Evans, Nicholas: The Horse Whisperer
(researched by Rebecca Jesada)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
The first edition of The Horse Whisperer, by Nicholas Evans, was published by Delacorte Press in October of 1995, in New York City. The copyright is by Nicholas Evans in 1995. According to the copyright page of the American first edition, the book was "published simultaneously in Canada." A British first edition was also published in 1995 in London, by Bantam. It may be of interest that large print editions were published within the same year as the first edition, in the United States and in England. Book club editions also appeared in the United States in 1995.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The first American edition was published in hardcover, in trade cloth binding.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
208 leaves, [12] p.1-404
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
The first edition of The Horse Whisperer is neither edited nor introduced.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
There are no illustrations.
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
The physical appearance of the book and the text itself is not only attractive but is printed and spaced in such a way that it appears inviting or easy to read. The book spine and jacket, much like the type, are presented in a clean, simple style. The binding is done in a navy blue color, while the book itself is one shade lighter. The text is approachable due to plenty of margin space left on each page: while the pages measure 5.75 by 9 inches, the actual text covers only 4 by 6.625 inches, thereby allowing well over an inch of margin space on all sides and 0.125 inches between lines of text. There are also a few extra lines of space to provide a break within chapters between discrete sequences of events or scenes occurring in different places. The serif type measures 100R. The specific variety of the type is not identified in the verso of the title page, though it falls within the Roman category. The same kind of type in a capitalized, slightly larger version is used for the underlined numbers that head each chapter. Overall, the text and the margin space create a very clean and spacious effect.
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?)
Modern, woven paper is used in the first edition of the book, thus it has no real or imitated chainlines or wiremarks. The paper is an opaque, rich cream color-- heavy and substantial, but not so thick as to be unwieldy. In the first edition held at UVa's Special Collections Library, the paper has held up as if never touched. The circulating edition held by the library, also a first edition, provides further evidence of the paper's quality, since it is in prime condition as well. If any wear can be seen at all, it is in the slight yellowing or darkening of the circulating copy's pages, but that effect is so mild in most parts of the book that it cannot be noticed at all. There are none of the rusted or bruised spots indicating foxing, and there are no tears or stains. The entire book is printed on the same paper stock, excepting those which comprise the endpaper and the inside of each cover, which are a different color (please see number 11).
11 Description of binding(s)
The binding of the first American edition is "dark, blackish blue" cloth which seems most closely to resemble the dotted-line grain variety (or possibly the fine-net grain instead-- it is difficult without excellent magnification to decipher which one). Gold or gilt stamping is used on the book's spine, on which the author's name ("Nicholas Evans") and title ("The Horse Whisperer") appear in a horizontal orientation. "Delacorte Press" appears at the bottom of the spine in a vertical orientation, beneath the publisher's logo, and the author's signature is found at the top of the front cover in the same gold stamping. The endpapers are not illustrated. These papers and the adjoining inner front and back covers are white and speckled rather than cream.
12 Transcription of title page
title page: The HORSE|WHISPERER [rule line] NICHOLAS EVANS [at bottom of page:] Delacorte [publisher's logo] Press verso: "Published by/ Delacorte Press/ Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc./ 1540 Broadway/ New York, New York 10036. Verse from 'On Trust in the Heart' by Seng-t'san (p.xi) translated by D.T./ Suzuki, Manual of Zen Buddhism [italics], Grove Press, 1960. Reprinted courtesy of/ Grove/Atlantic, Inc. Copyright 1995 by Nicholas Evans. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any/ form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying,/ recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written/ permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. The trademark Delacorte Press is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark/ Office. Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data/ Evans, Nicholas, 1950--/ The horse whisperer/by Nicholas Evans./ p. cm. / ISBN 0-385-31523-6 (HC)/ I. Title./ PS3555.V253H67 1995/ 813'.54--dc20 95-17742/ CIP/ Manufactured in the United States of America/ Published simultaneously in Canada/ October 1995/ 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1/ BVG"
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
I was not able to locate the papers of Nicholas Evans, or manuscripts for The Horse Whisperer. Because the author is still living, and because his works have been published within the past ten years, it may be unlikely that his manuscripts would be part of any library holdings yet.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
The dustjacket of the first edition is presented similarly to the text itself, in a very inviting, uncluttered design. A landscape image of mountains forms the backdrop for the front and back of the jacket, with the shadowed profile of a horse in the forefront on the cover. The author's name and the book's title appear in simple, unadorned gold lettering on the bottom and top of the front cover, respectively. The first edition of the book is dedicated on the page following the title page: "For Jennifer." The next page records thanks by the author: "Many thanks are due to the following: Huw Alban Davies, Michelle Hamer, Tim Galer, Josephine Haworth, Patrick de Freitas, Bob Peebles and family, Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt, Buck Brannaman, Leslie Diamond, Lonnie and Darlene Schwend, Beth Ferris and Bob Ream and two truckers, Rick and Chris, who took me for a ride in an anteater. Most of all, I am grateful to four good friends: Fred and Mary Davis, Caradoc King and James Long; and to Robbie Richardson, who first told me about whisperers."
