Bach, Richard: Jonathan Livingston Seagull
(researched by Jennifer Sloggie)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Published by The Macmillan Company, New York, New York 1970. Copyright 1970 Richard Bach. Copyright 1970 Russell Munson (later printings of first edition).
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The first edition is published in blue cloth with dust jacket (first paperback edition: Avon Books, NY, 1973).
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
50 leaves,4 of which do not count in numbering of pages(see **). 94 pages. Page numbers are 1.5" from bottom of page, near outside corner. Illustrated pages and chapter pages are not numbered. The book is separated into three "parts". Numbered: / Unnumbered: *14,15; 20,21; / 1-11; 16-19; 24-27; 34-36; / 22,23; 28-33; 46,47; 51-55; / 37-45; 48-50; 58-65; 75-79; / 56,**,57; 66-74; 82-84; 86; / 80,81; 85; 90-93. / 87-89; 94.
*The first numbered page is page 14, but there are only 11 pages preceeding it. **Eight unnumbered, uncounted waxpaper-like, translucent illustrated pages between the unnumbered pages 56 and 57.
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
The first edition is neither edited nor introduced.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
The book is illustrated throughout. All unnumbered pages* have black and white photos of Seagulls in various stages of flight, along with beach scenes. (ex. pp 80-81 has very atractive aerial shot of gulls and shoreline.) Photographs by Russell Munson.
*only pages that are unnumbered and do not contain photographs: 13 first page of narrative, 49/50 "Part Two", and 73 "Part Three".
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?)
22cm X 16cm Both the book itself and the cover art are very attractive and readable. The print is large, and the pages are not cluttered: 1 - 1.5 in. space around text. The dust jacket is dark blue with a blurred, white silhouette of a seagull in flight. Under the illustration are the words "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" in yellow. Under this is the subtitle "a story" in pale blue. Richard Bach's name is in white. It also says "Photographs by Russell Munson" in a darker blue under the author's name. All lettering is large, readable block lettering. On the dust jacket binding: BACH (white) JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL(yellow) Macmillan (blue). Lettering on the cloth binding is the same, but all in white. The front of the cloth cover has no coloring on it, but there is an indentation in the form of the flying silhouette.
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 used for the first edition is very thick, good quality white paper. There is no yellowing, and there are no tears. Between the unnumbered pages 56 and 57 there are 8 waxpaper-like, unnumbered, uncounted pages which are very thin and transparent. They also seem to be high quality paper, because they have remained intact in the 28 year old edition studied.
11 Description of binding(s)
The pages are stitched together in six separate sections, which are then stiched together. The outermost sheets are glued to the cardboard cover. About 1.5 to 2 inches near the binding on these pages is slightly wrinkled from the glue and not as neatly put together as the rest of the book as a whole. The binding is one half inch wide.
12 Transcription of title page
Jonathan / Livingston / Seagull / by / Richard Bach / photographs by / Russell Munson / THE MACMILLAN / COMPANY / NEW YORK, NEW YORK
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
Information on holdings not available at this time.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
Dust jacket: Inside front flap: "Richard Bach with this book does two things. He gives me Flight. He makes me Young. For both I am deeply grateful." -- Ray Bradbury. "People who make their own rules when they know they're right... people who get a special pleasure out of doing something well (even if only for themselves)... people who know there's more to this whole living thing than meets the eye: they'll be with Jonathan Seagull all the way. Others may simply escape into a delightful adventure about freedom and flight. Either way it's an uncommon treat." Dust Jacket design by Joan Stoliar. ----------------------------------------------- Dedication on pg. (unnumbered) 7: "To the real Jonathan Seagull, who lives within us all" ----------------------------------------------- Back cover: "This book is a new and valuable citizen in that very wondorous world ruled by St.-Exubery's LITTLE PRINCE. I suspect all of us who visit the worlds of Jonathan Seagull will never want to return." --Ernest K. Gann ------------------------------------------------
another difference in printings: In first nine printings of the first edition, page 83's last paragraph begins as follows: "Look at Fletcher! Lowell! Charles-Rowland! Are they also special and gifted and divine?..." In the tenth printing it begins: "Look at Fletcher! Lowell! Charles-Rowland! Judy Lee! Are they also special and gifted and divine?..."
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
Macmillan released a "Deluxe Slipcased Edition" in 1972, after the book began to recieve national attention. Its retail price was $7.95 (r
ather than $4.95, which was the price of the regular edition). This edition had a blue and silver slip cover, "leatherette" binding, and silver cover lettering. The paperback edition, from Avon Books, was released in February of 1973.
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?
There were at least 29 printings of the first hardcover edition, and at least 59 printings of the paperback first edition. Macmillian printed 7,500 copies of the first edition, first printing on August 31, 1970. They doubted the merit of the book, and they only had orders for 3,000 copies at bookstores throughout the entire country. By the time the book left the number one position on Publishers Weekly's best seller list (April 10, 1973), there were 2,131,000 copies in print, and 27 printings..
