Lamb, Wally: I Know This Much Is True
(researched by Eve Cockrill)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Wally Lamb. NY,NY: Harper Collins, 1998. Wally Lamb holds the 1998 copywright to this edition, and no parallel first editions were published.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The first edition is published in hardback, consisting of stiff black boards with black tape around the binding.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
456 leaves, pp. [vi] vii-ix [x] 1-901 [902]
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
The novel is neither edited nor introduced, but does include a list of other works by the author, a dedication page, and acknowledgments.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
The novel 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?)
The text is attractive and easily readable; the margins are neat and clean, there is plenty of space between lines, and the fairly large type shows no signs of type wear or cracking. Each page is 23cm in height, 14.5cm in width. The text is 18cm x 11cm. The bottom margin is 2cm, the top margin is 2 and a half cm, and the side margins are 1 and a half cm. The size of the type itself is 100R. The chapter headings are numbered in bold print and followed by the same interwoven design that appears beneath the author's name on the spine and title page of the book. The entirety of the text consists of serif type, although there is variation in the type itself. The main type is ITC Founder's Caslon 12, but certain portions of the book are written in Dragon font.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The book consists of wove paper, with a smooth, granulated texture. The paper is fairly expensive, with no discoloration or tears. None of the paper is beginning to yellow, and the paper is a creamy ivory color. There are no differing paper stocks save the end papers. The paper is uncut and rough along the sides but smoothly cut along the top and bottom.
11 Description of binding(s)
There is a thin line of black cloth at the top and bottom of the binding, binding the actual pages together. However, the spine as well as the front and back covers are stiff black boards. Tape extends around the spine and partially onto the front and back boards. The spine has the author's name and the title of the book stamped in gilt, as well as a small interwoven design under the author's name. The publisher's name is stamped in gilt at the bottom of the spine, and the author's initials are stamped in gilt on the bottom right corner of the front cover. The endpapers are made of heavy black paper, smoothly cut, with a criss-cross grain. Transcription of information on spine: WALLY|LAMB|[interwoven design]|I KNOW|THIS|MUCH|IS TRUE|ReganBooks|[horizontal line]|Harper|Collins Transcription of front cover: WL
12 Transcription of title page
Recto: I KNOW THIS MUCH|IS TRUE|[Interwoven design]|WALLY LAMB| ReganBooks|An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers Verso: This novel is a work of fiction. Any references to real people, events,|establishments, organizations, or locales are intended only to give the fiction a|sense of reality and authenticity. Other names, characters, places, and incidents|portrayed herein are either the product of the author's imagination or are used|fictionally.| Portions of I Know This Much Is True, some in slightly or substantially different|versions, have appeared in the following publications: Image:A Journal of the Arts|and Religion, Missouri Review, Northeast Magazine,and USA Weekend.| I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE. Copyright [copyright symbol] 1998 by Wally Lamb. All rights|reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be|used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission|except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.| For information address HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 10 East 53rd Street,|New York, NY 10022.| Harper Collins books may be purchased for educational, business, or sales pro-|motional use. For information please write: Special Markets Department,|HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.| FIRST EDITION|ISBN 0-06-039162-6|98 99 00 01 02 [symbol]/RRD 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
Information on these holdings not available as of September, 2002.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
The dust jacket has a black and white photograph of two infants, with the title written in white and the author's name, in large gilt letters, beneath it. The inside front flap begins a summary of the novel, which continues onto the back flap. The back flap also contains a picture of the author and a brief biographical description. The back of the dust jacket consists of praise for Lamb's first novel, She's Come Undone. This particular copy of the book is signed by the author on the title page, directly under his printed name. His signature is in blue ink. The very last page of the book has an address for "readers wishing to learn more about or to assist people with schizophrenia..." Note: This novel was published in 1998 by HarperCollins, but portions of the novel appeared in several magazines before the novel itself was published; such magazines are listed in the transcription of the verso, in step #12.
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
According to searches on Worldcat and Eureka, HarperCollins reprinted the book several times but never issued a different edition. However, the first edition has 9 roman numeral pages and 901 numbered pages; a 2000 HarperCollins edition of the book published in London has 912 pages. While this could indicate a different edition of the book, it is more likely that the number 912 includes the roman numeral pages.
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?