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
Delacorte Press, the first-edition publisher of The Horse Whisperer, also produced a large print, book club edition (689 pages, 22 cm. versus the 404 page, 25 cm. first edition) and a regular book club edition (also 22 cm.)in New York in 1995. A six-hour audio version recorded on cassette tape by Peter Coyote, and published by Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio, was released simultaneously with Delacorte's first edition of the novel.
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?
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
1995óBantam (London) 1995, 1996, 1998- paperback by Dell Publishing (New York) 1995ólarge print edition by Thorndike Press (Thorndike, Maine) 1995ólarge print edition by Chivers Press (Bath, England) 1995óìlarge-type readerî in Volume 86, by Readerís Digest Association (Pleasantville, NY) 1996óCorgi Books (London) 1996óReaderís Digest Association (London) 1996óCondensed version in conjunction with Ken Follett by Readerís Digest Association (Pleasantville, NY) 1996óìCondensed, large-type readerî by Readerís Digest Fund for the Blind, Inc. (Pleasantville, NY) Note: An adaptation of the novel (directed to a lower reading level) by Andy Hopkins, Jocelyn Potter and Nicholas Evans was originally published as an 18 centimeter, 86 page Penguin reader, by Addison Wesley Longman in 1997 and 1999. In 1999 this adaptation was also published by Pearson Education in an illustrated, 20 centimeter, 86 page Penguin version in England.
6 Last date in print?
The Horse Whisperer is in print, as of October, 2002.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
According to Nicholas Evansí website through Random House (information located on the site in October, 2002), there are over 1 million hardcover copies of The Horse Whisperer in print, over 4 million U.S. paperbacks in print, and over 12 million copies in print worldwide. This figure coincides with the Associated Pressí February, 1998 claim that more than 10 million copies were in print worldwide at the time.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
According to The Bowker Annual for 1996, which reviews statistics on literature from the previous year, The Horse Whisperer sold 850,000 copies in 1995, its initial year of publication. As of September 15, 1997, according to Publisher's Weekly, there were 1 million hardcover copies of the book in print, and over 2.5 million copies of the paperback.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
Very little advertising precedes the actual appearance of The Horse Whisperer in print (see number 11), though the 1998 movie version inspired the reviews and trailers typical for all modern, mainstream films. The novel first hit the Publisherís Weekly hardcover bestsellers list in the September 18, 1995 issue. The next week it was listed in the number one position, and stayed there or just below in the second and third spots for many weeks to come. The only actual advertisements appearing in Publisherís Weekly fall in the August 7, 1995 Guide to Fall Books issue. Delacorte, like most other publishing houses, has an ad in this issue announcing upcoming releases under its umbrella company, Dell Publishing. The Horse Whisperer is listed first among the publisherís four October entries, though no picture of the author or the book cover are included. The book is also listed in a compilation at the end of the August 7 issue: ìFall 1995 Hardcovers: Snapshots of a New Season.î In this listing, it is noted that the book was selected for a Readerís Digest condensed version. Advertising for many 1995 releases is extensive, including excerpts and flashy pictures or promotions. Though it is listed and announced, The Horse Whisperer is not advertised independently, in color or in separate advertisements anywhere in the late 1994 or 1995 Publisherís Weekly issues. In the October 2, 1995 issue of the magazine, the audio recording of The Horse Whisperer (the version released at the same time as the book) is reviewed favorably among the routine, weekly reviews. The review includes a very brief plot summary and approval of the taped version, if not high endorsement or endless praise for it. As the article puts it, the performer Peter Coyote has ìgreat gristî for the audio version and ìfor those wanting to throw themselves into a moody abyss, this tape delivers the goods.î This recording of the novel appears later in the issue as the number 9 audio bestseller.
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
The Horse Whisperer, however, was well-known long before its publication. In the Fall of 1994, the book caused quite a media stir. According to a New York Times book review that appeared in September, 1995, the new book had made headlines the previous year when Robert Redfordís film company bought the movie rights for 3 million dollarsó before the book was even finished and before Dell Publishing (the parent company of Delacorte Press) bought American publication rights for 3.15 million. As a result, the book became the object of slight ridicule at times, and favor and wonder at others. When the long-anticipated hardcover appeared September 8, 1995, it received plenty of praise. It seems likely, however, that reviewers were much harder on the book than they might otherwise have been, thanks to all the expectations inspired by its astronomical price, particularly as the first novel ever written by Nicholas Evans. On November 29, 1994, the United Press International ran a domestic news piece entitled ìHuge Investment Rides on First Novel,î in which it is reported that Dell outbid nine other publishers for rights to the book, only after Redfordís Wildwood Productions had bought the 3 million dollar movie rights and Bantam had paid 537,000 dollars for publication rights in the UK. According to this article, translations of the book into several other languages were already under negotiation at this time as well, but more noticeably, the 3 million dollars paid for the movie rights were ìreported to be the largest ever paid for movie rights to a first novel, especially one that is still being written.î It is also claimed, in an Associated Press article from February, 1998, that the first edition reached the number 1 spot on the New York Times bestsellers list ìfaster than any first novel according to Delacorte.î The book was also well promoted, if not in advertising at the time of its initial publication, by the fact of its long run on the New York Times bestsellers list. The hardcover first appeared as a bestseller in the number 3 position on September 24, 1995, only about two weeks after its initial publication. According to the Random House website for Nicholas Evans, the book enjoyed 37 weeks on the list. As late as 1998, the paperback edition could also be found on the New York Times paperback bestsellers list. On August 23, 1998, it appeared as number 14, in its last of 40 weeks on the list. Nicholas Evans also discussed the book in his August 31, 1995 appearance on National Public Radioís ìAll Things Considered.î
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
--6 hour audio recording on 4 cassettes, performed by Peter Coyote. Published by Bantam Doubleday Audio Publishing in New York, New York, 1995. Bantam also published a 6 hour recorded version of the novel on CD, performed by Coyote and released in 1995. And there is a 15 hour Bantam CD version performed by Frank Muller in 1998. --12.75 hour audio recording on 9 cassettes, performed by Frank Muller. Published by Recorded Books in Prince Frederick, MD, 1995. (This company released the movie soundtrack on CD in 1998, as did several other companies that year, including Hollywood Records and MCA Nashville) --12 hour audio recording on 8 cassettes. Published by Books on Tape, Inc. in Newport Beach, California, 1995. (performer not listed) --Movie version on VHS. Released by Touchstone Home Video and distributed by Buena Vista Home Video, in Burbank, California, 1998. Directed by Robert Redford, who also stars in the film alongside Kristin Scott-Thomas. Touchstone also released widescreen, collectorís editions for VHS in 1998 and 1999; a 1998 laserdisc version; and a 1998 widescreen DVD version.