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
American Printing House for the Blind, 1970 (Braille). Buccaneer Books, Incorporated, 1991. Demco Media, 1973. Flare Books, 1976. Franklin Watts Incorporated, 1981 (large print). HarperCollins, 1994 1972. Keith Jennison Book, 1970 (large print). Pan Books Ltd., 1973. Scribner, 1990. Simon and Schuster Trade, 1970. Turnstone Press, 1972 1970. Walker and Company, 1984 1970 (large print). Walker Publishing Company, 1990.
6 Last date in print?
The book is currently in print as of 1999.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
According to an April 27, 1992 article in People Magazine article, the book has sold more than 30 million copies. (It is not clear whether this is a national figure, or if it includes the international and translation sales.)
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
1970 -1972: 1,815,000 copies sold. April 10, 1973: 2,131,000 copies sold. As of 1975: hardcover total sales: 2,355,000 paperback total sales: 6,700,000 total copies sold by 1975: 9,055,000 (sources, Hackett bestseller index, Publisher's Weekly bestseller lists)
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
Macmillan placed a small ad including Jonathan Livingston Seagull in Publishers Weekly and The New York Times Book Review at the time of publication. The ad in the August 24, 1970 issue of Publishers Weekly is a large, three page spread which announces, "Macmillan has a great profit picture for you this Christmas" at the top. Jonathan Livingston Seagull is one of twelve books pictured on
the first two pages of the ad, all in black and white. The description is as follows: JONATHAN/LIVINGSTON/SEAGULL/Richard Bach,/photographs by/Russell Munson/ "Already acclaimed for its message and stunning photographs, this gentle allegory about an ambit
ious seagull will delight gift-givers. 'This book is a new and valuable citizen in that very wondorous world ruled by St. Exupery's Little Prince.' -- Ernest K. Gann. September. $4.95". Interestingly, the photo of the book in this ad looks much bigger than it actually is. This illustrates the fact that Macmillan was doubtful about the success of a book that was over half filled with pictures and had less than one hundred pages.
Once the book gained popularity and topped bestseller lists, Macmillan launched a larger advertising campaign (June 1972). One of these advertisements was printed in The New York Times Book Review on Sunday, November 5, 1972. This is the ad pictured in the sample image below. Macmillan preceded this two page spread with a copy of this ad in Publishers Weekly on October 30, 1972. The top of this earlier advertisement was bright red, with white lettering addressing booksellers: "Jonathan's sales will soar highest for Chr
istmas. Are you sure your reorder was big enough?" It also stated that the advertisement below it, in black and white, was a "Pre-print of a 2-page spread to appear in The New York Times Book Review, Sunday, November 5, 1972." The ad itself is a collection of quotations from favorable reviews, and it has the title, "A joyous gift -- for yourself and all the people you care about."
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
A21019990305141615.jpg
11 Other promotion
Although the actual promotion was sparse in the months surrounding the
first publication, a four page article about the book's designer, Joan Stoliar, in the July 27, 1970 issue of Publisher's Weekly could be considered promotional. Pages 62-63 contain four of the photos from the book, as well as a picture of the bo
ok's cover. The short description of the book in this article was kinder than many of the early reviews.
Bach visited television and radio programs, but not until after the book became popular (nearly two years after publication).
Merchandise, such as lunchboxes and curtains with seagull pictures were marketed. (See Supplementary Materials.)
Time magazine cover article: November 13, 1972; pgs 60-66.
August 14, 1972: Ad for Bach's book Biplane, in Publishers Weekly, p. 47. The words Jonathan Livingston Seagull are repeated three times in the 1/4 page ad.
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Movie: Jonathan Livingston Seagull Paramount Pictures Corporation, 1973. 99 min. Rated G. Voices: James Franciscus, Julie Mills, Hal Holbrook. Director, Producer, Screenplay: Hall Bartlett. Music: Neil Diamond.
Audio read by the author: Caedmon, 1981. Audio Renaissance Tapes, 1994.
Read by Richard Harris. Music composed by Terry James: ABC-Dunhill, 1973. "Inspirational Classics" Success Motivation Cassettes, 1982. One of six in the series.
Other sound recordings: Cultural Arts Board, California State university, San Diego, 1973. Soundtrack to film, by Neil Diamond, 1973. Columbia Records. This was his #2 all-time best-seller, for which he recieved Grammy and Golden Globe awards.
