Publishers Weekly reported that ìThe combined in-print total for the paper [i.e. Steinway] and hardcover [i.e. Simon and Schuster] editions is well over four millionî (Maryles 1 January 1996). 1997 ñ Bowkers Annual did not report that the book made it to the 100,000+ category (Bowkers 1998). However, Bowkers Annual of 1998ís column ìNews of the Yearî reported that the book had sold seven million copies worldwide ìsince Chittenden acquired the book for S&Sî in 1995 (22). 1998 - The Salt Lake Tribune reported that more than 6.5 million copies had been sold worldwide by 4 October 1998 (Griggs 4 October 1998). Unavailable: 1999 2000 2001 2002 Note: Before selling the hardcover rights ofthe book to Simon and Schuster, Evans had already sold about 420,000 copies of the book mostly in the Western portion of the United States. Through his own publishing company alone (Steinway), Evans printed 2.5 million copies in paperback in 1995 (Maryles 11 December 1995).
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
An ad appeared in The New York Times Book Review on page 23 on 22 October 1995 for The Christmas Box. Simon and Schuster ran a full page advertisement. In large letters at the top of the page, it read ìGive the First First Gift | of Christmasî. Below that was a snapshot-like square, as though a Polaroid camera had captured Evans reading the book to (presumably) his daughters who lean their heads against the chair on either side of their father who is seated in a high-backed chair. To the right is a picture of the front cover of the book (about double the size of the Polaroid-like square). To see the cover of the book, refer to question three of Assignment #1. Below the square it says, ìWhat began as a fatherís simple tale | for his daughters is now a timeless | Christmas classic.î Below this sits the name ìRichard | Paul Evansî and below that (running along the bottom of the ad) the words ìSo that we will always remember.î In smaller letters below the latter it reads, ìThe Christmas Box is also available in Spanish as El Regalo de Navidad.î In the bottom left-hand corner sits the Simon & Schuster company name and logo. In the right-hand corner, the ad reads "Also available on Audio, read by Richard Thomas | Soon to be a made-for-television movie starring Maureen O'Hara and Richard Thomas". The Christmas Box was also part of a two-page Simon & Schuster spread in The New York Times Book Review on 3 December 1995. The banner that ran across the top of the two pages read, ìThis year, give the gift of ideasî Below the banner, a spread of books appears including The Moral Compass, The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Lincoln, and The Christmas Box, among other titles.
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
Publishers Weekly wrote on 6 November 1995 that the book would be ìsupported by massive promotion that include[d] a 12-city bus ad campaign until mid-December, national radio advertising, a giveaway promotion with 400 radio stations (75 of them in the top 100 U.S. markets), as well as print ads.î The column also stated that Evans was scheduled to visit 18 cities by mid-December, went on the Today show in November of 1995, and did an NPR Weekend Edition interview. The column also implied that the movie (scheduled for release on 17 December 1995) might help promote the book as well. According to Newsweek, Evans also put ads on buses to promote the book (Jones). This book spawned a headquarters in a Victorian mansion in Salt Lake City. From here, Evans runs (as of October 2002) ìan elaborate publicity network . . . that exists simply to promote his books [The Christmas Box and more recent titles]" (Carvajal). The book is also memorialized in two ways. First, The Christmas Box House International which provides help to children by ìbuilding shelter assessment facilities for [those who are] abused or neglectedî (http://www.thechristmasboxhouse.org/founder.html). Second, angel statues (a prominent image in the book) have been placed in several cities across the country. Richard Paul Evans commissioned the first one to be placed on land donated by Salt Lake City (www.richardpaulevans.com). ì[Each year] on Dec. 6, the fictional date of Andreaís [a character in the book] death, Richard Paul Evans Publishing organizes a candlelight memorial for grieving parents at the Salt Lake City cemetery that draws heavy television and newspaper coverageî (Carvajal). Evansí former advertising firm partner stressed that Evans does not do this solely for his own benefit (i.e. for publicity) ñ ìHeís doing this out of the goodness of his heart. He doesnít need the money and heís on a mission to heal peopleî (Carvajal). More statues have been placed across the United States by different groups (for a complete listing see http://166.70.178.35/angel/action.lasso). Evansí company also produced a free two-hour radio program in 1997 that discussed the story behind ìThe Christmas Boxî ñ the program and free books found their way to 896 radio stations that broadcast it around Thanksgiving 1997. In addition, though I found no other source claiming this, a mug and a plate exist to promote the book as well (Jones). Evans also provides a Book Club discussion guide for the work (Evans).
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Compact Discs * The Christmas Box/ Richard Paul Evans; Richard Thomas, 1994. 2 sound discs (50 min.) digital; 4 æ in. Simon & Schuster. * The Christmas Box/ Richard Paul Evans; Richard Thomas, 1994. 2 sound discs (100 minutes) digital; 4 æ in. [New York] : Simon & Schuster Audio. * The Christmas Box/ Richard Paul Evans; Richard Thomas, 1996. 2 sound discs (ca. 1.5 hrs.); 4 3/4 in. [New York] : Simon & Schuster Audio. Cassette Tapes * The Christmas Box/ Richard Paul Evans; Richard Thomas, 1995. English. 1 sound cassette (1.5 hrs.) [New York]: Simon & Schuster Audio. * El regalo de Navidad/ Richard Paul Evans; read by Angel Pineda, 1995. [Unabridged]. 2 sound cassettes (2 hrs.) [New York] Simon & Schuster Audio. * The Christmas Box Collection/ Richard Paul Evans; Richard Thomas; Richard Paul Evans, 1997, 1995. 4 sound cassettes. [New York] Simon & Schuster Audio. Computer File * The Christmas box / Richard Paul Evans; Richard Thomas, 1995, 1993. New York: Simon & Schuster Audio, computer data (MP3 file). Note(s): Abridged (1.5 hrs.)./ Read by Richard Thomas. Compact Discs of musical soundtracks inspired by the book * The Christmas Box/ Paul Cardall; Richard Paul Evans, 1996. 1 sound disc: digital; 4 3/4 in. Richard Paul Evans Music. * The Christmas Box/ Paul Cardall; Richard Paul Evans; Ken Kruckenberg; Peter Breinholt; Allen Stewart; Ellen Bridger; Allison Morris; Ralph B Woodward, 1997. 1 sound disc: digital; 4 3/4 in. Bonneville Worldwide Entertainment. Corp Author(s): Salt Lake Children's Choir. Responsibility: composed and performed by Paul Cardall. * The attic: music inspired by The Christmas Box. Sam Cardon; Tyler Castleton; Staci Peters; Tom Fecteau; Doug Daniels; Merrill Jenson; Michael Dowdle; Kim Simpson; Jim Stout; Joel Stevenett; Ron Brough; Ralph Woodward; Greg Buttars; Richard Paul Evans, 1997. 