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
(The Horse Whisperer, according to the publisherís information on its Nicholas Evans web page, has been translated into 36 languages. The name and address of the publishing company in each of the 36 countries is listed on the website. Only the 10 translations found below could be located through Worldcat, and even fewer result from a Eureka search.) -- [Spanish] El Hombre que susurraba al oido de los caballos. Barcelona: Plaze and Jones, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998. -- [Polish] Zaklinacz Koni. Poznan: Zysk I s-ka, 1996. -- [Korean] Soksaginun Saram. Soul Tíukpyolsi: Sigongsa, 1996. -- [German] Der Pferdeflusterer: Roman. Munchen: Goldmann, 1995. (Also published in Munchen in 1995 by C. Bertelsmann) -- [French] Líhomme qui murmurait a líoreille des chevaux. Paris: Albin Michel, 1996, 1997. -- [Chinese] Hui shuo ma hua di ren. Taibei Shi: Guo ji cun wen ku shu dian, 1996 (Also published in Beijing in 1996 by Zuo jia chu ban she) -- [Hebrew] ha-Lohesh le-susim. Yehudah: Sifriyat Maíariu, 1996. -- [Turkish] Atlara fisildayan adam. Istanbul: Inkilap Kitabevi, 1997. -- [Czech] Zarikavac Koni. Prague: Knizni klub, 1996. -- [Romanian] Tamaduitorul. Bucarest: Vivaldi, 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
n/a
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
Like many others, Nicholas Evans came to the world of fiction through a somewhat circuitous route. Nonetheless, it seems almost fated that many facets of his own life experience would later inform his hugely successful novels. As the author's website details, he "spent his childhood in the English countryside watching American westerns on TV, riding horses, and reading Jack London books" (author's personal website). The influence of all three activities would eventually find their way into The Horse Whisperer, Evans' first novel and an international bestseller. Published in 1995, the book was created by a forty-five year old Evans; he had spent his life until then writing everything but novels. Born in Worcestershire, England in 1950, Evans grew up there and eventually graduated with honors after studying law at Oxford University. He spent three years working as a journalist in the English town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, then produced films on politics for a weekly TV program called Weekend World. The year 1982 found the soon-to-be author producing his own documentaries on notable characters such as famous writers and painters, including a 1983 film on well-known film director David Lean. Though a few of his documentaries won international awards, ten years of writing and producing for the screen left Evans struggling financially, so the timing was right when he met a blacksmith in Southwestern England in 1993? the blacksmith who has come to mark a turning point in Evans' career. The stranger shared with Evans the phenomenon of horse whisperers, and soon after the screenwriter began work on his first novel (information in this paragraph from Random House website). Evans decided to set his book in the United States, then spent six weeks "interviewing animal healers and witnessing awful equine exorcisms" out West, while trying to gather background information and inspiration (author's personal website). He did his actual writing in London, and caused quite a media frenzy by raking in three million dollars for the movie rights and over three million dollars for the American publication rights alone, before the book was even finished (please see assignment two in this database for further details). The Horse Whisperer ultimately brought in over eight million dollars for the struggling Evans, setting him on the path to future novel-writing and ending his financial worries forever. If the book was already a popular hit, the movie? produced in 1998 with leads Robert Redford and Kristin Scott-Thomas? made it even more visible. It was also recorded in several audio versions, and translated into thirty-six languages, quickly becoming a bestseller in many other countries. Following on the great success of his initial novel, Evans published The Loop in 1998, with Delacorte Press, and The Smoke Jumper in 2001, with Bantam. Both international bestsellers weave unlikely love stories into political plots. The Loop, for instance, takes such similar subjects for its inspiration that it could almost be a follow-up to The Horse Whisperer. This second novel is also set in Montana, and also deals with animals (this time the reintroduction of wolves into the West) and a love affair, though it is more explicitly political (Publisher's Weekly: June 29, 1998). Among the author's other works are his screenplays Just Like a Woman and Murder By the Book. Evans has been fortunate to enjoy a long relationship with publishing maven Carole Baron. As the author sees it, "it was she who originally had faith in me as a first-time novelist. Her guidance as editor and publisher has made a crucial contribution to my writing" (Penguin Putnam press release). Baron was Evans' original agent for The Horse Whisperer, then moved from the Delacorte Press. As the president of Penguin Putnam, she has become his publisher once again. In the company's May 14, 2002 press release, it announced the acquisition of the hardcover and paperback publication rights for Evans' next two novels, the first of which is slated for 2004 (Penguin Putnam press release). Evans now lives between two homes in London and Devon, England with his second wife Jennifer. He has three children in their early twenties (January magazine article). A certain intrigue has surrounded the author since his early and unexpected success with The Horse Whisperer. Evans, however, seems unaffected; he is full of spirit and humor, and treats his success as if practically accidental (January magazine article) Works Cited: Contemporary Authors (available online through University of Virginia/Virgo/Reference Sources with search term "Nicholas Evans"); Nicholas Evans website through Random House (available online at www.randomhouse.com/features/nickevans/); Nicholas Evans' own website (available online at http://literati.net/Evans/); Penguin Putnam press release, May 14, 2002 (available online at www.penguinputnam.com/static/packages/us/about/press/press48.pdf); Publisher's Weekly: June 29, 1998. Pg. 34. Volume 245, Numbers 18-26: May-June, 1998; January magazine interview with Nicholas Evans, by Linda Richards, September 2001 (available online at www.januarymagazine.com/profiles/evans)
