What a Book Can Do: The Publication and Reception of Silent Springby Priscilla Coit Murphy
In 1962 the publication of Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring"sparked widespread public debate on the issue of pesticide abuse and environmental degradation. The discussion permeated the entire print and electronic media system of mid-twentieth century America. Although Carson's text was serialized in the New Yorker, it made a significant difference that it was also… See more details below
In 1962 the publication of Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring"sparked widespread public debate on the issue of pesticide abuse and environmental degradation. The discussion permeated the entire print and electronic media system of mid-twentieth century America. Although Carson's text was serialized in the New Yorker, it made a significant difference that it was also published as a book. With clarity and precision, Priscilla Coit Murphy explores the importance of the book form for the author, her editors and publishers, her detractors, the media, and the public at large.
Murphy reviews the publishing history of the Houghton Mifflin edition and the prior New Yorker serialization, describing Carson's approach to her project as well as the views and expectations of her editors. She also documents the response of opponents to Carson's message, notably the powerful chemical industry, including efforts to undermine, delay, or stop publication altogether.
Murphy then investigates the media's role, showing that it went well beyond providing a forum for debate. In addition, she analyzes the perceptions and expectations of the public at large regarding the book, the debate, and the media. By probing all of these perspectives, Murphy sheds new light on the dynamic between newsmaking books, the media, and the public. In the process, she addresses a host of broader questions about the place of books in American culture, past, present, and future.
"In this in-depth study of a best-selling and influential book, Murphy makes an extremely important contribution to the history of print culture. . . . Her book is a quick read and not at all ponderous, so I recommend it not only to scholars in book history and mass communications, but also to anyone interested in the influence of the media and in 'Silent Spring' itself. It will be a marvelous addition to mass communications and book history classes." Beth Luey, author of "Handbook for Academic Authors"
"Combines a marvelous blend of good detective work and rounding up of the correct suspects. There is, to my mind, a novel combination of literatures (publishing history, media effects, social movement research) that tells a very compelling story. Murphy recreates the time period nicely and captures the relationship between Carson and The New Yorker and her Houghton Mifflin editor beautifully. . . . I can think of very few comparable studies of a work of nonfiction." Walter W. Powell, coauthor of "Books: The Culture and Commerce of Publishing"
PRISCILLA COIT MURPHY is an independent scholar who lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
A volume in the series Studies in Print Culture and the History of the Book.
- University of Massachusetts Press
- Publication date:
- Studies in Print Culture and the History of the Book
- Edition description:
- New Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Table of Contents
|1||Silent Spring and its contexts : "the right to know"||1|
|2||Author and agent : "where an author can call his soul his own"||19|
|3||Editors and publishers : dealing with a "super-ruckus"||53|
|4||Opposition : "how do you fight a best-seller?"||89|
|5||Media : "one formidable indictment"||119|
|6||Audience : "this ought to be a book"||159|
|Conclusion : " speaking truth to power"||183|
|App||Perspectives on the study of Silent Spring||199|
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