1 sound disc: digital; 4 3/4 in. Contains excerpts from The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans. * The Christmas Box/ Paul Cardall; Richard Paul Evans, 1999, 1997. Carols: 1 sound disc (ca. 49 min.): digital; 4 3/4 in. Milwaukee, WI: Narada Productions; Originally released 1997. Digitally recorded, mixed and mastered by Ken Kruckenberg at W.T. Studios. Movies * The Christmas Box - Richard Thomas; Maureen O'Hara; Annette O'Toole; Marcus Cole; Greg Taylor; Richard Paul Evans 1997, 1995. Color videocassette (92 min.). Cabin Fever Entertainment. Corp Author(s): Bonneville Producers Group. Language: English; Closed-captioned for the hearing impaired. Not rated./ Originally broadcast by CBS Dec. 17, 1995./ Based on the book by Richard Paul Evans. Produced by Erica Fox; teleplay by Greg Taylor; directed by Marcus Cole. * The Christmas Box/ Richard Paul Evans; Richard Thomas; Annette O'Toole; Maureen O'Hara; Kelsey Mulrooney, 1997, 1995. Color videocassette (ca. 90 min.). Chandler, AZ: Distributed by Bridgestone Multimedia. Note(s): Based on the book by Richard Paul Evans./ Originally produced for television in 1995. * The Christmas Box - Richard Thomas; Maureen O'Hara; Annette O'Toole; Marcus Cole; Greg Taylor; 1997. Color videocassette (92 min.). Murray, UT: Feature Films for FAmilies [distributor] Colsed-captioned for the hearing impaired. Originally broadcast by CBS Dec. 17, 1995. * The Christmas Box - Richard Thomas; Maureen O'Hara; Annette O'Toole; Marcus Cole; Greg Taylor; Richard Paul Evans, 1998. Color videocassette (92 min.). Los Angeles, CA: Hallmark Home Entertainment. Closed-captioned for the hearing impaired. Originally broadcast by CBS Dec. 17, 1995. * The Christmas Box - Richard Thomas; Maureen O'Hara; Annette O'Toole; Erica Fox; Marcus Cole, 1998. Color videocassette (92 min.). Family Home Entertainment: distributed by Hallmark Home Entertainment. Closed captioned. * The Christmas Box - Marcus Cole (director); Greg Taylor (teleplay), 1999. Color videocassette (92 min.). Copyright: Bonneville Acquisitions, Inc. Appl. Bonneville Worldwide Entertainment. FEatures exclusive introduction by Paul Evans. Note: The Christmas Box movie was the "highest-rated TV film of the 1995 holiday season" (Brennan). Musical * Brigham Young University staged a musical of The Christmas Box reported The Salt Lake Tribune on 21 December 1997.
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
Richard Paul Evansís website (www.richardpaulevans.com) states that the book has been translated into 18 different languages (though it is not specific as to which languages). The Washington Post reported that it had been translated into 13 languages by 8 August 1999. World Cat provided me with information for translations in the five languages found below. Spanish El regalo de Navidad / Richard Paul Evans; translated by MÛnica Ter·n. New York: Simon & Schuster/Libros en espaÒol, 1995. Chinese Xue ye li di yan lei / Richard Paul Evans; translated by Biyun Song. Taibei Shi: Shi bao wen hua chu ban qi ye you xian gong si, 1995. Korean Sesang eso kajang sojunghan sonmul = The Christmas Box / Richard Paul Evans; translated by Mi-jong Kim. Soul : Chëongnim Chëulpëan, 1995. Këurisumasu sangja = The Christmas Box / Richard Paul Evans; translated by Yi, Chu-ryong. Soul: Ire, 2001. Japanese Kurisumasu bokkusu / Richard Paul Evans; translated by Sasano, Yoko. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1995. Kurisumasu = The Christmas box / Richard Paul Evans; Ttanslated by Sasano, Yoko. Juvenile audience. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1995. Portugese A caixa de Natal / Richard Paul Evans; translated by Joana Mosella. Rio de Janeiro: Rocco, 1995.
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
N/A
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
Evans wrote both the prequel, Timepiece and sequel The Letter after writing The Christmas Box. Evans, Richard Paul. Timepiece. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. Evans, Richard Paul. The Letter. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
"[T]he story came into my mind in torrents of inspiration," wrote Richard Paul Evans of his record setting bestseller, The Christmas Box. "On one occasion I pulled off Interstate 15 to write nearly an entire chapter, scribbling on the back of envelopes and bills" (Evans 98). Born on 11 October 1962, Evans grew up as the seventh of eight children in Arcadia, California (near Pasadena) before moving to Salt Lake City, Utah at nine years of age (Evans 30, 32). After completing high school, and serving on a mission for the Mormon church in southern Taiwan, Evans studied speech communications at the University of Utah (Heilprin, Evans 64). Eventually, he became a partner in (the now defunct) Twede Evans Advertising of Salt Lake City, and a talented Republican media strategist (Heilprin). In fact, Republican Senator Orin Hatch "penned a CD of songs to complement Evans' novel, The Locket" (Heilprin). Evans did not consider himself a literary talent waiting to emerge, but at twenty-nine years of age, he sat down to write a story for his two daughters that would express his love for them (Adams). The latter desire coupled with the story of his sister Sue ? "All his life he had heard his mother talk about his little sister Sue, who had died at birth when he was three years old" (Adams). The resulting 87 pages Evans dedicated to Sue; his tribute became "the only book to simultaneously hit number one on The New York Times hardcover and paperback bestseller lists" (Evans 16). It was also the only self-published novel to reach number one (Evans 16). Evans jotted down pieces of the story for six weeks in 1992, and as he sat at the kitchen table at 4 AM trying to gather the bits into a coherent form, he felt a presence in the room (Adams). "I felt the presence of my sister Sue," he said (qtd. in Adams). "Sue," he said, "you gave me this story for Mom" (qtd. in Donahue). Suddenly, the story of a family moving into a Victorian mansion to care for an elderly lady became clear ? the discovery in the book involves a box of letters written by the woman to her deceased child (Adams). After a little formatting on his office computer, Evans went to Kinkos and had twenty copies made (Evans 104, Carvajal). He gave the book to his family on Christmas Eve in 1992; his mother wept (Donahue). "Everyone told me this (Sue's death) didn't matter," she told him (Donahue). The receivers of the book liked it so much that they passed it around ? in the four weeks after Christmas, over 160 people read the twenty copies (Evans 108). People urged him to publish it, and a local bookstore already had ten orders for the book. So, Evans approached regional publishers ? six of them rejected it (Van Gelder, Adams). "It was just a Christmas story from an unknown author, is the way he recalled the