Modern Library

The Modern Library is an American publishing company. Founded in 1917 by Albert Boni and Horace Liveright as an imprint of their publishing company Boni & Liveright, it was purchased in 1925 by Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer. Random House began in 1927 as a subsidiary of the Modern Library but eventually overtook its parent to become the parent company of what then only became an imprint of Random House.[1]

Modern Library
Parent companyRandom House
Founded1917
FoundersAlbert Boni, Horace Liveright
Country of originUnited States
Headquarters locationNew York City, New York
Publication typesBooks
Official websitemodernlibrary.com

Recent history

The Modern Library originally published only hardbound books.[2] In 1950, it began publishing the Modern Library College Editions, a forerunner of its current series of paperback classics. From 1955 to 1960, the company published a high quality, numbered paperback series, but discontinued it in 1960, when the series was merged into the newly acquired Vintage paperbacks group. The Modern Library homepage states:

In 1992, on the occasion of the Modern Library's seventy-fifth anniversary, Random House embarked on an ambitious project to refurbish the series. We revived the torchbearer emblem that Cerf and Klopfer commissioned in 1925 from Lucian Bernhard. The Promethean bearer of enlightenment (known informally around the old Modern Library offices as the "dame running away from Bennett Cerf") was redesigned several times over the years, most notably by Rockwell Kent.[1]

In 1998, novelist David Ebershoff became the Modern Library's new Publishing Director. Ebershoff managed the imprint until 2005, when he resigned to concentrate on his own writing and to become editor-at-large at Random House.

In September 2000, the Modern Library initiated a newly designed Paperback Classics series. Six new titles are published in the series on the second Tuesday of each month.

Modern Library lists

At its onset the Modern Library identified itself as "The Modern Library of the World's Best Books". In keeping with that brand identity, in 1998 the editors created a list they called the "Modern Library List of Best 20th-Century Novels", numbering 100 titles. They also conducted an internet poll of public opinion, then produced a readers' list. (The lists were actually restricted to works in English, but titles of the lists do not represent this, and little attention was paid to that fact in publicity for the lists.)

The "top ten" of the editors' list is shown here—and the two "100 Best Novels" lists are linked below.

According to a New York Times article about the list, executives at Random House said they hoped that as the century drew to a close their list would encourage public debate about the greatest works of fiction of the last hundred years, thus both increasing awareness of the Modern Library and stimulating sales of novels the group publishes.[3]

Both lists have incurred criticism. Their ranking system concerned many professional scholars and critics. The board members themselves, who did not create the rankings and were unaware of it until the list was published, expressed disappointment and puzzlement.[4] There are only eight or nine women on the list, some very influential works are ranked below works of questionable literary merit, and the works of major writers from many English-speaking countries apart from the United States and England—such as Australia, Canada, India, and South Africa—have been ignored. There were also hypotheses that the Modern Library merely made a selection based on its stocklist.[5] A. S. Byatt, the well-known English novelist who was on the board, called the list "typically American".[6]

The list was compiled via approval voting, by sending each board member a list of 440 pre-selected books from the Modern Library catalogue and asking each member to place a check beside novels they wished to choose. Then the works with the most votes were ranked the highest, and ties were decided arbitrarily by Random House publishers. This explains surprising results like the No. 5 placement of Brave New World (1932), which most of the judges agreed belonged somewhere on the list, but much lower than the very top.

David Ebershoff, the Modern Library division's publishing director, stated in a follow-up "the people who were drawn to go to the Modern Library Web site and compelled to vote have a certain enthusiasm about books and their favourite books that many people don't, so that the voting population is skewed."[7] In addition, people were allowed to vote repeatedly, once per day, making the poll a measure of how much effort people would put into promoting their favorite books. Others have been more direct in their descriptions of the results; librarian Robert Teeter remarks that the ballot boxes were "stuffed by cultists".[8]

References

  1. ^ a b "About Modern Library". Modern Library. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  2. ^ Gidding, Gary (December 6, 1992). "Why I Carry a Torch for the Modern Library". The New York Times. Retrieved May 23, 2011.
  3. ^ July 20, 1998 article in the NYT: "'Ulysses' on Top Among 100 Best Novels"
  4. ^ Streitfeld, David. "The Lowdown on the Literary List". The Washington Post.
  5. ^ Rubenstein, Steve (July 21, 1998). "Sound and Fury Over Top Novel List N.Y. publisher's selections signify little, critics say". San Francisco Chronicle.
  6. ^ Lewis, Paul (1998-07-20). "'Ulysses' at Top As Panel Picks 100 Best Novels". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-10-27.
  7. ^ "Opinion". CAJ.ca. Fall 2002.
  8. ^ "Great Books". Interleaves.org.

Bibliography

External links

All the King's Men

All the King's Men is a novel by Robert Penn Warren first published in 1946. Its title is drawn from the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty. In 1947, Warren won the Pulitzer Prize for All the King's Men. It was adapted for a film in 1949 and 2006; the 1949 version won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It is rated as the 36th greatest novel of the 20th century by Modern Library, and it was chosen as one of Time magazine's 100 best novels since 1923.

Ironweed (novel)

Ironweed is a 1983 novel by William Kennedy. It received the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and is the third book in Kennedy's Albany Cycle. It placed at number ninety-two on the Modern Library list of the 100 Best Novels written in English in the 20th Century and is also included in the Western Canon of the critic Harold Bloom.

Le Monde's 100 Books of the Century

The 100 Books of the Century (French: Les cent livres du siècle) is a list of the one hundred best books of the 20th century, according to a poll conducted in the spring of 1999 by the French retailer Fnac and the Paris newspaper Le Monde.

Starting from a preliminary list of 200 titles created by bookshops and journalists, 17,000 French voters responded to the question, "Which books have remained in your memory?" (Quels livres sont restés dans votre mémoire ?).The list of acclaimed titles mixes great novels with poetry and theatre, as well as the Asterix comic book. The list includes many French novels because of the demographics of the surveyed group. (Likewise, comparable lists by English language sources--such as the two lists of Modern Library 100 Best Novels published in 1998, one by the Board of the Modern Library and the other by readers who responded--disproportionately favor British and American authors.)

Modern Library 100 Best Novels

Modern Library's 100 Best Novels is a list of the best English-language novels published in the 20th century, as selected by the Modern Library, an American publishing company owned by Random House.

The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild is a short adventure novel by Jack London published in 1903 and set in Yukon, Canada, during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush, when strong sled dogs were in high demand. The central character of the novel is a dog named Buck. The story opens at a ranch in Santa Clara Valley, California, when Buck is stolen from his home and sold into service as a sled dog in Alaska. He becomes progressively feral in the harsh environment, where he is forced to fight to survive and dominate other dogs. By the end, he sheds the veneer of civilization, and relies on primordial instinct and learned experience to emerge as a leader in the wild.

London spent almost a year in the Yukon, and his observations form much of the material for the book. The story was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post in the summer of 1903 and was published a month later in book form. The book's great popularity and success made a reputation for London. As early as 1923, the story was adapted to film, and it has since seen several more cinematic adaptations.

Tono-Bungay

Tono-Bungay is a realist semiautobiographical novel written by H. G. Wells and published in 1909. It has been called "arguably his most artistic book". It was originally serialized in The English Review beginning in the magazine's first issue in December 1908. It was serialized in the United States in The Popular Magazine beginning in the September 1908 issue.

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