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
The sales figures prove it: The Horse Whisperer was an enormous popular success and had many followers. Yet the book did not fare well in the hands of many literary critics. As Deirdre Donahue, who has written reviews of all three of Nicholas Evans' novels, wrote in USA Today, "The Horse Whisperer has taken a savage flogging from critics. With some exceptions, reviewers have sneered at this tale of a middle-aged magazine editor finding (adulterous) passion in Montana?" (USA Today: September 14, 1995). As it turned out, Donahue was proven both right and wrong in the five years following the book's publication. That time period offers a wide variety of critical responses, from the laudatory to the downright derogatory, with several themes in common. Most of all, it is impossible to ignore the huge impact of the media frenzy surrounding the book before its actual release, when publication and movie rights were sold for over six million dollars total before the writing was even completed. These numbers were astronomical by most standards, and especially so for a first novel. Most contemporary responses to the book reveal bias towards or against it influenced by the resulting anticipation surrounding its arrival. It is somewhat difficult to find reviews which truly treat the book for itself, while it is easy to find reviews which feel more like a response to the figure six million dollars (and all the implications that such a number holds for various critics of various backgrounds according to their values relative to money). As Donahue confesses? and in doing so once again summarizes the reactions of others, "Price tags should never define a book. But it's dreadfully hard to read this much-touted, just-published tale ? and not dwell on the 3.15 million dollars the publisher shelled out for this first novel" (USA Today: September 7, 1995). Though some critics felt the work was worth the wait, not to mention every penny, the majority seemed disappointed; the difficulty arises from trying to separate their disappointment over the book's own qualities as compared to any other book, and their disappointment over the actual finished product compared to the idea of what several million dollars should be worth, particularly next to what other first novels typically accrue (considerably less). It seems likely that the media attention prior to the book's publication hurt its reception in the end, by raising expectations so high that it was bound to disappoint? perhaps one reason the book was not only disliked by many critics but perceived as disliked by critics, although there were plenty of favorable reviews to be found as well. Favorable and unfavorable reviews of The Horse Whisperer tend to divide fairly obviously between those who want to judge it against high art and literature, and those who simply believe that "sometimes you need diversion not elevation" (USA Today: September 8, 1998). For those of the latter category, the book combined just the right melange of themes and romance to create "a book of rare power and beauty, a story told simply but elegantly?" (Booklist review: August 1995, located in Book Review Digest, 92nd edition). The praise received by the book seemed especially based on reviewing it in the context of a pleasurable page-turner and nothing more. Those who took a more uppity tone, on the other hand, absolutely bashed the book and its author, mocking their bestselling status and lack of ability to deliver goods that had been purchased at such high stakes. In many such reviews, the novel is framed as a commercial sell-out in a sense, demonstrating a "patently cinematic fashion" as if it were written only for the sake of money and commercial success (London Times: September 30, 1995). In London's Sunday Times, Tom Shone wrote, "It's a novel about a horse with psychological problems, a horse in need of a horse shrink, the horse whisperer of the title, a sun-bleached, blond-haired, blue-eyed man called Tom Booker (which explains Redford's interest and, sure, it will make for another of his beautiful, humourless movies in praise of the great outdoors)" (Sunday Times: October 1, 1995). This kind of sarcasm also found its way into reviews of Evans' subsequent novels, which have almost invariably been compared with The Horse Whisperer due to their similar themes. According to Erik Burns' review of The Loop, which was published in 1998, the author's typical downfall in general is a "sometimes melodramatic fashion," while his characters suffer from "interactions" that are nothing more than "the stuff of breathless romance" (New York Times Books in Brief: October 11, 1998). Burns was generous, however, compared to critics who teased the author for his cliched themes, and romantic similarities to Robert Waller's book The Bridges of Madison County. Perhaps the most scathing review of Evans' first novel? and the reviewer seems well-known for it?appeared in the New York Times, written by Michiko Kakutani. "It is clear that the novel's purchasers have paid for nothing more than a hodgepodge recycling of old movies and bad books," she wrote. "The result: a sappy romance novel, gussied up with some sentimental claptrap about the emotional life of animals and lots of walleresque hooey about men and women. ? Mr. Evans has absolutely no feel for the landscape he is describing and even less insight into his characters. Annie is a parody of a cold, driven New York executive who is transformed into a deeply feeling woman by a Marlboro man's passionate love" (New York Times: September 5, 1995). Nonetheless, aside from those like Kakutani, who seem almost as if they have an axe to