general reaction. It had no pretty pictures. And it had an awkward length" (Van Gelder). With no offers from established institutions, Evans struck out on his own ? he formed Steinway Publishing (a name derived from his two favorite authors ? Steinbeck and Hemingway) and spent $5,000 to have 8,000 copies printed (Adams, Van Gelder). "We brought it out around October 1993 in the Salt Lake City market expecting to sell 3,000 copies" ? "We sold out two weeks before Christmas at 20,000 books" (qtd. in Van Gelder). Eventually, the book reached the No. 2 spot on the paperback best-seller list of The New York Times for sales based on the week ending 17 December 1994 (Van Gelder). Soon, Evans left advertising and the self-publishing business behind. In February of 1995, with the help of agent Laurie E. Liss, Simon and Schuster bought the North American rights to the hardcover edition of the book, and the hardcover and softcover rights to its prequel, for a record $4.2 million (Adams, Tabor). "I've never seen anyone so nervous about getting so much money in all my life," said Liss of Evans (qtd. in Tabor). The deal still allowed Evans to print paperback copies of The Christmas Box (Tabor). Evans has written seven other adult books, as of October 2002 ? The Last Promise, The Christmas Box Miracle, The Carousel, The Locket, and The Looking Glass, including the prequel and the sequel to The Christmas Box, Timepiece and The Letter ("List of" Evans). He has also written four children's books including The Spyglass, The Christmas Candle, The Dance, and The Tower ("List of Children's" Evans). The Christmas Box spawned The Christmas Box House International, a foundation that Evans' created to build shelter assessment facilities for children who might have been abused or neglected ("Founder"). Evans also helped replace the angel statue in Salt Lake City that was destroyed by floods in 1984 (Adams). He had heard of several incidents in which grieving mothers had sought the monument he mentioned in his book, but were unable to find it (Maryles). "The new monument, built in remembrance of all those who have lost children, has become a point of pilgrimage" (Adams). Other groups across the United States have built similar statues; a listing appears on Evans' website (www.richardpaulevans.com) ("Angel Statue" Evans). As of October 2002, Evans lives in Salt Lake City with his wife Keri, and their five children (Heilprin). He maintains his manuscripts.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Given that Richard Paul Evans wrote the holiday novel The Christmas Box as a story for his children, it is not surprising that his family became the first critics of the work. Their positive reactions inspired him to publish it. His wife read it and declared that it made her "want to be a better mother" (Evans 103). His mother wept when she read it (Donahue, "Hearts"). Even his father-in-law, a man not too keen on him in the beginning, cried; "It's a damn good book," he told Evans (Evans 106). The skeptical intellectual property attorney who lived down the street from him took a copy, "the same way one might accept a tuna casserole," and admitted later that he finished it in tears. The attorney was so impressed by the book that he asked Evans to make sure he procured an official copyright, and even offered to do it for him and pay the $20 fee himself (107). After receiving a copy, one of Evans' brothers called him, not to tease him, but to say, "Your little book has changed my life" (106-107). The reactions of his family members and neighbor are representative of the reactions of the general public. Originally, however, publishers rejected The Christmas Box. They made the critiques that would follow the book throughout its debut until today: the novel is too sappy, and not truly a literary work. First, many thought the Christmas themed sentiment a little overdone. They claimed the plot to be too "hackneyed," "the story too thin[,] and the Christmas theme too seasonal" (Adams). One critic wrote, "As a novella, it's an effective little stocking stuffer, a thicker sort of Christmas card" (Roush). Several books that followed it in the same genre would be compared as simply "slim gift books with cheap sentiment [like] The Christmas Box" (O'Brien). Granted, it was the most popular holiday tale since Tiny Tim's ?active little crutch was heard upon the floor,'" but this success could only be tempered by Publishers Weekly's comment that the novel "revels in sentimentality" (Jones, "PW Forecasts"). Executive editor of Publishers Weekly, Daisy Maryles, conceded that, "There are a lot of people who like this sort of sweet, simple sentimentality" (qtd. in Griggs, "Pox"). However, critics also dislike that the hackneyed sentiment finds a home in hackneyed themes. They find fault with Evans' Victorian literature reminiscences ? "Angels, a dead child, a man's heart hardened by commerce, a mysterious box" (Jones). "Here [in The Christmas Box, gentle reader, we meet almost every creaky plot element in Victorian fiction, " wrote a columnist for Newsweek (Jones). Basically, critics argue, this is a warmed over version of Dickens' masterpiece, "a 1990s update of A Christmas Carol" (Carvajal). In fact, "instead of whole-grain nourishment, . . . The Christmas Box and his other books offer trifling sweetness," wrote one critic assessing the feelings of other critics (Griggs, "Evans Adds"). Using another similar food analogy, one rather hostile journalist wrote that, "some critics say his [Evans'] novels, like water, lack nutritional content" (Heilprin). Despite this, Evans "rejects the view by some that he is little more than a syrupy and pandering author of life-affirming Christmas and children's tales" (Heilprin). Yet, critics found a second front on which to attack Evans ? his writing ability, or style. In short, the critics felt that the fruits of his writing style could not achieve literary merit. In fact, research revealed that the highly influential New York Times did not review the book; it did, however, get a front-page article in the paper's business section. In a rather sarcastic tone, one critic noted that "Those who may wish, meanwhile, can find stylistic enjoyment as well, in such phrasings, say, as: ?This should be interesting,' I decided;' ?Jenna smiled hungrily;' ?There's bound to be a lot of history in a place like this,' he said thoughtfully;' or in these words of a kindly physician: ?I know that's not very reassuring, but it's reality'" (Kirkus). Indeed, New York Times columnist Doreen Carvajal noted in her article that, "The writing may grate on some critics who mourn the high teardrops-per-page ratio or the author's indulgent use of terms like "ardent" and "gasp" (Carvajal). Yet, once again, the critics note that this lack of high literary genius has not inhibited the book's sales. It has "come to dominate a vast market for contemporary Christmas fiction with carefully packaged and priced holiday melodramas that have sold millions on