Grisham, John: The Chamber
(researched by Katie Sachs)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
The Firm, by John Grisham, was published June 1, 1994 by Doubleday, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. It is located at 1540 Broadway New York, New York 10036 (1)
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The first edition was published in cloth. (2)
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
There are 436 pages as well as an Acknowle
dgment page labeled vi (1)
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
The author has written a page of Acknowledgments that precludes the first chapter. Here, he thanks those who lent thier expertise and contributed to his research. (1)
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
There are no illustrations in this book. (1)
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
book is 25 cm long. The dust jacket for this book, though not found with this particular first edition, is subtle and classic. The author and title, both in large letters, stand against a background of black and maroon colors swirled together. The boo
k is well-worn and poorly bound: The first 125 pages are still glued to each other, but separted from the binding itself. The gold lettering on the outside binding is faded, as are the gray and maroon colors of the cloth. John Grisham's gold embossed
signature on the lower right of the front cover is particularly impressive. The physical presentation of the text is attractive; the font is clear, unsmudged, and easily readable. (1, 3)
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 seems to be of high quality. It is relatively thick
, and the font on one side of a page is not at all visible on the other side. Physically, it is holding up well over time. Not one page in the book is torn. (1)
11 Description of binding(s)
The binding is torn in both the top and bottom corners. The first 125 pages are separate
d from the binding; they remain attached to the book only becasue they are still glued to each other and the rest of the pages. (1)
12 Transcription of title page
John/Grisham/The/Chamber/DOUBLEDAY/New York London Toronto Sydney Auckland
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
The manuscript holdings are not available. (4)
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
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
Both the hard cover and large type editions printed in 1994, while the paperback was printed in 1995. I cannot describe features as I was unable to view each
edition for myself. (1)
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?
The number of first edition printings was not found. (1,2)
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
The Chamber was printed by Doubleday & Co., Inc. as well as its affiliate, Division of Bantam Doubleday Dell. In addition, there are other publishers that corres
pond to translated versions of the text. 1) Hoganas: Bra Bocker 1995 2) Munchen: Wilhelm Heyne Verlag 1995 3) Paris: Robert Laffont 1995 4) [Tihran] Intisharat-i Kushish 1995 5) Barcelona: Planeta 1994 6) Tihran: Dursa 1995 7) Rio de Janiero: Brooklyn New York: Rocco; distributed by Luso-Borazylia Books 1995 8) Hamburg: Hoffmann and Campe, 1995 9) T'ai-pie Shih: Chih k'u wen hua ku fen yu hsien kung ssu 1995 10) Moskua: Tsentrpoligua 1994 11) London: Arrow 1994 12) Tokyo: Shinchosha 1995 13) Warszawa: Amber 1994 14) Soul T'ukpyolsi: Sigongsa 1994 15) Milano: Arnoldo Mondadori 1994 (1)
6 Last date in print?
The last date in print was 1995. (1)
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
As of 6/94--- 3,189,893 copies were sold. (2)
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
Not found through sources, but I will hear from the publisher. (1, 2, 5)
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
The advertisement was found on the internet through
amazon.com. It featured a picture of the dust jacket with price and publication information. It also contained both reviews and commentaries of the paperback edition and cassette version. A summary of the latter reads "When a young lawyer asks to take
over the case of a death-row inmate, his reasons don't seem immediately clear." (3,4,6--only 6 was successful)
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
N/A
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
1 videocassette (113 min) MCA Universal Home Video 1997 4 sound cassettes: analog Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1994 15 sound cassettes (20 hrs 15 min) Prince Frederick,Md:Recorded Books 1994 12 sound cassettes (18 hrs) Newport Beach, Calif:Books on Tape 1994 (1)
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
All by John Grisham, with publication information corresponding to publishers in #5: Dodscellan 1) Dodscellen 2) Die Kammer:roman 3) Le Couloir de la Mort:roman 4) Atag-i Marg 5) Camara de Gas 6) Utag-i Mujazat=The Chamber 7) A camara de Gas 8) Die Kammer:roman 9) Chung Chi Shen P'an 10) Kammera: roman 11) The Chamber 12) Shokeishitsu 13) Komora 14) Gasusil=The Chamber 15) L'appello (1)
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
No record of serialization could be found. (1,5)
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
No record of sequels or prequels could be found. (1,5)
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
Best-selling American author John Grisham was born February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, AR. Due to his father's construction company, this second oldest of five children spent his childhood moving all across the Sout
h, from Mississippi to Louisiana to Arkansas, and finally back to his permanent childhood home, Southaven, Miss. After graduating from high school, Grisham entered Northwest Mississippi Junior College with intentions of becoming a career athlete. From t
here he transferred to Delta State University, where his coach convinced him that he had a slim chance of excelling in professional baseball. Needing a new life plan, Grisham transferred yet again, this time to Mississippi State University, where he majo
red in accounting and planned to practice tax law. After graduating in 1977, he remained in his home state, choosing law school at the University of Mississipppi. Upon graduation, he returned to Southaven and started his own firm.
