Bantock, Nick: The Golden Mean
(researched by Karin Suni)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Nick Bantock. The golden mean : in which the extraordinary correspondence of Griffin & Sabine concludes. First American Edition: San Francisco : Chronicle Books, 1993. First Canadian Edition: Vancouver : Raincoast Books, 1993. First British Edition: London : MacMillan London, 1993. First Australian Edition: Chippendale, [N.S.W.] : Macmillan Australia, 1993.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The first edition is published in medium olive hardcover with a dust jacket. As of 2006, there has not been a paperback edition published.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
24 leaves, unnumbered [pp. 1-48]. Note: Tipped in material (envelope) on p. 16, 26, 34, 36. Laid in material (folded letters) on p. 16, 26, 34, 36.
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
The first edition is neither edited nor introduced.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
All illustrations were done by Nick Bantock. All pages except 2, 4, 6, 43, 44, 48 have multicolor illustrations including the 4 folded letters. There are multicolor vignette illustrations on 1, 3, 5, 47. There is multicolor illustrated matter on the end papers.
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 page size is 19.8 cm x 19.9 cm except for the 4 folded letters which are all 28 cm x 21.7 cm. There is not a consistent page border as the size of the illustrations which contain the text vary in size and orientation. The text is written in five typefaces, three of which based on handwriting. One is sans-serif and block letters. One is a sans-serif, brush script. One is an upright sans-serif script. These handwritten typefaces vary slightly from text box to text box as they are more part of the illustration than blocks of text. The two that are not handwriting are Times New Roman and Courier. There is no consistent size to the text even within each typeface. All but the upright sans-serif script are easily readable.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The paper has a straight edge on all sides and is coated to make it both smooth and glossy to better display the illustrations. The color of the paper varies usually forming a page border for the illustrative matter. There are a total of five different paper colors. Pages 1-6, 43-44, 47-48 are white. Pages 7-8, 11-12, 15-16, 19-20, 23-24, 29-30, 33-34, 37-38, 41-42 are pale yellow and have an open weave cloth faux texture. Pages 45-46 are moderate olive brown and have a parchment faux texture. Pages 21-22, 27-28 are light olive brown with a wood grain faux texture. Pages 9-10, 13-14, 17-18, 25-26, 31-32, 35-36, 39-40 are dark olive brown with a stone faux texture.
11 Description of binding(s)
The book is bound in medium olive hardcover with a gold spine with no cloth covering. The title information is not stamped but simply printed on in gold with a small red vignette under the title. There is a dust jacket. There are multicolored endpapers. Front Cover: THE GOLDEN MEAN | In Which | The Extraordinary Correspondence of | Griffin & Sabine Concludes | [Red Vignette] Spine - All text is horizontal in medium olive. THE GOLDEN MEAN | [Multicolor Vignette] | Nick Bantock | Chronicle Books There is no printing on the back cover. A gathering of four signatures each consisting of six leaves have been stitched together and glued to the spine.
12 Transcription of title page
Recto: THE GOLDEN MEAN | In Which | The Extraordinary Correspondence of | Griffin & Sabine Concludes | [Multicolor Vignette] | Written and Illustrated | by | Nick Bantock | Chronicle Books San Francisco Verso: Copyright © 1993 by Nick Bantock. | All rights reserved. | No portion of this book may be reproduced | in any form without written permission from the publisher. | Printed in China | Bantock, Nick. | The golden mean: in which the extraordinary correspondence of | Griffin & Sabine concludes / written and illustrated by Nick Bantock. | p. cm. | ISBN 0-8118-0298-1 (hb) | 1. Imaginary letters. 2. Toy and moveable books - Specimens | I. Title. | PR6052.A54G65 1993 | 823'.914 - dc20 92-47350 | CIP | 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 | Chronicle Books | 275 Fifth Street | San Francisco, California 94103
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
Unknown. One piece of original art that was incorporated into the book is available for sale on the author's website.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
Dust Jacket: Inside front flap: I received your Paris card. I waited but you did not return on the 23rd. I waited until the 31st, but you did not return. What happened? Where are you? -Sabine Sabine's Notebook ended with a disturbing disclosure - Griffin and Sabine had somehow eluded each other once again. The Golden Mean begins with an even more disturbing development: I was sure I understood. Yet you were not here when I returned, and there was no sign that you ever had been here... Today comes your card, saying that you were in this house for seven days after my return. I am bewildered... -Griffin It seems that each cannot exist in the presence of the other. Yet neither can continue without the presence of the other. And so, in this final volume of the Griffin & Sabine trilogy, they struggle against the mysterious forces that keep them apart. Time is running out: Sabine's crystalline visions of Griffin's artwork grow cloudy and dim, and a threatening stranger begins to appear everywhere she goes. The Golden Mean is the tale of Griffin and Sabine's journey towards one another, sometimes dreamy, sometimes desperate, sometimes nightmarish. The golden mean - the harmony of perfect balance - is what they seek in the haunting conclusion of this extraordinary correspondence. Told in the