the strength of wet-handkerchief sentiments of mourning and healing," wrote Carvajal (Carvajal). The critics realize that the book, despite their lack of faith in its high literary merit, has a powerful effect on the average person. "Although literary purists may shudder like Jacob Marley in his chains [because The Christmas Box provides competition for A Christmas Carol], Americans have taken to heart a sweet little tale titled The Christmas Box," wrote Deirdre Donahue for USA Today in 1995 (Donahue, "Christmas Box surprise"). Indeed, critics acknowledge that the virtuous, family value oriented tale that seems unconcerned about worldly goods, attracts the average person. The book also speaks to those who have lost children and "crystallizes a national yearning for family in these fragmented times," (Donahue, "Christmas Box surprise"). "Evans warmed hearts with "The Christmas Box," wrote Jamie Allen of CNN.com (Allen). Even Publishers Weekly admitted that, "The message concerns love, of course, and the strings Evans pulls to vivify it should squeeze sobs from even the stoniest of hearts" ("PW Forecasts"). Roush of USA Today put it simply: "Work: ba-a-a-a-d. Family: go-o-o-o-o-d. The religion-steeped moral of The Christmas Box, that hot bookstore novelty, could not make a more simple and direct appeal to the holiday hearts of stressed-out and overachieving dads and moms everywhere" (Roush). Traditional media provided criticism, but equally as important and prolific were the reviews of readers across the country and around the world. "Evans has been moved by the letters and phone calls he receives, many from men who tell Evans, "I bawled all night. . . .," he says. (Donahue, "Hearts Open"). In November of 1995, Evans was receiving "two or three letters a day, often from parents who [had] lost children" (Donahue, "Yuletide"). The New York Times quoted Dave Straub, whose son died in a car crash at age 22 ? "His book touched us . . . I don't read much, mostly car magazines, and his book just had a soothing effect" (Carvajal). In Cincinnati, a woman waited an hour to meet Evans ? "You brought me peace," she told him (Jones). When people heard her story, said the columnist, they said, "Well, if you can buy peace for $12.95, I will'" (Jones). Critics picked up on this concept of buying some type of peace, readily acknowledging the spirituality of the peace offered by The Christmas Box and the religious imagery permeating the book. Publishers Weekly commented that Evans steeped The Christmas Box "in specific Christian imagery and belief" and "draws on the drama of Jesus as God's sacrifice for the world's sins, and of his crucifixion and resurrection" ("PW Forecasts"). One critic wrote that The Christmas Box was "suffused" with Evans' "faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" (Heilprin). However, another critic countered that, in truth, it is really a Christian work that cannot be defined by one particular denomination's preoccupations (Donahue, "?Christmas Box' surprise"). Indeed, Evans once said that "Catholics are sure I'm Catholic; Presbyterians think I'm Presbyterian" (Donahue, "?Christmas Box' surprise"). Nevertheless, Publishers Weekly points out that Evans' approach is unique ? in contrast, Dickens' wildly popular Christmas tale took a mostly "nonsectarian" approach ("PW Forecasts"). Evans' Christian approach has spawned a group of mostly Mormon authors who have "found a formula to write inside this kind of faith but not alienate those readers who might be outside that faith," said Guy Lebeda (Griggs, "Why little"). Evans acknowledged the "sleighload of copycats" (Griggs, "Pox"). One critic wrote, "Some cynical members of the publishing industry, lamenting this trend, joke that The Christmas Box should be renamed Pandora's Box." (Griggs, "Pox").
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Given that Richard Paul Evans wrote the holiday novel The Christmas Box as a story for his children, it is not surprising that his family became the first critics of the work. Their positive reactions inspired him to publish it. His wife read it and declared that it made her "want to be a better mother" (Evans 103). His mother wept when she read it (Donahue, "Hearts"). Even his father-in-law, a man not too keen on him in the beginning, cried; "It's a damn good book," he told Evans (Evans 106). The skeptical intellectual property attorney who lived down the street from him took a copy, "the same way one might accept a tuna casserole," and admitted later that he finished it in tears. The attorney was so impressed by the book that he asked Evans to make sure he procured an official copyright, and even offered to do it for him and pay the $20 fee himself (107). After receiving a copy, one of Evans' brothers called him, not to tease him, but to say, "Your little book has changed my life" (106-107). The reactions of his family members and neighbor are representative of the reactions of the general public. Originally, however, publishers rejected The Christmas Box. They made the critiques that would follow the book throughout its debut until today: the novel is too sappy, and not truly a literary work. First, many thought the Christmas themed sentiment a little overdone. They claimed the plot to be too "hackneyed," "the story too thin[,] and the Christmas theme too seasonal" (Adams). One critic wrote, "As a novella, it's an effective little stocking stuffer, a thicker sort of Christmas card" (Roush). Several books that followed it in the same genre would be compared as simply "slim gift books with cheap sentiment [like] The Christmas Box" (O'Brien). Granted, it was the most popular holiday tale since Tiny Tim's ?active little crutch was heard upon the floor,'" but this success could only be tempered by Publishers Weekly's comment that the novel "revels in sentimentality" (Jones, "PW Forecasts"). Executive editor of Publishers Weekly, Daisy Maryles, conceded that, "There are a lot of people who like this sort of sweet, simple sentimentality" (qtd. in Griggs, "Pox"). However, critics also dislike that the hackneyed sentiment finds a home in hackneyed themes. They find fault with Evans' Victorian literature reminiscences ? "Angels, a dead child, a man's heart hardened by commerce, a mysterious box" (Jones). "Here [in The Christmas Box, gentle reader, we meet almost every creaky plot element in Victorian fiction, " wrote a columnist for Newsweek (Jones). Basically, critics argue, this is a warmed over version of Dickens' masterpiece, "a 1990s update of A Christmas Carol" (Carvajal). In fact, "instead of whole-grain nourishment, . . . The Christmas Box and his other books offer trifling sweetness," wrote one critic assessing the feelings of other critics (Griggs, "Evans Adds"). Using another similar food analogy, one rather hostile journalist wrote that, "some critics say his [Evans'] novels, like water, lack nutritional content" (Heilprin). Despite this, Evans "rejects the view by some that he is little more