grind, most of the critics who were disappointed by The Horse Whisperer grudgingly admit and confess by the end of their reviews that certain aspects of the book show undeniable talent. Most commonly praised by those who otherwise disliked the novel is Evans' ability to portray nature and the landscapes and feelings of the American West. Erik Burns, for instance, put it this way: "His true gifts are demonstrated in his colorful, captivating depictions of the land" (Sunday Times: October 11, 1998). Sources: Buchan, Elizabeth. "Tears Reined in by Pain." London Times: September 30, 1995; Burns, Erik. (Books in Brief, review of The Loop). New York Times: October 11, 1998; Donahue, Deirdre. "Big Gamble for Evans' ?Horse' doesn't quite pay off for reader." USA Today final edition: September 7, 1995; Donahue, Deirdre. "An entertaining glimpse into lupine life." USA Today: September 8, 1995; Donahue, Deirdre. "Horse Whisperer Fast out of the Gate." USA Today final edition: September 14, 1995; Kakutani, Michiko. "Books of the Times; A 6 Million Dollar ?Horse' Finally Arrives for Inspection." New York Times late edition, final: September 5, 1995; Needham, George. (book review). Booklist. Volume 91, page 1909. August, 1995. (found in the Book Review Digest, 92nd edition: March 1996-February 1997. New York: H.W. Wilson Co., 1997. Alderman reference Z1219.C96); Shone, Tom. "A Mad Gallop to Nowhere." (London) Sunday Times: October 1, 1995. These articles can be found online through most databases, such as Virgo/LexisNexis guided news source search, with terms "Nicholas Evans," "The Horse Whisperer," and "The Loop."
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
The sales figures prove it: The Horse Whisperer was an enormous popular success and had many followers. Yet the book did not fare well in the hands of many literary critics. As Deirdre Donahue, who has written reviews of all three of Nicholas Evans' novels, wrote in USA Today, "The Horse Whisperer has taken a savage flogging from critics. With some exceptions, reviewers have sneered at this tale of a middle-aged magazine editor finding (adulterous) passion in Montana?" (USA Today: September 14, 1995). As it turned out, Donahue was proven both right and wrong in the five years following the book's publication. That time period offers a wide variety of critical responses, from the laudatory to the downright derogatory, with several themes in common. Most of all, it is impossible to ignore the huge impact of the media frenzy surrounding the book before its actual release, when publication and movie rights were sold for over six million dollars total before the writing was even completed. These numbers were astronomical by most standards, and especially so for a first novel. Most contemporary responses to the book reveal bias towards or against it influenced by the resulting anticipation surrounding its arrival. It is somewhat difficult to find reviews which truly treat the book for itself, while it is easy to find reviews which feel more like a response to the figure six million dollars (and all the implications that such a number holds for various critics of various backgrounds according to their values relative to money). As Donahue confesses? and in doing so once again summarizes the reactions of others, "Price tags should never define a book. But it's dreadfully hard to read this much-touted, just-published tale ? and not dwell on the 3.15 million dollars the publisher shelled out for this first novel" (USA Today: September 7, 1995). Though some critics felt the work was worth the wait, not to mention every penny, the majority seemed disappointed; the difficulty arises from trying to separate their disappointment over the book's own qualities as compared to any other book, and their disappointment over the actual finished product compared to the idea of what several million dollars should be worth, particularly next to what other first novels typically accrue (considerably less). It seems likely that the media attention prior to the book's publication hurt its reception in the end, by raising expectations so high that it was bound to disappoint? perhaps one reason the book was not only disliked by many critics but perceived as disliked by critics, although there were plenty of favorable reviews to be found as well. Favorable and unfavorable reviews of The Horse Whisperer tend to divide fairly obviously between those who want to judge it against high art and literature, and those who simply believe that "sometimes you need diversion not elevation" (USA Today: September 8, 1998). For those of the latter category, the book combined just the right melange of themes and romance to create "a book of rare power and beauty, a story told simply but elegantly?" (Booklist review: August 1995, located in Book Review Digest, 92nd edition). The praise received by the book seemed especially based on reviewing it in the context of a pleasurable page-turner and nothing more. Those who took a more uppity tone, on the other hand, absolutely bashed the book and its author, mocking their bestselling status and lack of ability to deliver goods that had been purchased at such high stakes. In many such reviews, the novel is framed as a commercial sell-out in a sense, demonstrating a "patently cinematic fashion" as if it were written only for the sake of money and commercial success (London Times: September 30, 1995). In London's Sunday Times, Tom Shone wrote, "It's a novel about a horse with psychological problems, a horse in need of a horse shrink, the horse whisperer of the title, a sun-bleached, blond-haired, blue-eyed man called Tom Booker (which explains Redford's interest and, sure, it will make for another of his beautiful, humourless movies in praise of the great outdoors)" (Sunday Times: October 1, 1995). This kind of sarcasm also found its way into reviews of Evans' subsequent novels, which have almost invariably been compared with The Horse Whisperer due to their similar themes. According to Erik Burns' review of The Loop, which was published in 1998, the author's typical downfall in general is a "sometimes