compelling style of the first two best- selling volumes of the trilogy, The Golden Mean allows readers to open richly decorated envelopes and draw forth intricately illustrated letter, to decipher the quirky handwritten postcards with their macabre and magical artwork, to indulge, in other words, in the wonderfully illicit activity of reading someone else's mail. Inside back flap: Nick Bantock is an artist, illustrator, writer, and cre- ator of pop-up books. Among his other books are Jabberwocky, Solomon Grundy, Griffin & Sabine, and Sabine's Notebook. Born in England in 1949, he now lives with his wife and four children on an island off Vancouver. Back cover: With potent, dreamlike art and compelling prose, the first two volumes of this extraordinary trilogy have captured the creative imaginations of readers and literary reviewers around the world. USA Today called Griffin & Sabine "wonderous, ingenious," and "gorgeous." The San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "The somewhat conspiratorial thrill of reading other people's mail...becomes so infectious, it's impossible to stop until the book's end." Now, in this final volume, the two artists' haunting correspondence comes to an astonishing conclusion. Dedication on p. 5: "To Annie Barrows"
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
There are no other singular editions of this book. There are, however, two boxed sets that include a copy of the book that is identical to the single copy. The first boxed set, Griffin & Sabine Trilogy was published by Chronicle Book is November 1994. It includes Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence, Sabine's Notebook: In Which The Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Continues and The Golden Mean: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Concludes in a slipcase designed by the author. The second boxed set, Griffin & Sabine Deluxe 6-Volume Boxed Set, was published by Chronicle Books in November 2004. It includes the books that appear in the Griffin & Sabine Trilogy and the second trilogy The Gryphon: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Is Rediscovered, Alexandria: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Unfolds and The Morning Star: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Is Illuminated. A wooden box decorated with original artwork holds the six books and an exclusive print initialed by the author. Source: www.chroniclebooks.com
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?
First printing: 300,000 (315,000 with overruns) Second printing: 50,000 Third printing: 100,000 Source: Maryles, Daisy. "Behind The Bestsellers." Publisher's Weekly 13 Sept 1993: 18.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
For simultaneous parallel international editions, please see Assignment 1, Question 1.
6 Last date in print?
March 2006: The book is still in print. Source: www.booksinprint.com
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
590,044 copies of the book in 1993. Source: The Bowker Annual: Library and Book Trade Almanac. Ed. Catherine Barr. 39th ed. New Providence, NJ: R. R. Bowker, 1994. The first three books combined had sold over 3,000,000 copies all together as of 2000. Source: www.nickbantock.com
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
Unknown.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
The same ad was run in the New York Times in October, November and December. It features a picture of one of the envelopes in the book and one of the stamps. The text reads: The Final Volume in the Unforgettable Trilogy THE GOLDEN MEAN In Which The Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Concludes Written and Illustrated by Nick Bantock $17.95 Hardcover Also available: GRIFFIN & SABINE An Extraordinary Correspondence SABINE'S NOTEBOOK In Which The Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Continues Available at bookstores everywhere. CHRONICLE BOOKS Toll-free: 1-800-722-6657 Please add $3.50 for shipping. Source: New York Times 3 Oct 1993: 329. New York Times 21 Nov 1993: BR16. New York Times 12 Dec 1993: 351. Chronicle Books had a two page spread displaying a large number of titles from their catalog. The Golden Mean was the first book listed. Source: Publisher's Weekly 9 Aug 1993.
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
The book was a selection for the Book Of The Month Club and Quality Paperback Books. Source: Publisher's Weekly 9 Aug 1993: 100. Publishing Mills, Inc. placed an ad for the audio book which read: BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD with THE GOLDEN MEAN by Nick Bantock $10.95 The third in the Griffin & Sabine trilogy, in which the mystery of the two artists deepens and their quests grow urgent. Source: Publisher's Weekly 2 Aug 1993.
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
There is an audiobook on cassette that was published in October 1993 by The Publishing Mills, Inc. The book is read by Maxwell Caulfield, Marina Sirtis and Ben Kingsley. As of March 2006, this recording is still in print. Source: www.booksinprint.com and WorldCat The movie rights for the entire first trilogy have been optioned, however, there has been no information about production released as of March 2006. Source: Bauers, Sandy. "Even Without Art, 'Griffin & Sabine' Works." Chicago Tribune 4 Feb 1993, NED Ed.: 7. A stage play of the first trilogy written by Nick Bantock will open in October 2006 at The Arts Club Theater in Vancouver. Source: www.nickbantock.com
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
This book has only been translated into Chinese. Huang jin jiao hui dian : Ge rui fu yu shauo bin nauo san bu qu zhi san Tai bei shi : Ge lin wen hua chu ban : Cheng bang wen hua fa hang, 2004. Source: WorldCat
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
None.