than a syrupy and pandering author of life-affirming Christmas and children's tales" (Heilprin). Yet, critics found a second front on which to attack Evans ? his writing ability, or style. In short, the critics felt that the fruits of his writing style could not achieve literary merit. In fact, research revealed that the highly influential New York Times did not review the book; it did, however, get a front-page article in the paper's business section. In a rather sarcastic tone, one critic noted that "Those who may wish, meanwhile, can find stylistic enjoyment as well, in such phrasings, say, as: ?This should be interesting,' I decided;' ?Jenna smiled hungrily;' ?There's bound to be a lot of history in a place like this,' he said thoughtfully;' or in these words of a kindly physician: ?I know that's not very reassuring, but it's reality'" (Kirkus). Indeed, New York Times columnist Doreen Carvajal noted in her article that, "The writing may grate on some critics who mourn the high teardrops-per-page ratio or the author's indulgent use of terms like "ardent" and "gasp" (Carvajal). Yet, once again, the critics note that this lack of high literary genius has not inhibited the book's sales. It has "come to dominate a vast market for contemporary Christmas fiction with carefully packaged and priced holiday melodramas that have sold millions on the strength of wet-handkerchief sentiments of mourning and healing," wrote Carvajal (Carvajal). The critics realize that the book, despite their lack of faith in its high literary merit, has a powerful effect on the average person. "Although literary purists may shudder like Jacob Marley in his chains [because The Christmas Box provides competition for A Christmas Carol], Americans have taken to heart a sweet little tale titled The Christmas Box," wrote Deirdre Donahue for USA Today in 1995 (Donahue, "Christmas Box surprise"). Indeed, critics acknowledge that the virtuous, family value oriented tale that seems unconcerned about worldly goods, attracts the average person. The book also speaks to those who have lost children and "crystallizes a national yearning for family in these fragmented times," (Donahue, "Christmas Box surprise"). "Evans warmed hearts with "The Christmas Box," wrote Jamie Allen of CNN.com (Allen). Even Publishers Weekly admitted that, "The message concerns love, of course, and the strings Evans pulls to vivify it should squeeze sobs from even the stoniest of hearts" ("PW Forecasts"). Roush of USA Today put it simply: "Work: ba-a-a-a-d. Family: go-o-o-o-o-d. The religion-steeped moral of The Christmas Box, that hot bookstore novelty, could not make a more simple and direct appeal to the holiday hearts of stressed-out and overachieving dads and moms everywhere" (Roush). Traditional media provided criticism, but equally as important and prolific were the reviews of readers across the country and around the world. "Evans has been moved by the letters and phone calls he receives, many from men who tell Evans, "I bawled all night. . . .," he says. (Donahue, "Hearts Open"). In November of 1995, Evans was receiving "two or three letters a day, often from parents who [had] lost children" (Donahue, "Yuletide"). The New York Times quoted Dave Straub, whose son died in a car crash at age 22 ? "His book touched us . . . I don't read much, mostly car magazines, and his book just had a soothing effect" (Carvajal). In Cincinnati, a woman waited an hour to meet Evans ? "You brought me peace," she told him (Jones). When people heard her story, said the columnist, they said, "Well, if you can buy peace for $12.95, I will'" (Jones). Critics picked up on this concept of buying some type of peace, readily acknowledging the spirituality of the peace offered by The Christmas Box and the religious imagery permeating the book. Publishers Weekly commented that Evans steeped The Christmas Box "in specific Christian imagery and belief" and "draws on the drama of Jesus as God's sacrifice for the world's sins, and of his crucifixion and resurrection" ("PW Forecasts"). One critic wrote that The Christmas Box was "suffused" with Evans' "faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" (Heilprin). However, another critic countered that, in truth, it is really a Christian work that cannot be defined by one particular denomination's preoccupations (Donahue, "?Christmas Box' surprise"). Indeed, Evans once said that "Catholics are sure I'm Catholic; Presbyterians think I'm Presbyterian" (Donahue, "?Christmas Box' surprise"). Nevertheless, Publishers Weekly points out that Evans' approach is unique ? in contrast, Dickens' wildly popular Christmas tale took a mostly "nonsectarian" approach ("PW Forecasts"). Evans' Christian approach has spawned a group of mostly Mormon authors who have "found a formula to write inside this kind of faith but not alienate those readers who might be outside that faith," said Guy Lebeda (Griggs, "Why little"). Evans acknowledged the "sleighload of copycats" (Griggs, "Pox"). One critic wrote, "Some cynical members of the publishing industry, lamenting this trend, joke that The Christmas Box should be renamed Pandora's Box." (Griggs, "Pox").
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Richard Paul Evans' 1995 bestseller The Christmas Box presents an American family in which never a harsh word is spoken, a loving marriage flourishes, a healthy and well-behaved child thrives, parents of deceased children find comfort, and the Christian God's love abounds. Some negative critics called it a "homegrown fairy tale" and Publishers Weekly claimed that it "revels in sentimentality" (Miller, "PW"). Joan O'Brien of The Salt Lake Tribune went so far as to say that it contains "cheap sentiment" (O'Brien). Yet, this modernization of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and William Dean Howell's Christmas Every Day has drawn millions of readers world-wide (Carvajal). The Christmas Box demonstrates that bestsellers often provide a needed affirmation for their readers. For those willing to suspend cynicism, this slim novel can reaffirm a reader's faith in miracles and the importance of the family. In several ways The Christmas Box itself (as a book) exists as a testament to the fact that miracles can happen. First, it remains one of the few "first novels" that have become bestsellers. Author Richard Paul Evans believes in miracles, and even titled a recent autobiographical work about how he came to write his bestselling first novel, The Christmas Box Miracle. Reporters, however, are often skeptical. After an interview one journalist said, "You don't really expect me to believe all this" (Evans, Miracle 15-16). Evans replied:
Start with what you can see. A twenty-nine-year-old man from Utah, having never before written a book, with no publishing experience, no knowledge of the book industry and very little money, writes his first book, publishes it himself and for eight weeks outsells the biggest authors and publishing houses in the world. (15-16).
