Thanks to a rave essay by Jonathan Franzen that graced the cover of the New York Times Book Review on June 6, Picador is seeing new life for a novel with some singular praise that has remainedd, throughout its publication, largely unknown: Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children.
Franzen, who admitted the book could be difficult, was nonetheless effusive in his plug, which was spread over three pages. Saying the novel “operates at a pitch of psychological violence that makes Revolutionary Road look like Everybody Loves Raymond,” he made the case that the The Man Who Loved Children's omission from the canon remains puzzling. About the general reader, he wrote: “I’m convinced that there are tens of thousands of people in this country who would bless the day the book was published, if only they could be exposed to it.”
The unique coverage the book received in the Book Review—it’s rare for a single title to be celebrated in the section over the column space that was given to the Franzen essay—is having a positive effect on sales. Frances Coady, at Picador, said the imprint has been publishing the title since 2001 and that sales have hovered “in the hundreds.” Now, after going back to press for 4,000 copies, Picador is rolling out a summer promotion for the nearly 70-year-old work.
The book will be featured on a “trade paperback favorites” table at various Barnes & Noble stores and will also be getting some in-store promotion at Borders. Coady said a number of independent bookstores are including the title on a summer reading list (sent out as a special email newsletter) and that Amazon has highlighted it on its books homepage.
As Franzen also noted, The Man Who Loved Children was never widely embraced by critics or the public. It was greeted, when it was first published in 1940, to what he described as “lackluster reviews and negligible sales.” But Franzen may have changed all that—at least on small scale—since Coady predicts that Picador will be going back for another printing soon.