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
The Golden Mean is the third in the Griffin and Sabine triology. The first is Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence (Chronicle Books, 1991). The second is Sabine's Notebook: In Which The Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Continues (Chronicle Books, 1992). A second trilogy was published by Chronicle Books beginning in 2001. The books, in order, are The Gryphon: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Is Rediscovered (2001), Alexandria: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Unfolds (2002) and The Morning Star: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Is Illuminated (2003). Source: www.chroniclebooks.com
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
So far, in his 56 years, Nick Bantock has lived a life as varied and colorful as his works. Born on July 14, 1949 in Stourbridge, England and raised in the suburbs of London as the only child of a secretary and a petrochemical engineer, Bantock began his art career at 15 when he left for art school instead of the vocational school where he was assigned after failing his Eleven-Plus exams. After five years in art school honing his craft, the practicalities of survival forced Bantock to seek employment outside of the art world. This led to working in a betting shop which gave him a position that allowed time to paint and do freelance illustration. His life as an illustrator truly began in 1972 when an advertising firm bought some of his drawings and his popularity only increased from that point. Eventually Bantock decided to extend his illustrating work to designing book jacket covers. Thanks to an event that was half serendipity and half initiative ? Bantock's showing up at Penguin's offices without an appointment on a day when someone had not come in for work ? he started working for them (Steinberg 59). In 1988, sixteen years and 300 book covers later, a visit to see his parents in Canada confirmed Bantock's growing discontent with England and convinced him to pick up his family, consisting of his artist wife, Kim Kasasian, and son and move to Vancouver. Once in Canada, Bantock's family grew to a total four children (Paul, Kate, Ruth, Holly) and his art career took a slightly different turn. The editor that had given him his shot at being a cover illustrator, David Pelhams, contacted Bantock with an offer to illustrate a pop-up book for Intervisual Books. This endeavor opened a new door and turned this visual artist into an author when he decided to write his own pop-up book. In 1990, at 41, he published his first book, a pop-up, There Was An Old Lady, based on the verse There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly. Over the next three years, Bantock published seven other pop-up books. In the midst of this activity, Bantock also published a book of early 20th century postcards with his own captions, The Missing Nose Flute. It was also during this time that Bantock began work on what would become the Griffin & Sabine trilogy. Inspired by a man getting a letter in the post office on Bowen Island where he lived, Bantock wrote Griffin & Sabine. He did not, however, take it immediately to his editors at Chronicle Books. Instead, fate once again stepped in, and the dummy postcards he intended to show to a friend were discovered by accident in the bottom of his suitcase by Victoria Rock, children's editor at Chronicle, while he was showing her other work. She insisted on taking them to Annie Barrows, who ended up encouraging and editing the entire trilogy (Steinberg 58). The first book in the trilogy, Griffin & Sabine, was published by Chronicle Books in 1991. The other two in the series followed swiftly after: Sabine's Notebook (1992) and The Golden Mean (1993). Bantock's puzzle book The Egyptian Jukebox was also published in 1993, but due to mishaps in marketing and perhaps overshadowed by the trilogy, it fell flat. However, this brush with failure did not stop Bantock from continuing his prolific writing career. From 1993 to 2000, a flurry of non-trilogy-related books, both traditional and conceptual, was written and published. Bantock also worked to produce Ceremony Of Innocence, an interactive retelling of the Griffin and Sabine story on CD ROM. Bantock had no real intentions of returning to the Griffin and Sabine storyline, but he was making notes one day and found that he was writing a new book. He also discovered quickly that this was not to be just one book but a second trilogy related to the first (Leopold). In 2001, ten years after the first book of the first trilogy was published, the first of the second trilogy was unveiled by Chronicle Books. The series consists of The Gryphon, Alexandria (2002) and The Morning Star (2003). While he was successful in sparking romanticism in his readers, he was unable to do so in his personal life. As of 2002, he was still in Canada, but, due to his divorce, his family had dwindled to himself and his teenage son (Leopold). Works: There Was An Old Lady (Viking 1990) Wings (Random House 1990) Jabberwocky (Viking 1991) The Missing Nose Flute (Chronicle 1991) Griffin & Sabine (Chronicle 1991) Sabine's Notebook (Chronicle 1992) Solomon Grundy (Viking 1992) The Walrus And The Carpenter (Viking 1992) Runners, Sliders, Bouncers, Climbers (Hyperion 1992) Robin Hood (Viking 1993) Kubla Khan (Viking 1993) The Golden Mean (Chronicle 1993) The Egyptian Jukebox (Viking 1993) The Griffin & Sabine Trilogy (Chronicle 1994), a boxed set of the first three books Averse To Beasts (Chronicle 1994), a book of verse and illustrations that included an audio tape of Bantock The Venetian's Wife (Chronicle 1996) Paris Out Of Hand (Chronicle 1996), a collaboration with Karen Elizabeth Gordon and Barbara Hodgson that recreates a 19th century travel book The Forgetting Room (Harper Collins 1997) Ceremony Of Innocence (Real World 1997) Capolan ArtBox (Chronicle 1997) The Museum At Purgatory (Harper Collins 1999) The Artful Dodger (Chronicle 2000) The Gryphon (Chronicle 2001) Alexandria (Chronicle 2002) The Morning Star (Chronicle 2003) Sources: Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2002 Leopold, Todd. "Nick Bantock's Illuminations Of Love." Entertainment. 