Suddenly, the explanation of this book being a miracle made more sense to the journalist. Evans' first novel becoming a bestseller is in itself a major accomplishment, but this slim novel went beyond that ? according to Evans, it topped two charts and broke two records. "It is the only book to simultaneously hit number one on The New York Times hardcover and paperback bestseller lists and the only novel to hit number one as a self-published book" (16). In the week of 11 December 1995, for example, Evans took the number one spot on the bestseller list from extremely popular and established authors such as Danielle Steel, Michael Crichton, and Mary Higgins Clark (Maryles, "behind" 11 Dec.). Yet, the content of The Christmas Box was nothing like its counterparts on the bestseller list. The Christmas Box tells the tale of Richard, a hardworking husband and father, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Jenna. The family moves into a mansion in Salt Lake City to help care for MaryAnne Parkin, the financially secure elderly woman residing there. "Mary," as the family comes to refer to her, develops an inoperable brain tumor. As her death approaches, she works hard to help Richard come to the realization that he is "trading diamonds for stones" ? in other words, he is pursuing money and not participating in Jenna's fleeting childhood (Evans, Box 84). Throughout the book, Richard has dreams about a stone angel, discovers the letters from Mary to her deceased child in a Christmas box in the attic, and realizes the true meaning of Christmas ? a parent's love, God's love, for His children. Some, even Evans himself, imply that he created a new genre when he produced The Christmas Box (Griggs "Pox"). He wrote a book "too short to be a novel, too long to be a short story," or as one opinion piece sarcastically stated, "yes, Virginia, 125 small pages of large print in a sea of white space is now a novel" (Van Gelder, Rich). Evans used what some cynics would deem more sap than one finds in a Vermont pine, and expressed his message in a straightforward way using simple vocabulary. "'My books are not fine wine," he told David Heilprin of The Salt Lake Tribune (Heilprin). "My books are water. You know, they're just consumed by the masses" (Heilprin). However, the genre of short, sappy books with an unpretentious tone and no high-literary aspirations has existed for many years. For example, Paul Gallico's bestseller Mrs. ?Arris Goes to Paris , published in 1958, is a "novelette" that maintains "heavy sentimentality" and "deliberately simple prose" (D'Aniello). Like Evans' book, it had sequels and a CBS made for TV movie (D'Aniello). Thus, while Evans did not create a new sentimental genre, he did produce a holiday tale that has a rare honesty and truth to it. The extraordinary sales of his book can be attributed not only to the marketing strategy that he employed, but also to the miracle of that appealing intangible quality that exists in some books and can never be taught to a writer. "You brought me peace," said a woman in a Cincinnati bookstore who had lost a child only three months before meeting Evans (Jones). Unfortunately, one of the effects of this miracle was something less than miraculous ? less genuine (if containing any genuine qualities at all) copycats. "Ideally, I would like to think every book was written from the heart," said Tony Weller of Sam Weller's Bookstore in downtown Salt Lake City (Griggs, "Pox"). "But the sad truth is that many authors are just merchandisers trying to make a quick buck" (Griggs, "Pox"). Like many bestsellers, The Christmas Box inspired books similar to it, even in packaging. Some would say that the similarities were no coincidence. One creative journalist wrote this of publishers' excitement:
Throughout the land, publishers took notice. Visions of sugary holiday fables climbing the best-seller lists danced in their heads. "Go forth!" they commanded their writers. "Go to your hovels and produce a tender yuletide tale. Fill it with wise old ladies and sweet-natured children, and put ?Christmas' in the title. Add an inspiring message. Give it an ending that will jerk tears from the Scroogiest souls. And soon we'll all be rich!" (Griggs, "Pox")
Julie Salamon's The Christmas Tree was "one of the few [copycats] that did land on the weekly [bestseller] charts" ("The Fiction"). The year after the Simon & Schuster hardcover edition of The Christmas Box emerged, "a sleighload of copycats" followed, including The Christmas Tree, The Christmas Letters, The Christmas Mystery, A Magical Christmas, A Stranger for Christmas, A Cat's Christmas, and A Return to Christmas (Griggs, "Pox"). Legislator Richard Siddoway in Evans' home state of Utah published The Christmas Wish, though he claimed any resemblance between Evans' book and his was "coincidental" (Griggs, "Why little"). Many of these books used The Christmas Box's "hymnal-size" and usually had a red or green cover (Griggs "Pox"). They kept the price range from $12 to $16 (Griggs, "Pox"). The dust jackets revealed certain themes ? "Love. Miracles. Orphaned children. And gifts" (Griggs, "Pox"). ""Some cynical members of the publishing industry, lamenting this trend, joke that The Christmas Box should be renamed Pandora's Box" (Griggs, "Pox"). The Christmas Box not only inspired copycats in content, but also in author profile. Doreen Carvajal of The New York Times commented that some of the imitators are "clones . . . who mirror Mr. Evans: young Mormon writers from Salt Lake City with a reverential view of the family" (Carvajal). Given the similarities between The Christmas Box and the copycat books, perhaps the only miracle here is that there has not been trademark infringement. Despite the copycats, Evans can still revel in the success of The Christmas Box, and in the miracle of the book's achievements despite the fact that it is classified as a seasonal work. Many publishers initially rejected the book because they thought "the Christmas theme too seasonal," a quality unusual to bestsellers (Adams). The novel may take place at Christmas, but he has found a message, method of expression, and book packaging that calls to readers not just during the holidays. Evans claimed in 1998 that about 40% of all book sales occur at Christmas (Heilprin). The Christmas Box was able to corner that market, becoming, said one reviewer, "the most popular holiday tale since Tiny Tim's ?active little crutch was heard upon the floor'" (Jones). But the miracle of this potentially Christmas season-only book is that it has found a way to sustain itself throughout the rest of the year as well. Members of the clergy, for example, often use it in grief counseling (Miller). Some people "may not relate to a ?how-to' book but can see themselves in his stories" (Miller). In fact, a further miracle contributing to the success of The Christmas Box, and many other bestsellers, involved its appeal to both men and women of many different backgrounds. The skeptical intellectual property attorney who lived down the street from Evans confessed that he had doubted the book's merit, but finished it in tears; his wife reacted similarly (Evans, Miracle 107). The New York Times interviewed a man who had lost his son in a car accident (Carvajal). "?Have you ever lost a child?'" he