Grisham stumbled upon a literary career seemingly by accident. In a courtroom in Hernando, Miss., he witnessed a case that would later provide the inspiration for his first novel, A Time to Kill. In 1989, when Grisham was 34, this novel was published b
y Wynwood Press. In 1993, Doubleday published it again, and later published his string of other bestsellers, including: The Firm (1991), The Pelican Brief (1992), The Client (1993), The Chamber (1994), The Rainmaker (1995), The Runaway Jury (1996), and T
he Partner (1997). John Grisham now divides his time between a 70-acre farm in Oxford, Miss. and a country home near Charlottesville, Va. He lives with his wife Renee and thier daugher Shea Ty, and enjoys coaching little league baseball in his spare time. Privacy and loy
alty to his roots are common themes in the author's life. He rarely gives interviews, and signs books mostly at stores that supported him in his early career. His fans are faithful, and many from his hometown still regard him as an old acquaintance. S
imilarly, Grisham donated the manuscripts to his novels to his alma mater, Mississippi State University. All original copies are located in the Manuscripts Division of the Mitchell Memorial Library.
Back in 1992, the writer gave the commencement speech for that University. He stated, "If you're sitting out there now with a nice, neat little outline for the next ten years, you'd better be careful. Life may have other plans." These seem fitting r
emarks for a man whose career has traveled the path of athletics, law, and now literature.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
The Chamber, John Grisham's fifth bestselling legal thriller, met with mostly positive reviews when it hit bookstores in 1994. Even those critics who did not revere the novel at least admitted its inevitable pub
lic appeal. They often wryly noted that regardless of any criticism, public consumption would flourish. One of Grisham's more positive critics, Ruth Coughlin of the Detroit News hailed "Grisham No. 5, simply put, is one of his best". Publisher's Week
ly also jumped on the Grisham bandwagon, proclaiming "This ranks as top-notch Grisham and reveals new dimensions of his talent. . .readers can almost gear the cogs of justice turning ever faster. . .". Many critics, however, differed regarding the quality of writing. John Mortimer of The Sunday Times effectively expressed the disparity between Grisham's superior storywriting skills and his poor character development: "Grisham may do without poetry, wi
t, and style, and offer only the simplest characterization. . .what Grisham can do . .is to tell us a story." This contrasts John Skow of Time Magazine, who wrote that "The Chamber has the pace and characters of a thriller. . ." and Lawrence J. Goodrich
of the Christian Science Monitor, who praised the "fine writing, believeable characters, social comment, courtroom drama. . .". Regardless of writing technique, most reviews agreed that the tale itself was supreme. Goodrich added that "the story is gripping and pulls the reader along". Generally, it seems that critics tended to compare The Chamber with Grisham's other work. Th
ey conveyed a mutual perturbance at the triviality of their reviews, as the novel was virtually preordained a bestseller. Still, most did not contest Grisham's story-telling skills and the though provoking contraversy of this latest work. Other Reviews: Booklist v90 - Je 1 '94 p1725 (51-250) Books Magazine v8 My '94 p4 (1-50) P26 (51-250) Christian Science Monitor v86 Je 10 '94 p14 (251-500_ Entertainment Weekly Je 3 '94 p 48 + (501+) New York Times Late Edition v143 J 29 '94 pc27 (500+) Observer (London) My 29 '94 p23 (251-500) Publisher's Weekly v241 My 30 '94 p37 (251-500) Time v143 Je 20 '94 p67 (251-500) Tribune Books Chicago Je 26 '94 p3 (501+) Wall Street Journal (Eastern Edition) v223 Je 13 '94 pA15 (501+) The Detroit News My 25 '94 p3D The Sunday Times, London, June 12, '94 p1
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
The Chamber, John Grisham's fifth bestselling legal thriller, met with mostly positive reviews when it hit bookstores in 1994. Even those critics who did not revere the novel at least admitted its inevitable pub
lic appeal. They often wryly noted that regardless of any criticism, public consumption would flourish. One of Grisham's more positive critics, Ruth Coughlin of the Detroit News hailed "Grisham No. 5, simply put, is one of his best". Publisher's Week
ly also jumped on the Grisham bandwagon, proclaiming "This ranks as top-notch Grisham and reveals new dimensions of his talent. . .readers can almost gear the cogs of justice turning ever faster. . .". Many critics, however, differed regarding the quality of writing. John Mortimer of The Sunday Times effectively expressed the disparity between Grisham's superior storywriting skills and his poor character development: "Grisham may do without poetry, wi
t, and style, and offer only the simplest characterization. . .what Grisham can do . .is to tell us a story." This contrasts John Skow of Time Magazine, who wrote that "The Chamber has the pace and characters of a thriller. . ." and Lawrence J. Goodrich
of the Christian Science Monitor, who praised the "fine writing, believeable characters, social comment, courtroom drama. . .". Regardless of writing technique, most reviews agreed that the tale itself was supreme. Goodrich added that "the story is gripping and pulls the reader along". Generally, it seems that critics tended to compare The Chamber with Grisham's other work. Th