According to Publishers Weekly, there were 300,000 copies in print after two trips to the press, and 560,000 copies in print as of June 22nd, 1998. Publishers Weekly also stated that ReganBooks was very optimistic as Lamb's first novel She's Come Undone had about three million copies in print.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
1998- New York, NY: Regan Books 901 p; 25 cm 1998- Hampton Falls, NH: Beeler Large Print 949 p; 25cm 1999- New York, NY: Regan Books 901 p; 21 cm (first paperback ed.) 2000- London: HarperCollins 912 p; 20 cm
6 Last date in print?
According to "Books in Print" this novel is in print as of October 2002.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
Extensive searches in Publishers Weekly, WorldCat, NY Times, Oprah's Book Club, and LexisNexis did not provide any information on total copies sold.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
No information on sales figures by year was available.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
The only advertisement for the book in the 1998 editions of Publishers Weekly appears on the contents page of the May 4, 1998 issue. The ad features a picture of the book and reads as follows: "Listen|to|Lamb|[illustration]|From Wally Lamb, the| #1 bestselling author of| She's Come Undone,| comes the most eagerly| awaited novel of 1998.| Read by Ken Howard,| this powerful story of| sin and redemption| confronts the| existential aloneness| of being human. Also in the way of advertising, PW's May 4, 1998 forecast featured I Know This Much Is True complete with a color picture of the book and an accompanying article; the following exerpts come from the forecast: "... this sinuous story of one family's dark secrets and recurring patterns of behavior largely succeeds in its ambitious reach." "... the questions that successfully permeate the novel... contribute to a fully developed and triumphantly resolved exploration of one man's suffering and redemption."
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
The novel owes a significant amount of its promotion to Oprah's Book Club. I Know This Much Is True was Oprah's #17 pick and she announced the pick on June 18, 1998. As a surprise, she actually invited Wally Lamb onto the show, making him the first writer to appear on the show the same day that the book is announced.
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
The novel has been performed in several sound recordings: 1998- New York, NY: Harper Collins Performed by Ken Howard Four sound cassettes, Dolby processed, abridged 1998- Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books Performed by George Guidall 24 sound cassettes, 32.25 hr, Unabridged Although a movie based on the novel has yet to come out, Publishers Weekly announced in 1998 that "Lamb's novel was optioned by Twentieth Century Fox for a feature film; publisher and editor Judith Regan will serve as producer."
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
1998 [Korean] - "Na nun algo itta igot manun chinsil imul" (Title) Soul: Taesan Ch'ulp'ansa Translation by Ch'ang-sik Yi 1999 [Hebrew] - "Shomer a.hi" (Title) Tel Aviv: Ma.tar translation by Vais, Bo'az 2000 [French] - "La puissance des vaincus" Monreal, Quebec: Belfond Translation by Marie-Claude Peugeot
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
N/A
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
Author Wally Lamb was born on October 17, 1950 in Norwich Connecticut. Lamb's mother was Italian Catholic and his grandfather left Italy and came to the US in 1890. Lamb grew up with two older sisters and attributes his ability to write as a female voice in She's Come Undone to this fact. Lamb attended a public school throughout his childhood and grew from a chubby child into a "six-foot-tall, svelte, and popular young man" by high school (ww2.dixie-net.com/ ~holleman/ lamb . html). He and his two sisters entertained themselves with short-story writing, and in an address to the National Council on the Arts in 2001 he admits that the "seeds" of his fiction writing were planted in 1961 when he was a child of ten years old; the fantastical tall tales that he told then to stay out of trouble gave way to a more serious love of writing as he grew older. After graduating high school Wally Lamb attended the University of Connecticut and received his B.A. in Education in 1972. In 1977 he received his M.A. in Education and finally in 1984 he received an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College. After graduating from the University of Connecticut in 1972, Lamb returned to his hometown and taught high school English and Creative Writing. It was here that Lamb met a fellow teacher named Chris Grabarek who, in 1978, he married. Lamb taught high school for twenty-five years, and in that time he began writing short stories. In 1981 his first son was born, and it was during this time, at the age of thirty, that Lamb began writing fiction. At this point his wife had quit teaching to care for the children, so the family was down to one salary and economically strained. Lamb began to write in the early mornings- around 4 a.m.