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
This book has been translated into more than 30 languages throughout the world. Some of which follow
: (Korean) Galmaegi eui ggum, Seoul, Korea: Sam Ji, 1979. (Thai) Chonathan Lifwingsatan Nangnuan, Bangkok: Dokya, 1984. (Chinese) Chuang chih ling yun / Li-ch'a Pa-ho yuan chu; Lo-su Pa-sen she ying; Ch'en Hsi-lin i., Hsiang-kang: Chi-tu chiao wen i ch'u pan she, 1973. (Greek) Ho Glaros Ionathan, Athena: Zaravanos, 1974. (Catalan) Joan Salvador Gavina, Barcelons: Ediciones B, Proa 1998. (French) Jonathan Livingston, le goeland, Paris: Flamarion, 1973. (Spanish) Juan Salvador Gaviota: un relato, Buenos Aires: J. Veraga, c1986. (Spanish) Juan Salvador Gaviota: un relato, Mexico, D.F.: editorial Pomaire, 1985, c1975. (Spanish) Juan Salvador Gaviota: un relato, Barcelona: Editorial Pomaire, c1973. (Korean) Kalmegi ui kkum (oe), Soul-si: Pomusa, 1983. : Taeil Ch'ulp'ansa, 1996. : Sodam Ch'ulp'ansa, 1990. Soul T'ukpyolsi: P'ungnim Ch'ulp'ansa, 1987 : Munye Ch'ulp'ansa, 1973. : Munjang, 1990. : Yerimdang, 1990. Pusan-si: Sonyongsa, 1986. Soul: Hagil Ch'ulp'ansa, 1977. : Usok, 1983. (Korean) Kalmaegi ui kkum Sinyokp'an, Soul: Munye Ch'ulp'ansa, 1993.
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
When the idea for this story came to Bach, he was able to have some of it published in a magazine called Private Pilot. Letters from readers enabled Bach to publish two more installments, but eventualy he was unable to decide on an ending. Some
of these installments were printed in other publications, but Bach was not paid for these. This was presumably around 1967, but the sources are not specific about the dates of this serialization and the names of the other journals. The ending of the book
was not published until the Macmillan version in 1970. The book apeared in a condensed form in Reader's Digest in May 1972 on pages 195-240, with paintings rather than Munson's photographs, and interspersed with advertisements.
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
There are no sequels or prequels to Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
Richard David Bach ? who claims to be a direct descendant of Johann Sebastian Bach ? was born in Oak Park, Illinois in 1936, to Roland Robert Bach and Ruth Helen (Shaw) Bach. He married his high school sweetheart
Bette in 1957, with whom he had six children. Bach spent one year at Long Beach State College (1955) and then dropped out to pursue his first love, flying ? a hobby he has maintained since age 17. Bach began training to be an Air Force jet-fighter pilot,
but he resigned after only twenty months because he was transferred to a desk job. This was only the first in a long string of odd jobs Bach took on to support his family, including: a mailman, Captain in the Iowa Air Guard (a position he left because of
his refusal to trim his bushy mustache), Douglas Aircraft employee, deliverer of phone books, barnstormer for hire, and jewelry salesman. According to Timothy Foote's article in the November 13, 1972 issue of Time magazine, Bach "never [held] the
same civilian job for more than eleven months." During all of these years of financial struggle, Bach tried ? usually unsuccessfully ? to make it as a freelance aviation writer. A change in Bach's writing came in the form of a voice and a vision that he claims to have had in 1959, at the age of 23. He says that as he walked alone one night, he heard a bodiless voice say to him, "Jonathan Livingston Seagull." He then wrote the fi
rst part of Jonathan Livingston Seagull while this voice gave him a "cinematic" vision of the story. However, when the vision stopped he was unable to finish the tale. He put the manuscript aside and continued his normal life of odd jobs and attemp
ts at publication. Eventually Bach landed a job as associate editor of Flying magazine, and he and his family moved to New Jersey. Many moves and unsuccessful editing jobs later in 1967, after financial troubles caused the family's car to be reposs
essed, Bach's visions returned. He claims that he finished Jonathan Livingston Seagull in the same way he began it ? while witnessing "cinematic" visions. Although his book was finished, it was not immediately published. Over the next few years, B
ach became estranged from his family, and in 1970 he and Bette were divorced.
Later that year, Bach's financial situation began to show some promise. Macmillan editor Eleanor Freide read his manuscript - which at the time was being pushed as a children's book - and she saw it's potential. She persuaded Macmillan to publish the bo
ok, but the company gave it almost no advertising budget. It took two years, but Jonathan Livingston Seagull proved itself as a financial success and made Bach a millionaire. He gave his ex-wife and children a significant amount of money and began
collecting planes and travelling throughout the world in his "Widgeon" ? a rather expensive live-in amphibian aircraft. Eventually, however, his finances plummeted again. He had invested most of his money through an unreliable source and could not pay the
$1 million in back taxes that he owed. In 1976, in financial dire straits, he and his new companion Leslie Parrish spent "most of the next two years travelling in a 45 foot trailer along the back roads of Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon" (Podolsky, Jones, an
d McCarten). Bach declared bankruptcy in 1981 and gave up his rights to his books' royalties.