asked. "?Someone younger than you are? And it's unexpected? I don't read much, mostly car magazines, and his book just had a soothing effect'" (Carvajal). One woman wrote to Evans about her decision to stay at home with her children. "I oftentimes worry over my decision," she wrote (Evans, Miracle 87). "I thought perhaps I was doing them a disservice by denying them the advantages the extra money could provide" (87). The Christmas Box helped her confirm that, "the really important things don't have price tags" (87). "I can now rest in my decision," she said (87). This was not a book that needed an approving nod from the famous New York Times book review critic Michiko Kakutani to gain acceptance with readers. In fact, Evans self-published because he could not find a publisher to accept his book, but sensed the need for it. The Christmas Box became what those in the publishing industry term "a sleeper." Sleepers, said New Yorker columnist Malcolm Gladwell, often begin as "unknown quantities" ? "Sales start slowly and gradually build; publicity, at least early on, is often nonexistent" (Gladwell 49). In Evans' case, there were no sales to speak of early on ? the book was simply passed around. After writing the book for his daughters, he made twenty copies and gave them to family and friends at Christmas in 1992 (Adams). His brother called, not to offer teasing brotherly criticism, but to say, "Your little book has changed my life" (Evans, Miracle 106-7). Responses similar to his brother's poured in. About four weeks after the Christmas of 1992, Evans received a call from a woman whom he did not know; she wanted to express how much his story had meant to her (108). "Out of curiosity," he said, "I took a notepad and called all those I had given copies to and asked them with whom they had shared the book. Then I called them, and so on" (108). Evans discovered that since Christmas, more than 160 people had read the twenty copies he had produced (108). In addition to this, a local bookstore called to ask him where they could order his book (112). Evans informed them that it was not published, and the incredulous woman replied that they had already had ten orders for his book that week (112-113). "Ten orders is pretty good for any book," she continued, "but for a Christmas book in February, well, that's unheard of" (113). "'Maybe," she suggested, "'you should get your book published" (113). And self-publish he did, after being rejected by established publishers who thought the manuscript "too hackneyed" and not likely to sell (Adams; Evans, Miracle 113). Most self-published books have a hard life. Bookstores are often not willing to deal with so-called "vanity" authors. Evans soon learned a publishing industry lesson ? "the retail book business does not take self-published books seriously" (Evans, Miracle 115). However, The Christmas Box belongs to that special category of bestsellers that includes James Redfield's The Celestine Prophecy. These books are examples of self-published works that found their way to the bestseller charts. Redfield wrote and published The Celestine Prophecy from his Alabama home and sold it in 1993 to Warner Books for $800,000 (Tabor, 8 Feb.). The Christmas Box followed in the wake of this bestseller (which occupied the number one spot in 1994 and 1995) (Hippen). Evans decided that he had no other choice ? "the phone calls continued from people wanting to talk about how ?the book,' as it became known in [his] family, had affected them and asking where they could get copies of their own" (Evans, Miracle 113). Evans formed Steinway Publishing, named after two of his favorite writers, John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway (Adams). After finding a distributor, he stopped at a Barnes and Nobel and asked the manager how his book was doing (Evans, Miracle 114, 118). The manager happily told him that they'd sold 700 copies ? "that's as good as a new Grisham paperback release," he added (118). By 1994, The Christmas Box had reached the number two spot in The New York Times bestseller list (Adams). A bookstore in Roy, Utah with a total population of less than 10,000 people had sold about 5,100 copies (Adams). "Every bookstore tells me people buy one and come back and buy one for everyone they know," Evans said (Van Gelder). "It's an exponential growth" (Van Gelder). Established publishers saw the numbers and took notice. In an unusual deal, Simon and Schuster offered $4.2 million for hardcover and soft-cover rights to the prequel and the hardcover rights to The Christmas Box, still allowing him to publish the soft-cover of the original book (Tabor, 8 Feb.). For Evans, who at one point had struggled to make ends meet, this was a miracle (Evans, Miracle 90). What remains miraculous to some, however, is how an explicitly Christian book could rake in sales in a 1990s American culture that made books like Howard Stern's Miss America competition for The Christmas Box during the holiday season (Maryles, "behind" 1 Jan.). In addition, Evans' seasonal tale, unlike many, is "steeped in specific Christian imagery and belief as the author draws on the drama of Jesus as God's sacrifice for the world's sins, and of his crucifixion and resurrection" ("PW"). The 1902 bestseller The Blue Flower can offer insight into why Evans' book was popular despite its religious tones. The Blue Flower came at a time when Americans were shifting away from religion, but still managed to sell well (McMahon). The bestsellers database entry on the book credits its high sales to two aspects of the work: it was easy to read, and did not clobber the reader with religion on every page (McMahon). The Christmas Box followed suit, though it retained imagery and symbolism to keep its message ever-present in the readers' minds. For example, Evans chooses the name "Mary" (reminiscent of the Virgin Mary) for the elderly woman who teaches Richard the meaning of Christmas. "Mary loved with the pure, sweet love of a mother," he wrote, "a love so deep that it becomes the allegory for all other love" (Evans, Box 84). However, while Evans is a devout Mormon, he chose not to target a specific denomination in the The Christmas Box. Evans and other Mormon writers have found a way not to "alienate" those not of the Mormon faith," says Guy Lebeda, literary coordinator for the Utah Arts Council (Griggs, "Why little"). This "reverent little domestic tale" appeals to many Christian denominations (Kirkus). "?Catholics are sure I'm Catholic; Presbyterians think I'm Presbyterian,'" Evans said (Donahue, "Christmas Box surprise"). While The Christmas Box affirmed belief in miracles through the multiple examples described above, as a bestseller it also affirmed that the American family had not died. The 1990s were a decade concerned with reviving what were perceived to be dwindling family values, and while The Christmas Box spoke to parents who had lost children, as a bestseller it "also crystallize[d] a national yearning for family" in those "fragmented" years (Donahue, "Christmas Box surprise"). CNN reported Census Bureau population analyst Ken Bryson in 1998 as saying that, "Married couples with children under 18 fell from about 50 percent to 37 percent of all families between 1970 and 1990" ("Decline of"). The Christmas Box resuscitated the