- so that he could reconcile his fiction writing and his teaching career. The first story that Lamb ever published is called "Keep in a Cool, Dry Place" and it is a vignette featuring Dolores, the main character of his novel She's Come Undone. Editor Larry Bloom of "Northeast Magazine"- a Sunday supplement of the Hartford Courant- was thus the first person to publish Lamb's work. After twenty-five years of teaching high school, Lamb decided to teach at the University of Connecticut in hopes of creating more time for writing fiction. But after two years of teaching at UConn, he left and within one month began his first novel, She's Come Undone. Lamb wrote She's Come Undone and handed it over to a prestigious editor named Judith Regan, who loved the book and had it published in 1992. She's Come Undone received rave reviews and was selected for Oprah's book club, and it was at the top of many bestseller lists- specifically, it became a number one New York Times Bestseller. Lamb also published his writing in various magazines and in 1979 edited the poetry collection "Always Begin Where You Are." After writing She's Come Undone, Lamb received several awards- in 1998 he received the Governor's Arts Award, State of Connecticut, he became a Missouri Review William Peden fiction prize winner, and he received the NEA grant for fiction which financially allowed him to begin researching his next book, I Know This Much Is True. Lamb spent six years writing the novel and in his address to the National Council of the Arts in 2001, he described that time in the following way: "During that period, I wrote fiction in the morning, researched in the afternoon, and was Dad in the evening. I visited libraries, hospitals, Native American museums, and, most significantly, New York's Ellis Island. I read about and talked to identical twins." I Know This Much Is True was selected as an Oprah's Book Club book in early 1997 and was released in June of 1998. Lamb's second book became a huge success and received rave reviews. Lamb continues to research and write fiction and is currently (as of October 2002) working on his third novel. Wally Lamb currently lives with his wife, Chris, and their three sons in a three-story Victorian house in Willimantic, Connecticut. According to his address made to the National Council on the Arts in 2001, Lamb currently (as of Oct. 2002) teaches at the York Correctional Institution, which is a women's maximum-security prison in Niantic, Connecticut. Lamb works with the women in this prison and encourages them to write and express themselves, while at the same time he gathers information for his third novel, which is to be set in a female prison. Wally Lamb and his wife donate ten percent of the money he earns from his writing to the mentally ill and victims of abuse. Sources used: *http://dmoz.org/Arts/Literature/Authors/L/desc.html *http://teenreads.com/authors/au-lamb-wally.asp *http://www.harpercollins.com/catalog/author_xml.asp?authorID=5579 *http://mostlyfiction.com/contemp/lamb.htm#biblio *www.snet.net/features/qa/articles/2000/07170101.shtml *www.oprah.com/obc/pastbooks/wally_lamb/obc_pb_19980618_abio.jhtml *http://arts.endow.gov/explore/Council11-01/Lamb.html *http://kemodogstar.tripod.com/AuthorBios/Lamb.html *http://ww2.dixie-net.com/~holleman/lamb.html *www.usaweekend.com/98_issues/980802talk_lamb.html
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Reviews of Wally Lamb's book I Know This Much is True are generally full of praise, yet the majority of the reviews focus on the extensive length of the novel, as well as the effects Oprah Winfrey had on the success of the novel by picking it for her book club. Reviewers of Lamb's second book tend to focus on the vastness of the novel- vastness in both length and subject matter. Lamb addresses so many complex issues in his novel- rape, incest, mental illness, infidelity, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, drug abuse, illegitimacy, suicide, and racial issues are just a few. Reviews show mixed feelings toward this undertaking; CNN's Wendy Brandes suggests that this book was meant to be an epic, but that "the uneven writing- which ranges from the hilarious to the horrific to the hopelessly banal- guarantees this won't be one for posterity." The nine hundred-page novel intertwines flashbacks, a nearly two hundred memoir within the larger story, and the present action to relate the story of Dominick Birdsey and his schizophrenic twin, Thomas. In including the memoir of Dominick's grandfather the book becomes a multi-generational story as well as a book that addresses such a diverse span of themes and issues. Many reviewers saluted Lamb for his ability to weave so many different threads into one story, while others wondered why he couldn't have cut the novel down in size and scope. In a USA TODAY review, Celia McGee raves that the novel is "twice as thoughtful and twice as heart-wrenching as most published this year (and twice as long)?" McGee focuses on the broad scope of the novel and the length as do the majority of reviewers, but she states that Lamb's "some four centuries' worth of historical, anthropological and mythological backdrop" is an "illuminating achievement." This view becomes a pattern amongst the various reviews: Mason West of the Austin Chronicle summarizes the book as "daunting but enticing," while Amy Coffin, in her Book Haven review, states that I Know This Much Is True "is a heavy book, literally and figuratively," but that the various events in the novel flow "smoothly together and don't deter from the story line." Karen Karbo of the NewYork Times praises the novel but admits, "Lamb takes a great risk here." This seems to be the general feeling amongst Lamb's critics- the length is daunting but his riskiness pays off: The