Later that same year Bach and Parrish got married, and one year after that she pulled together all the money she had and bought back his copyrights from the government. In 1991, nine years after recovering Bach's rights to his royalties, the couple moved
into "a substantial five-bedroom house, behind and iron gate, north of Seattle" (Podolsky, Jones, McCarten). Together they have published two books, The Bridge Across Forever and One, They now live off the royalties of these, Jonathan Li
vingston Seagull
, and Bach's other successes Illusions, Stranger to the Ground, and Biplane.
Sources: Foote, Timothy. "It's a Bird! It's a Dream! It's Supergull!" Time. 13 Nov. 1972:60-66. Podolsky, J. D.; Jones, Rhoda Donkin; McCarten, Hugh. "The Seagull Has Landed." People Weekly. 27 Apr. 1972: 87+. "Richard (David) Bach." Contemporary Authors. Online. Gale Literary Databases.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
In 1970, the year that Jonathan Livingston Seagull was released without the benefit of advertising, its reviews were also almost nonexistent. Three journals that did mention this book, however, did so in br
ief and not too flattering ways. Library Journal placed their description in their "Natural History and Zoology" section regarding new books, and they didn't even give it its own review. Their reviewer, Washington, D.C. Librarian Elizabeth M. Cole
grouped it with and compared it to a book about training eagles. In this blurb she called Jonathan Livingston Seagull, "A minor philosophical novel which provides some background for the author's concept of freedom." The only positive things she sa
w about the book were the photographs, which she called "a delight" (Library Journal; Dec. 1, 1970, 4187). Later that year, in possibly the book's first truly negative review, a Publishers Weekly reviewer called the book a "strange little al
legory," pointing out that the "lovely photographs" were "definitely the best thing in the book." This reviewer then went on to claim that toward the end of the book, "The prose gets a mite too icky poo for comfort" (Publishers Weekly; Aug. 3, 1970
, 60). In another early description of the book, Book List placed it under the heading "Books for young adults," calling it "limited in appeal." This reviewer also like the pictures more than the prose: "Striking photographs of gulls in flight enha
nce the story in which the author's knowledge of aeronautics is apparent" (Booklist; Mar. 1, 1971, 553).
Two years later, Jonathan Livingston Seagull proved to these early critics that it was not a minor novel of limited appeal. It's meteoric rise to the top of the bestseller charts surprised many critics and journals -- including The New York Time
s Book Review
, who had neglected even to mention it upon its publication. Raymond Walters Jr. expressed this amazement in an article entitled "Seven Ways Not to Make a Best Seller" (The New York Times Book Review; July 23, 1972, 43) in which he
described how Jonathan Livingston Seagull broke all the rules which publishers usually followed when unleashing bestsellers -- perhaps as an excuse for The New York Times Book Review's failure to realize Jonathan's potential from the get g
o.
By 1972, Library Journal had moved Jonathan Livingston Seagull to its "Books for Young Adults" section; their reviewer called it a, "sensitive story told in lovely words... a deceptively simple fable for our time" (Library Journal; De
c 1972, 46).
An English teacher and book reviewer for English Journal, Jonathan Swift, described Jonathan Livingston Seagull as, "An almost nauseating potpourri (?ragout' might be a better word) of truisms and cliches borrowed from a hundred dissimilar s
ources" (English Journal; May 1973, 742). However, after being bombarded by requests from young adults and collegues for his take on the book, he decided to reread it. This time he did see some merit in the book's positive effect on the youth of t
he day: "The fact that there are hundreds of threads from all cultures in this book woven together with an element of mysticism may not be disadvantageous. Our lives have been raped of mysticism in recent years -- yet man still has this thirst to assuage.
(Perhaps this is why youth is turning to the occult and drugs.) It is this mysticism that youth finds in J.L.S. All the loose ends of years of what appears to be empty acculturation are tied up in a book of great simplicity (English Journal; May 19
73, 744-45).
In the years surrounding Jonathan Livingston Seagull's rise to stardom there were many important cultural and social reactions to the novella. In the paragraph introducing the November 13, 1972 Time cover story, Timothy Foote mentioned some
of the cultural phenomena surrounding Jonathan Livingston Seagull. He wrote: "A Bishop has denounced it for the sin of pride. The new director of the FBI is urging it on his top aides, explaining that he wants ?their spirits to soar.' A group of alcoholics in Ypsilanti, Mich., uses it to inspire members to recovery. The Christi
an Science Monitor
has refused to carry ads for it. A manufacturer has declared that it encourages ?ambition, attainment, leadership, exploration, excellence, growth, goals, imagination, courage, determination, loyalty, sharing, teaching, involvement,
and concern' -- not to mention more aggressive salesmanship. Critics have variously classified it as Hinduism and Scientology. Recently, a columnist, dismissing the whole thing as ?half baked fantasy,' offered its success as proof that America's brains a
re addled" (Time; Nov. 13, 1972, 60).