melodramatic fashion," while his characters suffer from "interactions" that are nothing more than "the stuff of breathless romance" (New York Times Books in Brief: October 11, 1998). Burns was generous, however, compared to critics who teased the author for his cliched themes, and romantic similarities to Robert Waller's book The Bridges of Madison County. Perhaps the most scathing review of Evans' first novel? and the reviewer seems well-known for it?appeared in the New York Times, written by Michiko Kakutani. "It is clear that the novel's purchasers have paid for nothing more than a hodgepodge recycling of old movies and bad books," she wrote. "The result: a sappy romance novel, gussied up with some sentimental claptrap about the emotional life of animals and lots of walleresque hooey about men and women. ? Mr. Evans has absolutely no feel for the landscape he is describing and even less insight into his characters. Annie is a parody of a cold, driven New York executive who is transformed into a deeply feeling woman by a Marlboro man's passionate love" (New York Times: September 5, 1995). Nonetheless, aside from those like Kakutani, who seem almost as if they have an axe to grind, most of the critics who were disappointed by The Horse Whisperer grudgingly admit and confess by the end of their reviews that certain aspects of the book show undeniable talent. Most commonly praised by those who otherwise disliked the novel is Evans' ability to portray nature and the landscapes and feelings of the American West. Erik Burns, for instance, put it this way: "His true gifts are demonstrated in his colorful, captivating depictions of the land" (Sunday Times: October 11, 1998). Sources: Buchan, Elizabeth. "Tears Reined in by Pain." London Times: September 30, 1995; Burns, Erik. (Books in Brief, review of The Loop). New York Times: October 11, 1998; Donahue, Deirdre. "Big Gamble for Evans' ?Horse' doesn't quite pay off for reader." USA Today final edition: September 7, 1995; Donahue, Deirdre. "An entertaining glimpse into lupine life." USA Today: September 8, 1995; Donahue, Deirdre. "Horse Whisperer Fast out of the Gate." USA Today final edition: September 14, 1995; Kakutani, Michiko. "Books of the Times; A 6 Million Dollar ?Horse' Finally Arrives for Inspection." New York Times late edition, final: September 5, 1995; Needham, George. (book review). Booklist. Volume 91, page 1909. August, 1995. (found in the Book Review Digest, 92nd edition: March 1996-February 1997. New York: H.W. Wilson Co., 1997. Alderman reference Z1219.C96); Shone, Tom. "A Mad Gallop to Nowhere." (London) Sunday Times: October 1, 1995. These articles can be found online through most databases, such as Virgo/LexisNexis guided news source search, with terms "Nicholas Evans," "The Horse Whisperer," and "The Loop."
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
"There was death at its beginning, as there would be death again at its end" (Evans 3). But there was also the aesthetic beauty of youth and the countryside, the foreboding stillness and sense of danger, the glimmer of romance and privilege, and a struggle to overcome adversity. The Horse Whisperer expertly weaves such elements into its storyline from start to finish. Few who have seen the movie or read the book could forget its terrifyingly violent opening scenes, in which "forty tons of steel," driven by a tired trucker named Wayne Tanner, collide into two girls on horseback during the winter's first snowfall (Evans 24). One of the girls and her horse are crushed to death. The speeding trucker? en route to make deliveries at a mill via the narrow, country lane? attempts too late to brake after seeing the horses, who are slipping wildly on the ice and down a steep embankment into the road. Grace MacLean, the second girl, survives the accident after losing a leg, but her horse Pilgrim, who is kept alive against all advice, comes to mirror her broken spirit in his seemingly ruined body. Grace's workaholic mother, on the other hand, puts her won't-take-no attitude to work within the family and embarks on an adventure to bring her daughter, the horse, and herself back to a life with meaning. It is the ensuing physical and psychological struggles that make up the backbone of Nicholas Evans' first novel. Having sold 850,000 copies in its initial year of publication, 1995, The Horse Whisperer became a clear bestseller (The Bowker Annual). Just two years later there were one million hardcover copies of the book in print, and over two and a half million paperback copies (Publisher's Weekly: September 15, 1997). The book was then translated into thirty-six languages. By almost any standard it was quite a success, particularly for a first novel. But what was it about this romantic story that appealed to so many readers? Most obviously, there are the common aspects of the book: themes often found in bestsellers such as love, money, risk, and struggle. Then there were the uncommon aspects: the fact that it is a first novel and most of all, the preceding media frenzy that made it an object of controversy and interest before it was published. Many would argue that it was this advance media attention? inspired before the book was even finished by the sale of its movie and American publication rights for over six million dollars combined? that made it a bestseller (The New York Times Book Review: September 24, 1995). There does seem to be a certain class of novels which become bestsellers based on media hype, whether from timely cultural relevance or political reaction. The Satanic Verses, by famed author Salmon Rushdie, would fit into just such a category. The Horse Whisperer, however much detractors want it to fit into this same genre, does not. It is true that the main standard by which a bestseller is measured is its sales figures, and it is true that the media intrigue before the actual appearance of The Horse Whisperer did most likely increase sales. Yet it is also true that this number-crunching obsession has created a sort of mocking suspicion of the actual quality, or lack thereof, of bestselling works; the result is that the bestseller