bombastic, self-aggrandizing 'History of Domenico Onofrio Tempesta, a Great Man From Humble Beginnings' begins two-thirds of the way through a novel that is already full to bursting with calamitous activity? It's a tribute to Lamb's considerable gifts that we wind up feeling sorry for this obnoxious patriarch, even as we loathe him (NY Times) The NY Times review goes on to say that the novel is "bit and somewhat blowzy? but it never grapples with anything less than life's biggest questions." Critics tend to agree that the bulk of the novel could have deterred readership, yet the likable characters and Lamb's style of writing "as if the reader were perched on the next bar stool" (LA Times) draw the reader in and make for a compelling novel up until the final page. While reviews of I Know This Much Is True are generally full of praise, the novel received its share of criticisms as well. Lamb's heavy use of symbolism and his tendency to overstate his message are pointed out in several reviews. The LA Times review of the book complains that the novel is "head-buttingly obvious in its symbolism, calling loud attention to Dominick's moments of insight in an effort to make sure we do not miss the critical bits." Certain reviews suggest that this tendency of Lamb's is a bit patronizing to the reader, and in addition it detracts from the sharp dialogue of the characters. The CNN review of the book makes note of this, saying, "?the writing is jarringly mundane? Lamb drones on, needing to make it crystal clear." While the majority of critics did not focus on the heavy symbolism or redundancy of dialogue in areas, this criticism cropped up in enough reviews to make it a legitimate concern for Lamb's readers. Reviews also focus on the mystical aspects of the novel. The fantastical story of Dominico Tempesta combined with the proverbial teachings of the "sari-clad Dr. Patel" (LA Times) creates a mystical, fairy-tale like feel to the novel. This aspect of the novel received both praise and criticism. The Austin Chronicle notes that "Dominick's friends and family fill stock roles: the evil stepfather, the angelic ex-wife, the cuckolding girlfriend, the martyr mother, the clownish best friend, the wise Buddhist shrink." While this particular review seems to appreciate the fairy-tale-esque nature of the novel, other critics feel that Lamb uses this aspect of the novel to pass it off as something it is not. The appearance of monkeys and dancing Shivas throughout the book certainly create an otherworldly air, an air of mysticism and magic, but is this enough to make Lamb's novel into a work of magic realism? The LA Times review of the book says no: Magic realism, a phrase similarly used in the jacket copy, is equally absent from the book, despite the plethora of rabbit and monkey references. It takes more than one mention of a weeping statue to cast a 900-page novel as a work of magic realism. In addition to the manner in which Lamb forces his symbolism upon us, his attempt to include so much mysticism and magic in his novel is criticized. Finally, almost every review saw fit to contemplate the effects of Oprah's influence on the novel. CNN began its review of the novel with "Oprah has created a monster-sized book." This statement is a bit patronizing towards Lamb, allocating the majority of the novel's success to Oprah Winfrey and her influential book club. Other reviews approach the subject in a similar vein; the CityPages review begins "It's a little embarrassing? Wally Lamb has the dubious? distinction of having had two of his books selected for the Oprah book club." Embarrassing is a strong word, and it seems that reviewers see Oprah's book club in this manner because of the stigma it carries- the stigma of a middle-aged housewife fan base. Amy Weivoda of the City Pages goes on to state that Lamb's novel "fits the standard Oprah criteria: It's a terribly sad and uplifting family saga in which abuse travels across three generations and 900 pages." While the majority of reviews point to Oprah's seal of approval before anything else, they also go on to discuss Lamb's novel in a serious manner and as its own body of work independent of Oprah's influence. Overall, Lamb's novel I Know This Much Is True received more praise than it did criticism despite its intense subject matter and extraordinary length. Critics did not shy away from exposing the book's flaws, but ultimately most reviewers of the novel felt that Lamb's style of writing and his engaging story served as adequate redemptive qualities for the book's weaker points. While the majority of critics saw the vast length and scope of the novel as a potential deterrent of readership, Amy Weivoda sums up the gist of these reviews nicely when she states that "I Know This Much Is True proves worthy of its heft in humor, masterful writing, and revelation." Sources: http://www.citypages.com/databank/19/922/article5686.asp August 5, 1998. http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/vol18/issue43/books.offtheshelf.html http://thebookhaven.homestead.com/Z_I_Know_This_Much_Is_True~ns4.html http://www.rambles.net/lamb_true.html Korelitz, Jean Hanff. Los Angeles Times, Home Edition, Book Review, p.14. July 12, 1998. http://www.usatoday.com/life/enter/books/b420.htm December 2, 1999 http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/06/14/reveiws/980614.14karbot.html June 14, 1998. http://europe/cnn.com/books/reviews/9808/13/this.much.true.cnn/index.html August 13,1998.