14 Feb 2002. CNN.com. 5 Apr 2006 http://archives.cnn.com/2002/SHOWBIZ/books/02/14/nick.bantock/index.html. Steinberg, Sybil. "Nick Bantock: 'I Like To Be A Bit Subversive'." Publishers Weekly 21 Nov 1994: 58-59. www.griffinandsabine.com www.nickbantock.com/Bantock/NBworks.html www.nickbantock.com/Bantock/NBlife.html
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Fans and reviewers alike waited with bated breath for Nick Bantock's The Golden Mean, hoping for a conclusion that would solve the mysteries in the first two books of the trilogy. There was so much anticipation and fear of leaks that the publishers sent out review copies without the final pages. This fear proved to be unfounded, however, as even after publication when all had access to the ending, reviewers refused to reveal the conclusion. This hesitancy to reveal the ending carried on not just for the first month, but even until Christmastime, when one reviewer said that "only a Grinch would ruin that surprise" (Miller, F5). It was obvious from early on that the ending of the books would be the focal point for reviewers and readers alike. But while many focused on the ending, they often disagreed about what it meant or how effective it was. Many reviewers expressed concern that the final volume of the trilogy did not provide the closure expected or desired. Illustrative are the following reviews: "Bantock declines to tie up his story with a neat bow", "Bantock plays the puzzle out through his trilogy with near-maddening innuendo, never saying quite enough to provide the 'Eureka!' moment of final, definite comprehension" and "we quite happily and satisfyingly continue to wonder what Bantock really means long after the book's conclusion" (Deans Earle C2, Miller F5, Holt 1). Not all reviewers agreed with this view, however. Andrews called the ending "conclusive" and Ward went so far as to say that "it all wraps up rather predictably" (1, B7BOO). As noted, reviewers were not the only ones to discuss the ending of the book. A St. Petersburg Times reader wrote to the paper in response to its review, voicing her dismay at her inability to understand the ending. She had gone through various channels (reading the review, contacting the publisher and even writing to the author) to try to discover the solution. When all of these methods failed, she sent a letter pleading for fellow readers to send in their theories ("A Puzzle and a Plea", 5D). The paper then collected these ideas and published some of the responses. They ranged from morose to researched to humorous: "Griffin does not find Sabine in Alexandria. I suspect he now lives in seclusion trying to concentrate on his art while recovering from a nervous breakdown"; "Griffin and Sabine are unable, both physically and in their minds, to truly meet in each other's familiar territory. They must find a 'golden mean,' defined in my American Heritage Dictionary as 'the course between extremes: moderation.' And so they are able to meet in Alexandria, a 'neutral place.'"; "Griffin and Sabine are actually the Taster's Choice couple" ("Probing the Puzzle of Griffin & Sabine Series", 4D). While the ending was certainly a hot topic amongst the readership, it was not the only aspect of the book discussed. Three other features were fairly consistently addressed. The first, which ties in with the ambiguity of the ending, is that the book can be understood on a variety of levels. A reader can simply look at the top layer and see a love story or can look deeper and ponder the "references to things like Oriental philosophy, Jungian psychology and alchemy" not to mention the connection to Yeats that Bantock gives as a clue to another level of understanding (Deans Earle, B1). The second is that the book's illustrations and iconography are beautifully rendered. The images are pleasing to the eye in addition to acting as a storytelling medium. Lastly, reviewers talk of the book's appeal to the nearly universal desire to read someone else's mail. Unlike other epistolary novels that simply reprint the words onto the page, Bantock gives readers the full experience of opening envelopes and taking an intimate look at another person's life written in their own hand giving the books a "voyeuristic, forbidden aspect" (Groth, 5C). Although most reviewers conceded that these three points helped to explain why people would be drawn to read The Golden Mean, some were not as generous in their views of how successful these elements were used and represented, but even in these cases, the criticism was couched in compliment. Krueger stated that "both the drawings and the text sit on the edge of being a trifle precious and pretentious, although I tend to think that author and illustrator Nick Bantock subverts the over-serious elements by the playful form he has chosen" (G15). Matsumoto echoes concerns about an unsatisfying ending: "Bantock uses a melodramatic plot line and some heavy-handed