ey conveyed a mutual perturbance at the triviality of their reviews, as the novel was virtually preordained a bestseller. Still, most did not contest Grisham's story-telling skills and the though provoking contraversy of this latest work. Other Reviews: Booklist v90 - Je 1 '94 p1725 (51-250) Books Magazine v8 My '94 p4 (1-50) P26 (51-250) Christian Science Monitor v86 Je 10 '94 p14 (251-500_ Entertainment Weekly Je 3 '94 p 48 + (501+) New York Times Late Edition v143 J 29 '94 pc27 (500+) Observer (London) My 29 '94 p23 (251-500) Publisher's Weekly v241 My 30 '94 p37 (251-500) Time v143 Je 20 '94 p67 (251-500) Tribune Books Chicago Je 26 '94 p3 (501+) Wall Street Journal (Eastern Edition) v223 Je 13 '94 pA15 (501+) The Detroit News My 25 '94 p3D The Sunday Times, London, June 12, '94 p1
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
The Chamber, John Grisham's fifth legal thriller, relates the harrowing tale of a young lawyer trying desperately to free his grandfather from a date with the gas chamber. Released June 6, 1994, this bestseller met with the same success and public adoration as Grisham's previous works. Critical praise was directed primarily toward the author's supreme story telling skills. John Mortimer of the Sunday Times remarked that "What Grisham can do is to tell us a story". Lawrence J. Goodrich of the Christian Science Monitor agreed: "The story is gripping and pulls the reader along". The novel's strength in immersing the reader in Grisham's world ranked so highly that "readers can almost hear the cogs of justice turning ever faster. . .". In addition, many reviewers applaude Grisham's approaching not only the legal, but also its moral consequences. Ruth Couglin writes: "in addition to suspense, he provides his readers an enormous amount of chilling and often gruesome information about what its like to be on death row". Many critics appreciated the humanity and ethics woven into the story. Despite Sam Cayhall's history with the Ku Klux Klan and his participation in the plot that eventually killed a lawyer and his two young sons, the reader cannot help but empathize. Grisham effectively contrasts the foolish, rebellious youth with the remorseful old man who simply wants to die in peace. The author infers that because of the inordinate amount of time one sits on death row, in many death penalty cases the person convicted is rarely the person executed. Grisham also relates the strained but poignant relationship between Sam and Adam, whose vigor and determination does not correspond with his limited relations with his grandfather. While his impressive tale-telling seemed to be a common ground for reviewers, they differed vastly regarding other aspects of the novel. Some hailed the author's style and characterization, yet others saw the storytelling as the book's only redeeming quality. One author lauded Grisham's "fine writing, believeable acharacters, social comment, courtroom drama. . ." while another criticized: "Grisham may do without poetry, wit, style, and offer only the simplest characterization. . .". Despite these criticisms, reviewers seemed generally impressed with his fifth thriller.
Grisham's public persona is not easy to ascertain. Somewhat of a recluse, the lawyer turned author now divides his time between a 70-acre farm in Oxford, Miss. and a country home near Charlottesville, Va. He shuns interviews and signs books mostly at stores that supported him in his early career. The author presently withholds the sale of film rights for his last two books because "The films add another layer of notoriety and stress and hassle that I don't care to deal with". Though Grisham is consistently out of the public eye, critics still have distinct attitudes toward the novelist. They are playfully cynical toward the rookie whom they believe could write just about anything and have the public devour it and render it a bestseller. In reviewing The Chamber, they often wryly noted that regardless of any criticism, public consumption would flourish. Joe Collins of Booklist remarked "It's a foregone conclusion that Grisham's latest novel will a bestseller. . .". Coughlin summed up many critics resentfulness: ". . .whether I say its swell or not makes no difference. . .the lawyer from Mississippi has reached such a phenominal level of success, he could fill up a book's pages with absolute drivel and still it would sell a zillion copies". Most critics would hardly categorize Grisham with the likes of Faulkner or Hemingway, so their frustration mounts toward a lawyer whose hobby turned him into a bestselling millionaire. Indeed, with the worldwide gross of his novels and their spinoffs easily exceeding one billion dollars, it is no doubt why critics regard the rookie with a bit of cynicism. Despite this doubt and cynicism, Grisham promises "If I didn't have a story, I wouldn't write the book". There is, however, a great disparity between the critics' perception of the Grisham persona and his fans'. The audience holds the author is a much higher regard, responding to his down-to-earth sensibilities. His commitment to privacy fuels his popularity even more, as readers respect his devotion to family and roots (Grisham coaches little-league baseball), as well as his physical appeal (a recent addition to People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People in the World List).