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Reviews of Wally Lamb's book I Know This Much is True are generally full of praise, yet the majority of the reviews focus on the extensive length of the novel, as well as the effects Oprah Winfrey had on the success of the novel by picking it for her book club. Reviewers of Lamb's second book tend to focus on the vastness of the novel- vastness in both length and subject matter. Lamb addresses so many complex issues in his novel- rape, incest, mental illness, infidelity, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, drug abuse, illegitimacy, suicide, and racial issues are just a few. Reviews show mixed feelings toward this undertaking; CNN's Wendy Brandes suggests that this book was meant to be an epic, but that "the uneven writing- which ranges from the hilarious to the horrific to the hopelessly banal- guarantees this won't be one for posterity." The nine hundred-page novel intertwines flashbacks, a nearly two hundred memoir within the larger story, and the present action to relate the story of Dominick Birdsey and his schizophrenic twin, Thomas. In including the memoir of Dominick's grandfather the book becomes a multi-generational story as well as a book that addresses such a diverse span of themes and issues. Many reviewers saluted Lamb for his ability to weave so many different threads into one story, while others wondered why he couldn't have cut the novel down in size and scope. In a USA TODAY review, Celia McGee raves that the novel is "twice as thoughtful and twice as heart-wrenching as most published this year (and twice as long)?" McGee focuses on the broad scope of the novel and the length as do the majority of reviewers, but she states that Lamb's "some four centuries' worth of historical, anthropological and mythological backdrop" is an "illuminating achievement." This view becomes a pattern amongst the various reviews: Mason West of the Austin Chronicle summarizes the book as "daunting but enticing," while Amy Coffin, in her Book Haven review, states that I Know This Much Is True "is a heavy book, literally and figuratively," but that the various events in the novel flow "smoothly together and don't deter from the story line." Karen Karbo of the NewYork Times praises the novel but admits, "Lamb takes a great risk here." This seems to be the general feeling amongst Lamb's critics- the length is daunting but his riskiness pays off: The bombastic, self-aggrandizing 'History of Domenico Onofrio Tempesta, a Great Man From Humble Beginnings' begins two-thirds of the way through a novel that is already full to bursting with calamitous activity? It's a tribute to Lamb's considerable gifts that we wind up feeling sorry for this obnoxious patriarch, even as we loathe him (NY Times) The NY Times review goes on to say that the novel is "bit and somewhat blowzy? but it never grapples with anything less than life's biggest questions." Critics tend to agree that the bulk of the novel could have deterred readership, yet the likable characters and Lamb's style of writing "as if the reader were perched on the next bar stool" (LA Times) draw the reader in and make for a compelling novel up until the final page. While reviews of I Know This Much Is True are generally full of praise, the novel received its share of criticisms as well. Lamb's heavy use of symbolism and his tendency to overstate his message are pointed out in several reviews. The LA Times review of the book complains that the novel is "head-buttingly obvious in its symbolism, calling loud attention to Dominick's moments of insight in an effort to make sure we do not miss the critical bits." Certain reviews suggest that this tendency of Lamb's is a bit patronizing to the reader, and in addition it detracts from the sharp dialogue of the characters. The CNN review of the book makes note of this, saying, "?the writing is jarringly mundane? Lamb drones on, needing to make it crystal clear." While the majority of critics did not focus on the heavy symbolism or redundancy of dialogue in areas, this criticism cropped up in enough reviews to make it a legitimate concern for Lamb's readers. Reviews also focus on the mystical aspects of the novel. The fantastical story of Dominico Tempesta combined with the proverbial teachings of the "sari-clad Dr. Patel" (LA Times) creates a mystical, fairy-tale like feel to the novel. This aspect of the novel received both praise and criticism. The Austin Chronicle notes that "Dominick's friends and family fill stock roles: the evil stepfather, the angelic ex-wife, the cuckolding girlfriend, the martyr mother, the clownish best friend, the wise Buddhist shrink." While this particular review seems to appreciate the fairy-tale-esque nature of the novel, other critics feel that Lamb uses this aspect of the novel to pass it off as something it is not. The appearance of monkeys and dancing Shivas throughout the book certainly create an otherworldly air, an air of mysticism and magic, but is this enough to make Lamb's novel into a work of magic realism? The LA Times review of the book says no: Magic realism, a phrase similarly used in the jacket copy, is equally absent from the book, despite the plethora of rabbit