Perhaps the most adamant critics -- or at least the most vocal -- are Christians.
John Carey: "Mr. Bach's nice, soggy Christianity could not be expected to fit in unpleasantness like the Crucifixion. His book is for those who think the world would be a lovely place if it were full of chummy people and tame animals. Needless to say, suc
h beliefs are for the most part readily divorceable from their owners' actual conduct. It's of interest that Jonathan's spiritual aviation should prove so endearing to a nation currently using its own air power to crush North Vietnam" (The Listener
; Dec. 7, 1972, 797).
"Bach has written a multi-level, updated version of 'The Little Engine That Could.' The story charms in places, but it lacks the intellectual, tragic vision of sin that leads men to question -- and understand -- their purpose and God's" (Christianity
Today
; Dec. 22, 1972, 24).
John B. Breslin: "Jonathan Livingston Seagull has become a cultural phenomenon and, to my thinking, yet another index of the bathos into which the American imagination has been slipping" (America; Dec 2, 1072, 474).
Jean Caffey Lyles: "There's enough symbolism and allegory in the story to delight the most avid symbol hunter... The great virtue of this book is that it means precisely what you want it to mean" (Christian Century; Nov. 22, 1972, 1187).
For a listing of contemporary reception, see Supplementary Materials.
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
In 1970, the year that Jonathan Livingston Seagull was released without the benefit of advertising, its reviews were also almost nonexistent. Three journals that did mention this book, however, did so in br
ief and not too flattering ways. Library Journal placed their description in their "Natural History and Zoology" section regarding new books, and they didn't even give it its own review. Their reviewer, Washington, D.C. Librarian Elizabeth M. Cole
grouped it with and compared it to a book about training eagles. In this blurb she called Jonathan Livingston Seagull, "A minor philosophical novel which provides some background for the author's concept of freedom." The only positive things she sa
w about the book were the photographs, which she called "a delight" (Library Journal; Dec. 1, 1970, 4187). Later that year, in possibly the book's first truly negative review, a Publishers Weekly reviewer called the book a "strange little al
legory," pointing out that the "lovely photographs" were "definitely the best thing in the book." This reviewer then went on to claim that toward the end of the book, "The prose gets a mite too icky poo for comfort" (Publishers Weekly; Aug. 3, 1970
, 60). In another early description of the book, Book List placed it under the heading "Books for young adults," calling it "limited in appeal." This reviewer also like the pictures more than the prose: "Striking photographs of gulls in flight enha
nce the story in which the author's knowledge of aeronautics is apparent" (Booklist; Mar. 1, 1971, 553).
Two years later, Jonathan Livingston Seagull proved to these early critics that it was not a minor novel of limited appeal. It's meteoric rise to the top of the bestseller charts surprised many critics and journals -- including The New York Time
s Book Review
, who had neglected even to mention it upon its publication. Raymond Walters Jr. expressed this amazement in an article entitled "Seven Ways Not to Make a Best Seller" (The New York Times Book Review; July 23, 1972, 43) in which he
described how Jonathan Livingston Seagull broke all the rules which publishers usually followed when unleashing bestsellers -- perhaps as an excuse for The New York Times Book Review's failure to realize Jonathan's potential from the get g
o.
By 1972, Library Journal had moved Jonathan Livingston Seagull to its "Books for Young Adults" section; their reviewer called it a, "sensitive story told in lovely words... a deceptively simple fable for our time" (Library Journal; De
c 1972, 46).
An English teacher and book reviewer for English Journal, Jonathan Swift, described Jonathan Livingston Seagull as, "An almost nauseating potpourri (?ragout' might be a better word) of truisms and cliches borrowed from a hundred dissimilar s
ources" (English Journal; May 1973, 742). However, after being bombarded by requests from young adults and collegues for his take on the book, he decided to reread it. This time he did see some merit in the book's positive effect on the youth of t
he day: "The fact that there are hundreds of threads from all cultures in this book woven together with an element of mysticism may not be disadvantageous. Our lives have been raped of mysticism in recent years -- yet man still has this thirst to assuage.
(Perhaps this is why youth is turning to the occult and drugs.) It is this mysticism that youth finds in J.L.S. All the loose ends of years of what appears to be empty acculturation are tied up in a book of great simplicity (English Journal; May 19
73, 744-45).