psychology to get a conclusion that is almost too oblique to satisfy his loyal followers. But like its predecessors, The Golden Mean is paved with enough exquisite, fanciful and disturbing images to allow smooth skating over any subterranean bumps" (37). Andrews nearly compares the books to junk food including its addictive quality: "I have always felt the Griffin & Sabine books were a nice confection, a good-looking gimmick; the book as performance art. Well, they are a confection, but I must admit that after reading the third book, I'm going to miss these two telepathic artists" (EC4). Lesley Krueger's review ends with a statement that summarizes most reactions to the book: "All three books are refreshingly themselves: new, odd and certainly very lovely to look at. Yet, other readers might well feel rubbed the wrong way. Here's a test. Do you like the rockers Sting and U2? Even when they're taking themselves just a leetle too seriously? Then you should meet Griffin and Sabine" (G15). It is not surprising that the pretentious nature of the trilogy spawned a parody. This parody of the first book, and to some extent of the trilogy, was published in 1994. Sheldon and Mrs. Levine, An Excruciating Correspondence, written by Sam Bobrick and Julie Stein, is the story of the relationship between a recently divorced man and his Jewish mother as told through letters between the two. As of 2006, this parody is out of print. Andrews, Marke. "Griffin and Sabine Bring Their Romance To An End, We Think!" Vancouver Sun 3 Sept 1993, final ed.: EC4. Deans Earle, Peggy. "Fitting Final Piece In Lovely Puzzle." Virginian [Norfolk, VA] 17 Oct 1993, final ed.: C2. Deans Earle, Peggy. "The Love of Griffin & Sabine Third Book Will 'Solve' Best-Selling Romance." Virginian [Norfolk, VA] 11 Aug 1993, final ed.: B1. Groth, Chuck. "Image Maker Nick Bantock Proves That Picture Books Aren't Just For Children." St. Louis Post Dispatch 13 Oct 1993, five star ed.: 1F. Groth, Chuck. "New Puzzles Reveal Bantock At His Best." St. Louis Post Dispatch 10 Oct 1993, five star ed.: 5C. Holt, Patricia. "The Final Letters of Griffin and Sabine 'The Golden Mean' Closes Out A Mesmerizing Trilogy." San Francisco Chronicle 22 Aug 1993, Sunday ed.: 1. Krueger, Lesley. "Soft, Strong, Pops Up Too." Toronto Star 2 Oct 1993, SA2 ed.: G15. Lyall, Sarah. "Book Notes." New York Times 3 Nov 1993, late Ed. (east coast): C20. Masters, John. "The Mystery of Griffin & Sabine." Toronto Star 12 Sept 1993, SU2 ed.: D1. Matsumoto, Nancy. "Picks & Pans - The Golden Mean By Nick Bantock." People Weekly 8 Nov 1993: 37-38. Miller, Melinda. "Puzzling Pen Pals Sign Off." Buffalo News 2 Jan 1994, final ed.: F5. Pate, Nancy. "A Masterful Illusion." Oregonian [Portland, OR] 12 Sept 1993, fourth ed.: J2. "Probing the Puzzle of Griffin & Sabine Series." St. Petersburg Times 6 Feb 1994, city ed.: 4D. "A Puzzle and a Plea." St. Petersburg Times 16 Jan 1994, city ed.: 5D. "Puzzling Mystery, Mystery Puzzle." Christian Science Monitor [Boston, MA] 9 Nov 1993, all 11/09/93 ed. Steinberg, Sybil. "The Golden Mean: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin and Sabine Concludes." Publishers Weekly 2 Aug 1993: 62-63. Ward, Tim. "Griffin-Sabine Finale Too Predictable." Ottawa Citizen 30 Oct 1993, final ed.: B7BOO.
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Fans and reviewers alike waited with bated breath for Nick Bantock's The Golden Mean, hoping for a conclusion that would solve the mysteries in the first two books of the trilogy. There was so much anticipation and fear of leaks that the publishers sent out review copies without the final pages. This fear proved to be unfounded, however, as even after publication when all had access to the ending, reviewers refused to reveal the conclusion. This hesitancy to reveal the ending carried on not just for the first month, but even until Christmastime, when one reviewer said that "only a Grinch would ruin that surprise" (Miller, F5). It was obvious from early on that the ending of the books would be the focal point for reviewers and readers alike. But while many focused on the ending, they often disagreed about what it meant or how effective it was. Many reviewers expressed concern that the final volume of the trilogy did not provide the closure expected or desired. Illustrative are the following reviews: "Bantock declines to tie up his story with a neat bow", "Bantock plays the puzzle out through his trilogy with near-maddening innuendo, never saying quite enough to provide the 'Eureka!' moment of final, definite comprehension" and "we quite happily and satisfyingly continue to wonder what Bantock really means long after the book's conclusion" (Deans Earle C2, Miller F5, Holt 1). Not all reviewers agreed with this view, however. Andrews called the ending "conclusive" and Ward went so far as to say that "it all wraps up rather predictably" (1, B7BOO). As noted, reviewers were not the only ones to discuss the ending of the book. A St. Petersburg Times reader wrote to the paper in response to its review, voicing her dismay at her inability to understand the ending. She had gone through various channels (reading the review, contacting the publisher and even writing to the author) to try to discover the solution. When all of these methods failed, she sent a letter pleading for fellow readers to send in their theories ("A Puzzle and a Plea", 5D). The paper then collected these ideas and published some of the responses. They ranged from morose to researched to humorous: "Griffin does not find Sabine in Alexandria. I suspect he now lives