and monkey references. It takes more than one mention of a weeping statue to cast a 900-page novel as a work of magic realism. In addition to the manner in which Lamb forces his symbolism upon us, his attempt to include so much mysticism and magic in his novel is criticized. Finally, almost every review saw fit to contemplate the effects of Oprah's influence on the novel. CNN began its review of the novel with "Oprah has created a monster-sized book." This statement is a bit patronizing towards Lamb, allocating the majority of the novel's success to Oprah Winfrey and her influential book club. Other reviews approach the subject in a similar vein; the CityPages review begins "It's a little embarrassing? Wally Lamb has the dubious? distinction of having had two of his books selected for the Oprah book club." Embarrassing is a strong word, and it seems that reviewers see Oprah's book club in this manner because of the stigma it carries- the stigma of a middle-aged housewife fan base. Amy Weivoda of the City Pages goes on to state that Lamb's novel "fits the standard Oprah criteria: It's a terribly sad and uplifting family saga in which abuse travels across three generations and 900 pages." While the majority of reviews point to Oprah's seal of approval before anything else, they also go on to discuss Lamb's novel in a serious manner and as its own body of work independent of Oprah's influence. Overall, Lamb's novel I Know This Much Is True received more praise than it did criticism despite its intense subject matter and extraordinary length. Critics did not shy away from exposing the book's flaws, but ultimately most reviewers of the novel felt that Lamb's style of writing and his engaging story served as adequate redemptive qualities for the book's weaker points. While the majority of critics saw the vast length and scope of the novel as a potential deterrent of readership, Amy Weivoda sums up the gist of these reviews nicely when she states that "I Know This Much Is True proves worthy of its heft in humor, masterful writing, and revelation." Sources: http://www.citypages.com/databank/19/922/article5686.asp August 5, 1998. http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/vol18/issue43/books.offtheshelf.html http://thebookhaven.homestead.com/Z_I_Know_This_Much_Is_True~ns4.html http://www.rambles.net/lamb_true.html Korelitz, Jean Hanff. Los Angeles Times, Home Edition, Book Review, p.14. July 12, 1998. http://www.usatoday.com/life/enter/books/b420.htm December 2, 1999 http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/06/14/reveiws/980614.14karbot.html June 14, 1998. http://europe/cnn.com/books/reviews/9808/13/this.much.true.cnn/index.html August 13,1998.
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Wally Lamb's novel I Know This Much Is True is his second wildly successful novel. The book owes its success to many of the same factors that rendered his first novel, She's Come Undone a popular bestseller. The reviews for both books pointed again and again to his ability to develop his characters in a moving, realistic fashion. However, I Know This Much Is True differs from She's Come Undone in significant ways; the protagonist of his second book is a male, unlike the heroine of She's Come Undone, proving to audiences and critics that Lamb can assume almost any voice as he explores the psyches of his characters- whether they be depressed, schizophrenic, obese females, or bitter "untwinned" males. The most consistently discussed aspect in reviews of I Know This Much Is True is its hefty length, as well as the numerous issues that it takes on. The length of the novel also generated the most controversy between praise and criticism, but ultimately the novel was extremely well received and praised by book critics. In determining what makes I Know This Much Is True a bestseller, we must take into account aspects of the book itself- the style in which it is written, the character development, and the issues it addresses- as well as outside influences such as marketing techniques, Lamb's public persona, and the political and cultural controversies that were relevant in 1998 when the book was published. All of these factors come together beautifully in terms of generating a best-selling novel, and for these reasons Lamb's I Know This Much Is True was and is a highly successful and appreciated novel. Stylistic Features There is much to be said for Wally Lamb's style of writing; in both She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True Lamb writes in captivating prose that draws his audience in and keeps them turning pages. I Know This Much Is True's plot is driven by continuous action, so that the 900 page novel is daunting but utterly engaging. Lamb's tale of one man's struggles with his schizophrenic twin is told in an engaging fashion "as if the reader were perched on the next bar stool" (LA Times). The diction that Lamb uses is not intimidating, but rather extremely colloquial so that the reader becomes involved in the story. Although Lamb's tendency to overstate his point can be a bit patronizing, he is careful never to alienate his reader with lofty or elevated prose. As a result, "this isn't escapist fiction; it's better, drawing