In the years surrounding Jonathan Livingston Seagull's rise to stardom there were many important cultural and social reactions to the novella. In the paragraph introducing the November 13, 1972 Time cover story, Timothy Foote mentioned some
of the cultural phenomena surrounding Jonathan Livingston Seagull. He wrote: "A Bishop has denounced it for the sin of pride. The new director of the FBI is urging it on his top aides, explaining that he wants ?their spirits to soar.' A group of alcoholics in Ypsilanti, Mich., uses it to inspire members to recovery. The Christi
an Science Monitor
has refused to carry ads for it. A manufacturer has declared that it encourages ?ambition, attainment, leadership, exploration, excellence, growth, goals, imagination, courage, determination, loyalty, sharing, teaching, involvement,
and concern' -- not to mention more aggressive salesmanship. Critics have variously classified it as Hinduism and Scientology. Recently, a columnist, dismissing the whole thing as ?half baked fantasy,' offered its success as proof that America's brains a
re addled" (Time; Nov. 13, 1972, 60).
Perhaps the most adamant critics -- or at least the most vocal -- are Christians.
John Carey: "Mr. Bach's nice, soggy Christianity could not be expected to fit in unpleasantness like the Crucifixion. His book is for those who think the world would be a lovely place if it were full of chummy people and tame animals. Needless to say, suc
h beliefs are for the most part readily divorceable from their owners' actual conduct. It's of interest that Jonathan's spiritual aviation should prove so endearing to a nation currently using its own air power to crush North Vietnam" (The Listener
; Dec. 7, 1972, 797).
"Bach has written a multi-level, updated version of 'The Little Engine That Could.' The story charms in places, but it lacks the intellectual, tragic vision of sin that leads men to question -- and understand -- their purpose and God's" (Christianity
Today
; Dec. 22, 1972, 24).
John B. Breslin: "Jonathan Livingston Seagull has become a cultural phenomenon and, to my thinking, yet another index of the bathos into which the American imagination has been slipping" (America; Dec 2, 1072, 474).
Jean Caffey Lyles: "There's enough symbolism and allegory in the story to delight the most avid symbol hunter... The great virtue of this book is that it means precisely what you want it to mean" (Christian Century; Nov. 22, 1972, 1187).
For a listing of contemporary reception, see Supplementary Materials.
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Jonathan Livingston Seagull was not a typical bestseller. Not only was it initially refused by more than 20 publishing companies(1), but also once it was finally picked up by Macmillan it made it to the top
of the charts with almost no advertising budget. Richard Bach's allegory about a Seagull who did not want to accept the limits imposed on him by nature and society became the number one best-selling novel of 1972 mainly by word of mouth. Initially nickna
med "Friede's Folly" by publishing bigwigs(2) ? after Eleanor Friede, the editor who talked her superiors into publishing it ? Jonathan Livingston Seagull became the biggest surprise of the publishing industry. No one expected a book riddled with p
ictures and less than 100 pages long to rise to the most coveted spot on best-selling nonfiction and fiction lists. The short story contains less than 10,000 words, yet it broke all hardcover sales records since Gone with the Wind by selling more t
han 1,000,000 copies in 1972 alone(3). By 1972 the media picked up on the allure of this deceptively simple story, and Macmillan finally put money behind it. Jonathan Livingston Seagull became a cultural phenomenon of the 70's, comparable to bell-
bottoms and leisure suits. Collector's editions, merchandise, and a film followed the novella's burst onto the charts. It went on to sell more than 9 million copies in the first five years, and by 1992 the number totaled more than 30 million(4). The timin
g could not have been more perfect for the rise of this type of a tale. Society was primed and ready for Jonathan's particular style of rebellion and perfection thanks to the events preceding Jonathan's publication.
In the early 70's the time was right for a bird who defied the rules. The 1960's were a time of social and cultural change ? to say the least. The decade preceding Jonathan's popularity saw such amazing changes as The Civil Rights Movement, Women's Libera
tion, sexual revolutions, and rock and roll. Everything that came out of this era contributed to the enthusiastic reception Jonathan received from the public. Bach's hero's refusal to conform to his society was a perfect allegorical counterpart to the ref
usal of the youth of the day to follow in their parents' footsteps. The monotonous, self-denying lifestyle of Jonathan's flock was so much like the lifestyle that abounded in the 1950's that it made perfect sense that readers in the post-60's era would c
onnect with it. In the 60's women refused to be confined to the home and the kitchen as their parents' generation's stereotypes compelled, and they endured similar ridicule to that which Jonathan endured. During the Civil Rights Movement, African American
s refusing to accept the limits imposed on them by the outdated traditions of the segregated south met with immense interference in their struggle to change the world around them. Jonathan's statements, "The only true law is that which leads to freedom,"(
5) and "We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free!"(6) both could be easily construed as maxims for these movements. The Women's Liberation movement and the Civil R
ights Movement were reactions to rules that hindered blacks and women from obtaining freedom. Jonathan's emphasis on breaking away from his boundaries and working toward freedom and excellence appealed to the people in 1970's society who were sympatheti
c to these movements.