in seclusion trying to concentrate on his art while recovering from a nervous breakdown"; "Griffin and Sabine are unable, both physically and in their minds, to truly meet in each other's familiar territory. They must find a 'golden mean,' defined in my American Heritage Dictionary as 'the course between extremes: moderation.' And so they are able to meet in Alexandria, a 'neutral place.'"; "Griffin and Sabine are actually the Taster's Choice couple" ("Probing the Puzzle of Griffin & Sabine Series", 4D). While the ending was certainly a hot topic amongst the readership, it was not the only aspect of the book discussed. Three other features were fairly consistently addressed. The first, which ties in with the ambiguity of the ending, is that the book can be understood on a variety of levels. A reader can simply look at the top layer and see a love story or can look deeper and ponder the "references to things like Oriental philosophy, Jungian psychology and alchemy" not to mention the connection to Yeats that Bantock gives as a clue to another level of understanding (Deans Earle, B1). The second is that the book's illustrations and iconography are beautifully rendered. The images are pleasing to the eye in addition to acting as a storytelling medium. Lastly, reviewers talk of the book's appeal to the nearly universal desire to read someone else's mail. Unlike other epistolary novels that simply reprint the words onto the page, Bantock gives readers the full experience of opening envelopes and taking an intimate look at another person's life written in their own hand giving the books a "voyeuristic, forbidden aspect" (Groth, 5C). Although most reviewers conceded that these three points helped to explain why people would be drawn to read The Golden Mean, some were not as generous in their views of how successful these elements were used and represented, but even in these cases, the criticism was couched in compliment. Krueger stated that "both the drawings and the text sit on the edge of being a trifle precious and pretentious, although I tend to think that author and illustrator Nick Bantock subverts the over-serious elements by the playful form he has chosen" (G15). Matsumoto echoes concerns about an unsatisfying ending: "Bantock uses a melodramatic plot line and some heavy-handed psychology to get a conclusion that is almost too oblique to satisfy his loyal followers. But like its predecessors, The Golden Mean is paved with enough exquisite, fanciful and disturbing images to allow smooth skating over any subterranean bumps" (37). Andrews nearly compares the books to junk food including its addictive quality: "I have always felt the Griffin & Sabine books were a nice confection, a good-looking gimmick; the book as performance art. Well, they are a confection, but I must admit that after reading the third book, I'm going to miss these two telepathic artists" (EC4). Lesley Krueger's review ends with a statement that summarizes most reactions to the book: "All three books are refreshingly themselves: new, odd and certainly very lovely to look at. Yet, other readers might well feel rubbed the wrong way. Here's a test. Do you like the rockers Sting and U2? Even when they're taking themselves just a leetle too seriously? Then you should meet Griffin and Sabine" (G15). It is not surprising that the pretentious nature of the trilogy spawned a parody. This parody of the first book, and to some extent of the trilogy, was published in 1994. Sheldon and Mrs. Levine, An Excruciating Correspondence, written by Sam Bobrick and Julie Stein, is the story of the relationship between a recently divorced man and his Jewish mother as told through letters between the two. As of 2006, this parody is out of print. Andrews, Marke. "Griffin and Sabine Bring Their Romance To An End, We Think!" Vancouver Sun 3 Sept 1993, final ed.: EC4. Deans Earle, Peggy. "Fitting Final Piece In Lovely Puzzle." Virginian [Norfolk, VA] 17 Oct 1993, final ed.: C2. Deans Earle, Peggy. "The Love of Griffin & Sabine Third Book Will 'Solve' Best-Selling Romance." Virginian [Norfolk, VA] 11 Aug 1993, final ed.: B1. Groth, Chuck. "Image Maker Nick Bantock Proves That Picture Books Aren't Just For Children." St. Louis Post Dispatch 13 Oct 1993, five star ed.: 1F. Groth, Chuck. "New Puzzles Reveal Bantock At His Best." St. Louis Post Dispatch 10 Oct 1993, five star ed.: 5C. Holt, Patricia. "The Final Letters of Griffin and Sabine 'The Golden Mean' Closes Out A Mesmerizing Trilogy." San Francisco Chronicle 22 Aug 1993, Sunday ed.: 1. Krueger, Lesley. "Soft, Strong, Pops Up Too." Toronto Star 2 Oct 1993, SA2 ed.: G15. Lyall, Sarah. "Book Notes." New York Times 3 Nov 1993, late Ed. (east coast): C20. Masters, John. "The Mystery of Griffin & Sabine." Toronto Star 12 Sept 1993, SU2 ed.: D1. Matsumoto, Nancy. "Picks & Pans - The Golden Mean By Nick Bantock." People Weekly 8 Nov 1993: 37-38. Miller, Melinda. "Puzzling Pen Pals Sign Off." Buffalo News 2 Jan 1994, final ed.: F5. Pate, Nancy. "A Masterful Illusion." Oregonian [Portland, OR] 12 Sept 1993, fourth ed.: J2. "Probing the Puzzle of Griffin & Sabine Series." St. Petersburg Times 6 Feb 1994, city ed.: 4D. "A Puzzle and a Plea." St. Petersburg Times 16 Jan 1994, city ed.: 5D. "Puzzling Mystery, Mystery Puzzle." Christian Science Monitor [Boston, MA] 9 Nov 1993, all 11/09/93 ed. Steinberg, Sybil. "The Golden Mean: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin and Sabine Concludes." Publishers Weekly 2 Aug 1993: 62-63. Ward, Tim. "Griffin-Sabine Finale Too Predictable." Ottawa Citizen 30 Oct 1993, final ed.: B7BOO.