the reader into a convoluted web of twins, fatherhood, love and mental instability, and then demanding emotional involvement" (www.rambles.net). Lamb delves into some serious issues in his book- "the list includes cross-dressing, child pornography, rape, incest, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, substance abuse, a secret vasectomy, an unidentified biological father, a bodacious aerobics teacher, an Indian casino, murder, suicide, and a plunge from three stories high"(cnn.com review)- but the manner in which he explores these issues is never overly-didactic, allowing the reader to feel like he or she is exploring these issues with Lamb, rather than listening to some sort of sermon. Lamb's inclusion of these issues ensures that his audience will not feel that they are reading 900 pages of "fluff," or a 900-page airplane novel. Instead, the subject matter of the novel makes this hefty novel a worthwhile undertaking. Another key stylistic feature of Lamb's writing is his employment, in some sense, of stock characters (as noted in the Austin Chronicle). These stock characters (the mean step-parent, the cheating girlfriend, the goofy best friend, etc.) expose readers to aspects of story telling that crop up in all kinds of literature, and readers are attracted, psychologically, to that which is familiar to them. At the same time, Lamb is careful to give his characters substance, so that we're not reading a 900-page character sketch. Finally, Lamb includes the story of the twins' grandfather in a two hundred page memoir, making I Know This Much Is True a multi-generational saga and lending a cyclical feel to the novel. Lamb takes every measure to put his reader at ease with the novel; the intimidating size and scope of the novel are balanced with the colloquial and familiar stylistic features Lamb employs. Marketing Techniques The marketing strategies for I Know This Much Is True are unique in that both of Lamb's novels were chosen for Oprah Winfrey's book club. The influence of Oprah on books is phenomenal; every book she chooses becomes a bestseller. While the demographic is largely female for this book club, Lamb's novel is different from most other books on the list in that it tells the story of male twins. This did not deter readership by Oprah's fans, however, and the book became wildly successful. I Know This Much Is True was the second of Lamb's books to be nominated for Oprah's book club, and he was the first author to actually appear on the show the same day that Oprah announced his book as her number seventeen pick. It is interesting to examine the ways in which books are selected for this book club, and the subsequent influence the book club has on sales and printings. According to an article in USA Today detailing the selection process, Winfrey alerted Lamb and his publisher that the book had been chosen, swearing them both to secrecy. In the case of She's Come Undone, 750,000 paperbacks of the book were then published, and "booksellers [were] offered the mysterious (but effective) Untitled Oprah's Book Club #4. Three quarters of a million copies [were] sold sight unseen." The books were then shipped to bookstores everywhere, placed on bestsellers lists and shelved with other "Oprah's Picks." A special sticker signifying Oprah's approval is also slapped onto the book's cover, assuring reading audiences everywhere that this large novel is worthy of their time. Sources agree that while the book deserves its success for its masterful writing, Oprah's hand in the matter certainly gave Lamb a huge push towards success. Public Persona Wally Lamb's public persona very likely contributes to the success of his two novels. In general, he comes across as a very likable guy in interviews and public appearances. His image is not that of an extremely scholarly, unapproachable man; rather, he seems like a regular type of guy- like he could be your next-door neighbor, perhaps. Lamb's writing style mirrors this idea of a personable, sensitive man. His career as a high school teacher supports this image, and Oprah emphasized this when she filmed him with one of his high school classes before announcing his book as her latest pick for the book club (USA Today). He's a family man, with a wife and children, living in Connecticut (the same state in which he was raised). This is particularly appealing to the female demographic that Oprah's book club draws. His success also encourages the idea that it's never too late in life to find your calling (and become a bestseller novelist). That is, it wasn't until middle age (and twenty five years of teaching) that Lamb set aside his teaching career and began to write novels. On November 2, 2001, in an address to the National Council on the Arts Lamb states "I became a high school English teacher. And then a father. And, then at the age of 30, a fiction writer." The fact that his first two novels have been so popular is a heartwarming success story in many ways. Lamb's public persona is also positively affected by the ways in which he researches and contributes to the cause of the prominent subject matter in both of his books. He tends to focus on mental illnesses and healing processes in his books, and it is