The hippie generation is another aspect of 1960's cultural change to which Jonathan's rebellion appealed. The hippies broke away from the normal way of life with drugs, free love, and rock and roll. They burned their draft cards in protest of the war in
Vietnam while they grew their hair much longer than the social code allowed. Jonathan's mother's comment early in the book probably sounded very familiar to young readers of the day, "'Why, Jon, why?' his mother asked. 'Why is it so hard to be
like the rest of the flock, Jon?'"(7). Woodstock ? the ultimate example of the youth of the 1960's breaking away from their parents' ideals ? occurred just one year before Jonathan's version of rebellion. The cultural atmosphere in 1970 was perfectly ac
climated to a story of a bird who refused to follow the old-fashioned rules that oppressed him.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull's thematic content was not the only aspect of the book that appealed to early 70's society ? its author was also someone who broke away from set rules and stereotypes. A large-scale Time cover story was importan
t to the success of the book because it outlined Bach's life, philosophies, hardships, poverty, and divorce. He was a fascinating character indeed ? one worthy of his own best selling novel. The article claimed Bach loved airplanes so much that at one tim
e he allowed his family's only automobile to be repossessed while he still owned an airplane, he personally delivered his wife's baby in their own house, and he once lost a job because he refused to compromise his individuality by trimming his mustache(8
). In an even more bizarre twist of his personality, Bach claimed that he did not even write his best selling novel. He claimed to have visions that he simply copied down on paper. "I don't write like that," he told Time. According to the article,
he also "point[ed] out that he disagree[d] entirely with Jonathan's decision to abandon the pursuit of private perfection in favor of returning to the dumb old Flock and encouraging its members to higher wisdom. 'Self-sacrifice,' sa[id] Bach, 'is a w
ord I cannot stand'"(9). In a time when younger generations embraced rebellion of all sorts, Bach's unique lifestyle fascinated them. His public persona no doubt appealed to many readers, and his personality helped sell his book. In time, Bach was bille
d on many talk shows. Hosts of shows in cities like Pittsburgh and Chicago realized immediately that his bushy mustache and thick head of blond hair made him an instant curiosity piece ? which of course led to more media appearances(10). Publisher's W
eekly
mentioned one instance where a Pittsburgh book store "sold 1000 copies in the first 24 hours after the author's appearance on the 'Contact' show"(11).The public was intrigued by his renegade persona, and since any publicity is good publicity,
his book sales soared following his public appearances. Needless to say, Bach's refusal to conform to the usual roles of best selling author and popular media figure made him a fashionable personage for the rebellious youth of 1972 to admire. These inte
resting facts about him -- once surfaced -- secured him and his book a prominent place in 1970's pop culture.
Jonathan's tale did more than symbolize rebellion and freedom to the hippie generation. It also symbolized a better world in which readers could escape the misery surrounding them. Jonathan's message to his students after becoming enlightened is one that
emphasizes this freedom to escape the troubles of society. He says, "Your whole body, from wingtip to wingtip is nothing more than your thought itself, in a form you can see. Break the chains of your thought, and you break the chains of your body too"(12)
. In the early 70's, suburban living rooms were bombarded with images of death and destruction that had never before been so publicized. The media's exploitation of its ability to bring the news of Vietnam home to the American people created a feeling of
despair. The carnage and savagery that filled television screens was inescapable. Jonathan Livingston Seagull was the perfect piece of escapist literature ? a book in which the hero teaches others how to break the natural boundaries of time and pl
ace to find a better world in which to live. In this simple, bedtime-story-like book, Jonathan's ability to reach perfection through his sheer will is optimistic to say the least. But this optimism was exactly what American society needed to escape the sh
adows cast by the Vietnam War. Jonathan's philosophy taught readers that they could overcome their negative circumstances by thinking positively ? a tactic that could not make the war disappear, but at least it could make readers feel better about themsel
ves and the world around them.