Perhaps the most notable contemporaneous event aiding in the novel's popularity was the Grisham-mania that hit full force at both the bookstores and the box office in conjunction with The Chamber's release. When The Chamber was number one in hardback, The Firm, The Pelican Brief, and A Time to Kill were one, two, and three, respectively, in paperback. Also, The Client hit the silver screen at the same time. The Chamber was number five in a string of Grisham bestsellers, and its popularity resulted not only from the well-written, controversial, and thrilling story, but also the simultaneous popularity of other Grisham works. While the novel did not merely ride the coattails of its siblings, it did prosper from their success. Even before The Chamber's release, Grisham's popular past prompted readers to eagerly jump on the John Grisham bandwagon. He'd pumped out a bestseller each year since 1991, and all three had at least a forty week consecutive stretch on the bestseller list.
Grisham's books are often compared with other Grisham books. The Chamber is no exception. One reviewer writes that "Grisham No. 5, simply put, is one of his best". This, however, is only in comparison to his previous works, one which this critic loved, one she liked, and one she deemed "godawful". She also praised the lack of a love story in this novel, "since the romances in Grisham's previous novels have always seemed perfunctory. . .". It is often difficult to render a sound opinion from a reviewer, because each's remarks are gauged with regard to his other works. Grisham himself, however, has compared his books to those of authors such as Scott Turow, Stephen king, Michael Crighton, and Danielle Steel. He has declared "You'd have to say that I've had a profound impact on this genre. . .[Turow] brought all this attention to it with Presumed Innocent. At that point, I took it to a different level, as far as commercial success."
The Chamber enjoyed immense popularity in 1994 and 1995, especially during the former year, when it was released. According to the Publisher's Weekly Hardcover Fiction Bestseller List,the novel spent a toal of twenty weeks on the list, nineteen of those weeks in 1994 and one in 1995. It debuted June 6, 1994 at number one, and finshed out the year at number 15. It remained on the bestseller list during the first week on 1995 and experienced a resurgence of popularity, climbing up to number twelve. The Chamber hit its peak on July 25, 1994. Although his fifth book achieved remarkable success, as The Chamber enjoyed the highest hardcover and audio in-print figures of any of his novels, 1994 saw the author's popularity level off. While his previous three books had at least a 40 week run on the bestseller list, The Chamber spent only nineteen consecutive weeks there. When asked if this could be the result of Grisham-overload, he responded "Well, we've been worried about overexposure for a long time. There was a time about three or four years ago when The Chamber was number one in hardback and The Firm, The Pelican Brief, and A Time to Kill. . .were one, two, and three in paper. And there was a movie out. . ." He admitted to worrying a lot about overexposure. Ironically, his immense success in both books and movies has proven to be a double-edged sword. His proliferation of bestsellers fuels the popularity of his subsequent works, but also creates discontent with his innundated audience.
On October 11, 1996, Universal Pictures released the film version of The Chamber, starring Chris O'Donnell as young lawyer Adam Hall and Gene Hackman as his racist grandfather destined for death row. Dircted by James Foley, the movie did not enjoy as much success as its inspiration. One critic brutalized the film, deeming it "listless, flacid, and utterly professional". Perhaps such cutting remarks proved detrimental to the movie's success. Many critics were afflicted with this Grisham-overload, and the entrance of his work into the realm of film did not elate them. Regardless of favorable book reviews, movies based upon Grisham novels generated poor marks. Often seen as generic and superficial, they employed too many beautiful young actors and stole the grit and humanity from the literature. As Ginia Belafante commented, "With the arrival of every John Grisham thriller comes the inevitable question: 'What exceedingly bankable, cute-as-a-button superstar will take on the role of beleaguered but principled defense cousel, first-year associate or eager law student in sweaty peril?'". Predispositions to a Grisham flick's failure might ultimately have caused The Chamber's. The film's release did not have a notable impact on the book's popularity. It hit its peak in July 1994, and even after the movie's release in October 1996, the book did not return to Publishers Weekly Bestseller List.
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