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
It is surprising to see Nick Bantock's The Golden Mean appear on the 1993 fiction bestseller list, as it is mostly surrounded by novels from the likes of Stephen King, Danielle Steele and John Grisham. The book's lack of thrilling escapades makes it seem dull by comparison, and yet it sold well enough to elbow its way into the number eleven spot. Since many of the traditional elements that can equate to bestsellerdom are not applicable to The Golden Mean, such as a well-known, prolific author, movie tie-ins or being named an Oprah Book Club book, there must be some other formula at work. There are three factors that, individually, may have contributed to decent sales, but when combined, created this bestseller. The first and probably largest factor was that The Golden Mean is the third and final volume in the Griffin and Sabine series. The previous two books did spend time on the bestseller list but did not manage to break through onto the annual one. While they had the other two components of the formula, they were missing the important ingredient of a much needed conclusion. This build-up of anticipation was not by accident. Bantock has said that it "was always going to be a trilogy" and the books are obviously written with this in mind (Lyall). Each volume presents readers with a cliffhanger that seems to promise a conclusion in the next book. The first ends with Griffin's disappearance when Sabine reveals that she is coming to London to meet him. The second ends with the mystery of how Sabine could have been in Griffin's apartment for months without leaving a trace and why it is that the pair overlaps in both time and space in London but do not meet, which leaves Griffin thinking that Sabine is a figment of his imagination. The allure of and need for a solution is heightened because the story is not a straight-forward mystery, romance or even general story. As the trilogy progresses, there are no certain facts, not even that the characters exist at all. Readers formulated theories about who these people are and what their relationship means by interpreting psychological and metaphysical clues. By the time The Golden Mean was published, ideas were flourishing and readers needed to know what was going to happen. Since reviewers made a point of not revealing the ending, the only way to find out if an individual theory was correct was to obtain the book. The publisher had an expectation that this third book would be a success and used the revelation of the ending as a feature of marketing: "Destined to be the most sought after novel of the year, The Golden Mean builds toward a powerful conclusion that will satisfy the millions of readers already entranced by the spirited, imaginative, enigmatic union of Griffin and Sabine" (Chronicle Books). Even though the publisher promised satisfaction, the solid conclusion that many hoped would solve the riddles of the series never materialized. Instead, the end of The Golden Mean, in which Griffin and Sabine go to meet in Alexandria and, years later, a doctor in Kenya gets a postcard from Sabine with a photograph of a baby on the front, followed in the same form as the first two books, letting readers make their own meaning. This ability to bend to the reader's interpretation, combined with the vicarious thrill of reading other people's mail, forms the second factor that influenced this book's success. The book is purposely written in an ambiguous fashion and functions on many levels. A reader can stay on the surface level and read it simply for the love story presented. This particular reading inspired another avenue for book sales in the form of gifts, as these readers took "Griffin and Sabine to heart, even sending the books to their beloveds as an expression of affection" (Leopold). But those who wanted more from the book could delve beneath the surface and make connections, both in the text and the images on the stamps and postcards to Jungian psychology, mythology, alchemy and metaphysics. Additionally, the book draws heavily on poetry, especially Yeats' "The Second Coming" and even includes bits of the poem in the images and text. This connection is so strong that Bantock has suggested to readers that they brush up on their Yeats as a hint to understanding another level of the story. This layered system of storytelling, much like the planned out trilogy, was not an accident. Bantock had a definite purpose when adding a primary, surface narrative. Knowing that an esoteric and difficult to understand book would not be palatable to a large and varied community of readers, he used the love story so that "the books have a loose framework that gives them the potential of a larger audience than they would otherwise get" (Grant). Another way to lure in a greater reader base is to play on universal secret desires and integrate readers into the story. The reading of someone else's mail fits both of these categories. People are aware that they should not be reading the private correspondence of someone else, and anyone would feel violated if they were a victim of such a thing. The Golden Mean provides an opportunity for individuals to break this taboo in a safe and repercussion-free environment. That the letters actually come out of the book from pasted-in envelopes only serves to enhance the illusion. But if this was all that there was to it then the gimmick would quickly wear thin and a third book and second trilogy would have probably not come to fruition. More than the flouting of society's rules, the reading of these letters