For some readers who opted to dig deeper into the book, there was more to it than cheery optimism. Many readers recognized Jonathan Livingston Seagull's moral undercurrent, which contained strains of a number of religious philosophies. As part of t
he rebellious hippie movement of the late 60's and early 70's, young people explored new ways of looking at the world. Traditional American middle class religions like Christianity and Judaism were seen as tenets of the older parent generation, and religi
ous exploration was yet another type of rebellion. Members of the Black power movement began following Islam, while hippies followed their icons ? The Beatles ? in an exploration of Hinduism. According to an article in The Hindustan Times, "Led by the Beatles [in 1968] seeking the blessing of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, all these young people moved towards India, for them some kind of magic land which would transform their spiritual lives an
d relieve their pain"(13). Young people searching for answers found solace in the religious philosophies of the east, and many of these philosophies could be found in Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Jonathan's philosophy of his body being nothing but
thought is congruent with the Hindu belief of the body as simply a carrier of the soul. The goal of Hindu followers is to be enlightened, much like Jonathan, and reach the point of perfection where they no longer have to rely on their Earthly carriers any
more. Furthermore, Hindu religions believed in reincarnation as a means to continue to climb toward perfection even after death. When the Great Gull tells Jonathan, "We choose our next world through what we learn in this one"(14), he is stating a major be
lief of Hinduism. In another connection to Hindu thought, Jonathan says, "Heaven is not a place, and it is not a time. Heaven is being perfect"(15). Interestingly, this statement also coincides with Bach's own religious belief at the time of writing the book ? the philosop
hy of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of The Church of Christ, Scientist. A major philosophy of this religion is, "Heaven and hell are not regarded as specific destinations one reaches after death, but as states of thought, experienced in varying degrees her
e and now, as well as after death"(16). These are not the only religions represented in Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Jonathan's role as a teacher come down from a higher place and his being thought of as "the son of the Great Gull Himself"(17) have
led some critics to consider the book a watered down version of traditional Christianity. Since the book does not focus on one religion exclusively, its readers are able to interpret it however they want. When Jonathan asks, "Who is more responsible than
a gull who finds and follows a meaning, a higher purpose for life?"(18), he is not passing judgement on those who believe one way or another. The importance of the book's spiritual message lies in the fact that it allows the reader to decide what that hi
gher purpose is ? whether it be enlightenment of the self or the teaching others. By keeping its religious message open to interpretation, Jonathan Livingston Seagull was popular among people of many different persuasions.
Perhaps the most important element of the book that helped it rise to stardom is this ability to appeal to all types of people. Its symbolism is so rich that every reader can project his or her own beliefs onto it. Ray Bradbury said, "Jonathan is a
great Rorschach test. You read your own mystical principles into it"(19). From hippies and rebels to activists and religious gurus to housewives and young adults, Jonathan's message touched the hearts of many readers. The morals of Bach's deceptively sim
ple allegory were perfectly acclimated to the changes abounding at the time of its publication, and the 1970's were the perfect home for a book about rebelling against societal and familial rules and striving for personal perfection.
1. Rowan. 2. Rowan. 3. Foote, 60. 4. Jones, Podolsky, McCarten, 87. 5. Bach, 83. 6. Bach, 27. 7. Bach, 14. 8. Foote. 9. Foote. 10. Walters, 10. 11. PW 12. Bach, 76-77. 13. www.hindustantimes.com. 14. Bach, 54. 15. Bach, 55. 16. www.tfccs.com. 17. Bach, 84. 18. Bach, 35. 19. Foote, 61.


Works Cited:
- Bach, Richard. Jonathan Livingston Seagull Macmillan 1970. - Foote, Timothy. "It's a Bird! It's a Dream! It's Supergull!" Time, November 13, 1972 p. 60-66. - Jones, Rhoda Donkin; Podolsky, J. D.; McCarten, Hugh. "The Seagull Has Landed." People Weekly, April 27, 1992, p 87+. - Rowan, Roy. "The best managers play hunches." U.S. News & World Report, May 12, 1986, p. 52. - Walters, Raymond Jr. "Seven Ways Not to Make a Best Seller." The New York Times Book Review, July 23, 1972 p. 4, 10. - Publisher's Weekly Best Sellers list, August 14, 1972, p. 82. - http://www.tfccs.com "The official home page of The Church of Christ, Scientist." Answer to question "Do you believe in Hell?" - http://www.hindustantimes.com. The Hindustan Times, Online., "In those heady days." November 15, 1998.
Supplemental Material
Contemporary reception: America; Dec. 2,1972. Books and Bookmen; Dec. 1972. Book List; Mar. 1, 1971. Best Sellers; Feb. 15, 1973. Book World; Apr. 23, 1972. Christian Century; Nov. 22, 1972. Christianity Today; Dec. 22, 1972. English Journal; May 1973. Flying; Dec. 1970. Instructor; June 1973. Library Journal; Dec. 1, 1970; Dec. 15, 1972. Life; Dec. 29, 1972. The Listener; Dec. 7, 1972. National Observer; Feb. 26, 1972. The New York Times Book Review; July 23, 1972. Publishers Weekly; July 27, 1970; Aug. 3, 1970; Dec. 4, 1972. Spectrum; May 1972. Time; Nov. 13, 1972. Yachting, Sept. 1972. Subsequent reception: Books and Religion; Fall 1990. Book List; Feb. 15, 1992. London Observer; Sept. 4, 1994. People Weekly; Apr. 27, 1992. Publishers Weekly; Nov. 7, 1994.
This cartoon appeare d with the <i>Time</i> article on November 13, 1972. Page 66.
This pewter plate is one of the many merchandise tie-ins that came out of <i>Jonathan Livingston Seagull</i>'s popularity. Photo by the owner: Joseph M. White.
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