image of the average American family (mother, father, child), perhaps affirming a desire for a return to the more traditional family unit. Indeed, in 1998, the Census Bureau reported that, "The perceived decline in the American family is vanishing and the '90s represents a stabilization period" ("Decline of"). This book, Sharon Kelly Roth of Books & Co. in Dayton, Ohio told USA Today, gave "people permission to be with their children" (Donahue, "Christmas Box surprise"). "It recognizes the importance of childhood . . . and the family unit" (Donahue, "Christmas Box surprise"). In essence, like Mario Puzo's bestselling novel The Godfather, The Christmas Box reaffirmed for many Americans the importance of the family. "I just want people to know that there are fathers out there who care about their children and husbands who love their wives," said Evans (Adams). Evans' book directly contradicts the idea that this is, as Madonna sings, a "material world." "Only in understanding and accepting our divine life purpose can we view the world as it really is and free ourselves from the pursuit of the ?perfect life' as painted by Madison Avenue and other paradigm engineers, and pursue instead the perfect life experience?a divine education?so we can evolve as spiritual beings," said Evans (Evans, Miracle 21). For some, the latter might be a bit intense, and thus reporter Matt Roush's analysis of The Christmas Box may be easier to swallow ? "Work: ba-a-a-a-d. Family: go-o-o-o-o-d" (Roush). "The religion-steeped moral of The Christmas Box, that hot bookstore novelty, could not make a more simple and direct appeal to the holiday hearts of stressed-out and overachieving dads and moms everywhere," said Roush. The protagonist of The Christmas Box confirms Roush's analysis ? "Mary knew," he said, "that in my quest for success in this world I had been trading diamonds for stones" (Evans, Box 84). "She knew, and she loved me enough to help me see. Mary had given me the greatest gift of Christmas. My daughter's childhood" (84). The miracles and concentration on family in this book healed some of the wounds with which Americans, and people around the world, try to cope. Evans has used the money earned from this book to continue the healing that it began, expanding the concept of "family" to include all people in a human family. For example, upon hearing that grieving women had been searching the cemetery in Salt Lake City for the angel statue that he mentioned in his book, he commissioned a statue so that they would no longer look in vain (Maryles, "behind" 11 Dec.). It has "become a point of pilgrimage," wrote one reporter (Adams). The statue, says child bereavement specialist Kathleen Hansen, provides a "place to go where there are other parents who've gone through the same thing" (Griffin). Evans has also created the Christmas Box House International to aid children. "He's doing this out of the goodness of his heart," said former colleague Evan Twede (qtd. in Carvajal). "He doesn't need the money and he's on a mission to heal people" (qtd. in Carvajal). The latter is a refreshing message, one that continues to help The Christmas Box sell each year ? "Sure as snow in the Unitas," said Brandon Griggs of The Salt Lake Tribune in 1998, "it resurfaces on the best-seller lists each holiday season" (Griggs, "Evans Adds"). "Life is not a solitary affair and was never meant to be," said Evans (Evans, Miracle 24). "On our individual journeys there are companions placed along the trail, fellow sojourners who forever alter our paths and help determine our destination," said Evans (24). Evans has altered many paths, and hopes to continue to do so with the eleven other books that he has since published. *Adams, James. "Rejected children's book sells for $4m." Sunday Times 19 February 1995: (page not given). Lexis Nexis. On-line. 22 September 2002. *"The Fiction Runners-Up." Bowkers Annual. 1997: 594. *"Carvajal, Doreen. "The Unlikely New King of Christmas Fiction." The New York Times 22 December 1997: D1. *D'Aniello, Dana. Bestsellers database entry on Mrs. ?Arris Goes to Paris. 28 November 2002. *"Decline of Traditional American family slows in 90's." CNN.com 28 May 1998. http://www.cnn.com/US/9805/28/family.figures/. On-line. 28 November 2002. *Donahue, Deirdre. "?Christmas Box' surprise." USA Today 14 December 1995: 1D. *---. "Yuletide tale hits home with many." USA Today. 30 November 1995. Lexis Nexis. On-line. 10 November 2002. *Evans, Richard Paul. The Christmas Box. Salt Lake City, UT: Richard Paul Evans, Publishing, Inc., 1993. *---. The Christmas Box Miracle. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001. *---. "List of Children's Books." 15 October 2002. 27 October 2002. http://www.richardpaulevans.com/books.html. *---. "List of Novels." 15 October 2002. 27 October 2002. http://www.richardpaulevans.com/children.html. *Gladwell, Malcolm. "The Science of the Sleeper." The New Yorker 4 October 1999: 48-55. *Griffin, Kawanza L. "Angel statue to comfort those who've lost child." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 28 July 2002: 07B. Lexis Nexis. On-line. 8 November 2002. *Griggs, Brandon. "Evans Adds 'Locket,' 'Christmas Candle' To His Stack of Sentimental Best Sellers." The Salt Lake Tribune 4 October 1998: D3. Lexis Nexis. On-line. 11 October 2002. *---. "The Christmas Pox." The Salt Lake Tribune 6 December 1996: A1. Lexis Nexis. On-Line. 11 October 2002. *---. "Why little Christmas books are a big hit; Christmas Books Crowd Store Shelves." The Salt Lake Tribune 6 December 1998: D1. Lexis Nexis. On-line. 11 October 2002. *Heilprin, John. "Best-Selling Utah Author Evans Honed His Marketing Skills Battling in the Political Arena; Evans Feels the Occasional Tug of Politics." The Salt Lake Tribune 13 December 1998: C1. Lexis Nexis. On-line. 11 October 2002. *Hippen, Megan. Bestsellers database entry on The Celestine Prophecy. 2 December 2002. *Jones, Malcolm Jr. and Ray Sawhill. "In which an ad exec's Christmas story soars." Newsweek 11 December 1995: 56. Lexis Nexis. On-line. 8 October 2002. *McMahon, Mary. Bestsellers database entry on The Blue Flower. 28 November 2002. *Maryles, Daisy. "behind the Bestsellers." Publishers Weekly 1 January 1996: 32. *---. "behind the Bestsellers." Publishers Weekly 11 December 1995: 22. *---. "Winning Combinations." Bowker Annual. 1996: 30-31. *Miller, Melinda. "Evans' ?Carousel' Plays a Familiar Tune." The Salt Lake Tribune 8 October 2000: D6. Lexis Nexis. On-line. 11 October 2002. *O'Brien, Joan. "Books to Warm Even a Grinch's Heart; Book Briefs." The Salt Lake Tribune 5 December 1999: D5. On-line. Lexis Nexis 11 October 2002. *"PW Forecasts." Publishers Weekly 9 October 1995: 77. *Rich, Frank. "Hold the Mistletoe." The New York Times 23 December 1995: I27. *Roush, Matt. "O'Hara sparkles in slight, sentimental ?Christmas Box.'" USA Today. 15 December 1995: 3D. Lexis Nexis. On-line. 10 November 2002. *Tabor, Mary B.W. "Book Notes." The New York Times 8 February 1995: C18. *"The Christmas Box." Kirkus Reviews 1 September 1995. On-line. Lexis Nexis. 8 October 2002. *Van Gelder, Lawrence. "The Media Business; Wide Audience for a Small Christmas Tale." The New York Times 26 December 1994: 1-57. Lexis Nexis. On-line. 23 September 2002.
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