has often been taken out of context and held up to highly literary standards more appropriate for, say, the Western Canon. The consequence has been a competitive divide with literary academics or private intellectuals on one side, and public intellectuals or those who are willing to write what makes a buck on the other side. This superficial competition doesn't do much for either group and tends to obscure the possibility of there being some genuine value in bestsellers. It may not be the value a scholar seeks, but there is something to be said about a book that sells millions of copies to modern readers who not only have many other entertainment options, but options which are more convenient and less expensive, from TV to the internet. Most bestsellers aren't exactly Shakespeare, but they still represent one of the few remaining forms of the written word which modern consumers want. Many of them do tap into classic themes and struggles, but they do it with a modern style that is less taxing and more pleasurably page-turning, so that the genre of the bestseller represents a sort of hybrid form of literature, one of the few to be read outside the classroom these days. The Horse Whisperer falls into this popular, hybrid category. The media attention it received may have helped its sales figures, but more importantly, the novel embodies patterns found throughout popular, twentieth century fiction. In The Horse Whisperer, Evans adopts a style in his use of imagery, characterization, and theme, which connects readers with epic ideas like the American dream while also tapping into personal struggles with which they can identify. Evans' masterful use of imagery is our first introduction to this insightful style? insightful for offering modern readers what they are hungry for and can no longer expect to find in every novel, something beautiful or sensually pleasing. Most notably, the author uses detailed descriptions of country landscapes and nature to evoke the epic, effectively creating a connection between readers and a larger force beyond them. This technique adds historical or almost religious overtones to the story, giving it in places a more powerful perspective reminiscent of the picturesque found in eighteenth century novels: "It was in America that horses first roamed. A million years before the birth of man, they grazed the vast plains of wiry grass and crossed to other continents over bridges of rock soon severed by retreating ice. They first knew man as the hunted knows the hunter?." (Evans 105). Against this backdrop, Evans' tale becomes more than the story of one woman or one family. The use of epic imagery adds a kind of credibility, another layer through which one family's story becomes attached to something larger, to a history related to them and yet greater. This grander scheme seems to bring The Horse Whisperer somewhat closer to the content of many "classic" novels, which tend to be tied more directly to events of great, objective and historical import than the modern novels that often take one person's psyche as the main event. Evans particularly uses the natural landscape of the West to unite his characters' internal struggles with the struggles of those that went before them. On their way to the ranch in Montana, for instance, Grace and her mother Annie make a pit stop at Little Bighorn Battlefield. It is there that they get into an argument and release all their pent up frustration and sadness in a sort of climactic, combined breakdown, which drives Annie from the car into a solitary walk down the road. She finds herself at the top of a hill and begins to cry. "On this hillside, on a June day in 1876," writes Evans, "George Armstrong Custer and more than two hundred soldiers were cut to pieces by those they had sought to slaughter. Their names were etched in the stone. Annie turned to look down the hill at the scattered white tombstones. They cast long shadows in the last pale reach of the sun. She stood there and looked out across the vast, rolling plains of wind-flattened grass that stretched away from this sorrowful place to a horizon where sorrow was infinite. And she started to weep" (Evans 177). In this passage, the author does much more than describe the scene. He also connects Annie's suffering to those that have passed through before her, to death, the infinite, and the appropriately desolate and oppressive plains before her. This imagery adds depth to Annie's pain and makes it seem somehow more legitimate, more important, by framing it against history and a vast landscape that also captures or reflects her mood. Evans' use of the epic not only lends the narrative a certain authority felt by readers, but also makes their job both easier and more quickly fulfilling. With his imagery, he makes the connections for us; this way, we don't put the book down and feel unsettled by a missing, emotional link which we are then compelled to seek for ourselves. Instead the ways in which Annie and Grace's struggle is infinite and important are already packaged for us, and presented within the text itself. The author's ease with descriptions of the physical or natural carries over to his technique of characterization. He often uses physical descriptions of the characters to reflect internal or emotional states, fulfilling a natural logic we might wish we could find in reality and which reassures us: the outside matches the inside. Grace's father Robert, for instance, is presented as a sturdy, reliable, no-nonsense figure. As a lawyer, his job seems to reflect his objectively stable, rational, and naturally successful personality. Robert is so practical and straightforward that even when it comes to the bedroom, this aspect of his persona is revealed: "?he'd always believed sex, like the law, was best practiced with all due diligence" (Evans 37). It is fittingly reliable, then, that his outward appearance matches this description, too: "his [wardrobe] was all button-down collars and corduroy ?. It was L.L. Bean" (Evans 37). In a similar connection between the internal and external, Annie is described, while dating her soon-to-be-husband