thus appropriate that he donates money to foundations benefitting the mentally ill. In the address to the National Council on the Arts Lamb announced, "My wife and I designate 10% of my book earnings to organizations that help the mentally ill, the victims of domestic violence, and the arts." The public knowledge that Lamb is making efforts to contribute to the solution of the issues that he raises in his books encourages readers to help his cause by buying his books; and if it isn't the prime reason a reader carries his books to the cash register at Barnes and Noble, it still earns Lamb some well-deserved respect. In case readers miss out on the fact that Lamb contributes to foundations for the mentally ill, he includes the following statement on the last page of I Know This Much Is True: "Readers wishing to learn more about or to assist people with Schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses may contact or make charitable contributions to: The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill?" Lamb's public persona certainly adds to the popularity of his books; it's hard to criticize Lamb for choosing subjects that he doesn't know about (obese, depressed females, schizophrenic twins, etc.) when he publicly does so much research and contributes a portion of his earnings to a charitable cause. Political and Cultural Relevance A large part of the success of I Know This Much Is True can be attributed to the condition of society at the time the book was published in 1998. Politically, the book deals with the controversy surrounding war- specifically, the United States' involvement in the Gulf War. Thomas Birdsey, Dominick's schizophrenic twin, amputates his hand in an extremely charged moment of protest against the war. There is a detailed description of the night Dominick and Thomas receive their draft numbers, which is a very tense portion of the book. Dominick spends much of the book ruminating over the senselessness of war, and in choosing the Gulf War as the political backdrop to his novel, Lamb chooses an issue that resonates strongly with readers in the late twentieth century. The Gulf War is recent enough (early 1990's) regarding when the book was published that readers again encounter a sense of familiarity; they are likely to have their own opinions on the war, making the subject interesting regardless of whether audiences agree with Dominick's (or Lamb's?) take on the war. Culturally, the late 90's are known as an era of psychology; it is suddenly acceptable and even glamorous in some circumstances to be in therapy. Thus, the extensive forays into psychology and the workings of the mind also resonate strongly with Lamb's audience. This book is a bildungsroman of sorts, in that we follow Dominick through his childhood and adult years as he struggles to recover his identity and individuality. Lamb employs the character of the "wise Buddhist shrink" to delve into these issues in an entertaining and revealing fashion (Austin Chronicle). Lamb alludes to respected psychologists- such as Freud and Bettleheim to name just two- to show us that he's done his homework on the subject. Finally, as mentioned above, Lamb delves into issues that are especially pertinent to our society in the late 1990's: war, divorce, mental illness, suicide, affairs, SIDS, abuse, racism, etc. In combining all of these aspects of our culture in the late twentieth century- the consequences of war, psychological issues, and pressing social issues- and revealing these issues through the double (and extreme opposite) vision of twin brothers, Lamb gives his reading audience a broad and all-encompassing perspective on our world at the turn of the century. Conclusion: The success of Wally Lamb's I Know This Much Is True cannot be attributed to any one factor; certainly aspects of this book contributed to its success more than others, but ultimately we must look at the convergence of Lamb's masterful style, the marketing techniques, his public persona, and the cultural and political relevance of the novel as active components in producing a best-selling novel. Lamb addresses important issues - be they political or emotional- in a style that engages and moves his audience. Oprah's support of the novel certainly had a huge hand in its success, as she espoused the merit of the book and emphasized the way in which Lamb's personal persona- that of a genuine, sensitive man- mirrors his honest and relaxed writing style. All of these components have come together to put Lamb's I Know This Much Is True on best-selling lists, and in all likelihood Oprah won't be the only one to recommend this book for years to come. Sources: http://www.rambles.net/lamb_true.html http://arts.endow.gov/explore/council11-01/lamb.html http://mostlyfiction.com/contemp/lamb/htm www.usatoday.com/life/enter/books/leb654.htm http://europe/cnn.com/books/reviews/9808/13/this.much.true.cnn/index.html August 13,1998. www.snet.net/features/qa/articles/2000/07170101.shtml http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/vol18/issue43/books.offtheshelf.html Korelitz, Jean Hanff. Los Angeles Times, Home Edition, Book Review, p.14. July 12, 1998.
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