incorporates the reader into the novel, strengthening the connection to the story. Readers become privy to personal information about the characters and are placed squarely into an intimate relationship with them. Having become caretaker of the lovers and their correspondence, the reader is urged on to continue with the story to the end and to maintain a solid connection to the characters. This connection helps to create readers who can and are willing to go through the onion-like layers of the book, bringing out "the hidden poet and artist in his audience" (Snyder). Even though books of letters were not new at the time, few had achieved such success and reviewers focused on the epistolary form of the book, perhaps because of the way the letters are presented. While the format of the book ties directly into the vicarious enjoyment and enhances that feature's effect, it is also a draw in and of itself, acting as the final factor to be considered in the formula. Chronicle Books has declared that the Griffin and Sabine series is "like no other illustrated novel" and used "pioneering paper technology" to create a new and unique format for story presentation (Chronicle Books). The epistolary novel is nothing new, but having the tactile sensation of opening an envelope, pulling out a letter and unfolding it to read added another dimension to the form. Children's books had used this technique before, as in The Jolly Postman, but Griffin and Sabine allowed adult readers in on the fun. Bantock created "a lavish picture book for adults" and "appropriated a child's book form to create a sophisticated interactive work for adults" (Vallongo, Tobias). Adding interactivity only served to further connect readers with the characters, drawing them into the multilevel mystery of the correspondents. It has been argued that this format is not as new as Chronicle Books would like to claim, calling on the development of mail-art and the books that grew out of the New York Correspondence School. But, even taking this into consideration, those making this comparison must admit that "it literally opened the novel ... to the wayward materiality of letters" (Simon 197). Physically turning postcards and letters into a novel was something that even those involved in mail-art had not fully explored, perhaps because their focus was on making art as opposed to telling stories. Any books that did come out of this movement that could be considered precursors to The Golden Mean did not enjoy the same success, meaning that the format was indeed new to the popular-literature reader. There is more to the format than just the gimmick of removable letters. The book's illustrations function so that they go beyond simply enhancing the text and contain as much information about the story as the words in the letters. One without the other would leave the story incomplete. Perhaps due to Bantock's artistic background, he does not see any delineation between words and text as other writers do. He does not simply use pictures to supplement or support the text; instead, he considers that "the illustrations and text are very much an equality" (Grant). Because these images are so integral to the story, they must be represented in the most detailed and true-to-the-original form as possible. This is evidenced by the lush colors and high level of detail. A book with this level of illustration would have been difficult to create in an era before computer imaging. Part of the attractiveness of the illustrations may also be the result of having such quality available in a mechanically produced book. Nick Bantock used a humorous turn of phrase to sum up the factors that led to the success of the trilogy, saying that "they're a cross between sex and Christmas" (Leopold). Combining anticipation, taboo, love, layers of meaning and novelty, The Golden Mean proves the point that even odd, difficult to categorize books can make it onto the bestseller list. It may take a combination of factors to make it happen, but it is not impossible. Chronicle Books. 3 May 2006 http://www.chroniclebooks.com/site/catalog/. Grant, Gavin. "Nick Bantock." Very Interesting People. Booksense.com. 3 May 2006 http://www.booksense.com/people/archive/bantocknick.jsp. Leopold, Todd. "Nick Bantock's Illuminations Of Love." Entertainment. 14 Feb 2002. CNN.com. 5 Apr 2006 http://archives.cnn.com/2002/SHOWBIZ/books/02/14/nick.bantock/index.html. Lyall, Sarah. "Book Notes." New York Times 3 Nov 1993, late ed. (east coast): C20. Simon, Sunka. Mail-Orders: The Fiction of Letters in Postmodern Culture. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002. Snyder, Art. "Romancing the Image." Rubberstampmadness Magazine Jul/Aug 2000. Tobias, Tobi. "The Story Is Over... Can It Be?" Dayton Daily News 19 Sep 1993, city ed.
Supplemental Material
Stephen DeLong, Director of Project Renaissance and Professor of Geology and Information Science at the University at Albany/SUNY, has created a site dedicated to the Griffin and Sabine story. He focuses mainly on trying to find real-world locations for the characters based on hints in the text. It can be found here: http://hawk.fab2.albany.edu/bantock/witwtoc.htm
From Publisher's Weekly 2 Aug 1993: To preserve the surprise in the "remarkable conclusion to the extraordinary correspondence of Griffin & Sabine," galleys of The Golden Mean arrived without the last page, but with a suggestion: "This will probably turn into a collectors item, so hold onto it."
Folded Letter from Sabine
Back Dust Jacket
Front Dust Jacket
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