as "the Sex Pistols," with a wardrobe "full of black leather and safety pins," which seems to accurately capture her fiery, emotional and more daring personality (Evans 37). Again, Evans has made things fit together so well that we have no work left to do. The characters look like they feel, wear clothes that describe their personas. In a similar vein, the author extends this kind of metaphor or stylistic detail to the extent that physical traits describe or match the internal struggles around which the book really revolves. The amputation of Grace's leg, for example, has an obvious correlation to her loss of spirit, confidence, and happiness. Tellingly, her physical pain and difficulties in walking with her new prosthetic leg ease noticeably as the story wears on and her heart begins to heal. On the ranch, where she begins to feel herself useful and loved once again, Grace uses her cane less and less frequently. As her admiration for the horse whisperer, Tom Booker, grows and as she starts to repair her resentment against her mother, she also starts walking with less of a limp, and eventually riding. And it is her final physical triumph of the book, riding her own horse again at its close, which marks the completion of her emotional healing. She celebrates this journey at the party given in her honor after she rides Pilgrim, and it is clear that Grace has not only learned to walk and ride again with a fake leg, but she has regained her self-acceptance and image of herself. As she feels after the party, "the image she'd had of herself was thrilling. She could whirl, she could shimmy, she could even jive. ? She could do anything? For the first time in her new life, perhaps even her whole life, she felt beautiful" (Evans 424). As she feels beautiful she becomes functional on the outside, too, and in this way Grace's character, like her parents', fulfills a certain expectation or hope that never seems to pan out so reliably in real life? when we feel beautiful, we look beautiful. Within the world of The Horse Whisperer this fantasy becomes possible and offers readers a slight suspension of disbelief that is found in any piece of literature which millions of people around the world are willing to buy. Modern readers may be criticized for their glib cynicism, their modern blasé entitlement, but more than anyone they need a little fantasy escape, too, and can appreciate this fictional world in which you can look beautiful and be successful if you feel beautiful and whole inside. The novel is definitely about finding beauty, and through its themes more than any other vehicle, we are offered the possibility of doing just that, however fantastical, in our lives and in the book. What Evans does most successfully? and what makes his first novel a bestseller more dynamically than any other single factor? is to choose themes which everyone can relate to and therefore have a stake in: romantic love, marital conflict and sadness, motherhood versus career, loss and renewal. The author weaves these old themes into a story with a new and uniquely American twist. It is the American Dream of hope and rebirth in a new life, but this time it is for the already rich, white American rather than the immigrant or those on the outskirts of society. It is the same story, though, of seeking a new way of existing and of understanding this existence in relation to others. It is a story of forgiving, trying over, going West, finding solace in nature, rebuilding a life that has been ruined, and overcoming major adversity to do so. The entire MacLean family is on this quest and ultimately is successful, albeit in a somewhat odd way (in the ending of the book, as opposed to the movie, Tom Booker is killed by a wild stallion, but Grace perseveres in her new health through this further conflict. Annie also sticks by her family, but they only are brought together again by the birth of another child she thought she could never have, which is probably Tom's). Most of all, though, The Horse Whisperer offers the modern reader a vision of the possibility for renewal many yearn for in their own lives. Against all odds Grace gets better, the horse lives, and they essentially return to their initial status as the book opens: beautiful and privileged, making tracks across the virgin, snowy landscape. In an American ideal, though, she does come out less innocent, and much tougher. She is a survivor, and the entire story seems worth the effort because of the almost-Hollywood ending that allows us to imbue the hardship with some kind of inherent meaning, since everyone learned something, healed their heart and came out better people. The book also offers a sort of carpe-diem attitude many find impossible to actually live, but idealize in their minds. Running against our somewhat American and tired attachment to material success, there is a strain in the book that shows us it is okay to up and leave your fancy executive position in Manhattan and romance it under the stars of Montana. In real life we have practical concerns such as social attachments, finances, and reputation. But in the book, Annie gets the luxury of leaving it all behind, doing precisely what she wants to in the moment of her passion. Tom Booker's father summarizes this philosophy best, crystallizing the great fantasy and promise of the book? both slightly possible and impossible within our own lives? which attracts us most and gives this book value to modern readers, despite the dubious critics of the very genre of bestseller: " ?I guess that's all forever is ? just one long trail of nows. And I guess all you can do is try and live one now at a time without getting too worked up about the last now or the next now' " (Evans 123). Sources: Evans, Nicholas. The Horse Whisperer. New York: Dell, 1996 ; Publisher's Weekly: September 15, 1997 (www.publishersweekly.com) ; The Bowker Annual. 41st edition: 1996. New Providence, New Jersey: Bowker/A. Reed Reference Publishing Co., 1996 ; The New York Times Book Review: September 24, 1995 (available online through Lexis-Nexis).
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