According to Google, both the 70th and hundredth anniversaries are honored with platinum gifts. Since Earth Abides is closing in on the 70th anniversary of publication, George R. Stewart’s epic work is approaching platinum.
The novel was published on October 7, 1949. It immediately caught the attention of reviewers for its well-written, epic tale of humans living in a world they no longer dominate. One later reviewer went so far as to call it “a second work of Genesis.” With its title from Ecclesiastes, and the old testament rhythm of its language, it is almost biblical in its feeling.
Stewart later insisted he didn’t intend it to be a religious work. But even he admitted that there was “a certain quality there.” The language was one reason. Stewart taught himself Hebrew before he wrote the book. He wanted to translate portions of the Bible into more-modern English. He was surely influenced by the style of ancient Hebrew.
The book has had enormous influence. Stephen King based The Stand on Earth Abides, Grammy-nominated composer Philip Aaberg wrote “Earth Abides,” Jimi Hendrix was inspired to write “Third Rock From the Sun” by the novel (his favorite book), other authors and scientists honor Stewart’s works. It is published in either 20 or 27 languages, depending on who you ask. There is some talk of producing a film version of the novel.
The best essay about the novel was written by James Sallis and published in The Boston Globe. Like Stewart, Sallis realizes the importance of integrity and beauty in his work, and it’s reflected in his essay. (Sallis is a distinguished novelist and poet, whose noir novella Drive was filmed by Nicolas Winding Refn.)
The novel has never been out of print –no thanks to its original publisher. Random House decided to pull the novel in the early 1970s. Fortunately, Stewart and small fine press publisher Alan Ligda quickly got together and brought out a beautiful copy from Ligda’s Hermes Press.
The Hermes edition sold well. Random House quickly realized they’d made a mistake and bought the rights back.
Thanks to Alan Ligda, Earth Abides has been in print for seventy years come next October. He is a Hero of the novel. Sadly, he died young, and won’t be able to help celebrate the book’s Platinum Anniversary. So please take a minute (or more) to say a silent thanks to Alan Ligda while you celebrate the novel.
And read the novel again. (You’ll have to do a number of readings to catch up with Steve Williams, the Pilgrim, who doesn’t know how many dozens of times he’s read it.) As you read, reflect on Stewart’s role in raising our consciousness of the ecosystem. His wildly popular ecological novels, Storm, Fire, and Earth Abides, and his less-widely read “post-modernist” ecological novel, Sheep Rock, have shaped our thinking. Like most great creative works of thought, they have more power than all the armies in existence. That pen (or, in Stewart’s case, pencil) is mightier than the sword.
By the way – if you want to buy a signed first edition, Morley’s Books in Carson City just happens to have one. It comes with a custom box to protect the classic. Only $1600 – about half the price of another on offer at ABE.
I don’t even know how many copies I have owned of this book OR how many time I’ve read it. I know it’s a lot because I read it when I was a teenager and I’ve been rereading it regularly ever since. I used to give away copies to people who hadn’t read it. Then, of course, I had to read it again, so I bought another one. A couple of years ago, I bought the audiobook which, fortunately, I can’t give away — but I still have three paperbacks waiting for the next person I meet who hasn’t read it yet — or who needs to read it again 😀
You’re a true EA fan, Marilyn. That’s the effect the book has had on many. (I just gave my last paperback copy away!) And thanks for reposting the Disney post on your blog. By the way I’ve updated the EA post so you may want to give it another look.
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I challenge Alan Lidga’s claim to have read Earth Abides more times than anyone else has. Since I can only estimate ”dozens, ” like him, no one can prove me wrong. I just know I’ve read it more often than anything except Thr Lord of the Rings.
I’m still waiting for someone to approach whoever lives in the Stewart house in Berkeley, the model for Ish’s house, to ask them to allow George’s devotees to make a pilgrimage there. Since that’s where Ish and the other adults established the state, as a political scientist of sorts I would feel like I was visiting Independence Hall.
I’ll see what I can do. But be advised Jack Stewart once said that the house has been changed so much it is no longer Ish’s house, except for location and general external configuration.
During my all too brief trip to Berkeley in the mid 1980’s, I visited “the house on San Lupo Drive” and took photos from the porch (with permission of the then lady owner, and noted this down in “In search of George R Stewart”, my writings following the trip.
I also sought out, and was invited into Mrs Osmer’s house by herself, and drank tea with her. I agree with Don that this important anniversary should be marked, and I will apply some thought to it. Earth Abides has been the single most influential book I have ever read, and continue to read (as I’m doing at this time). It was the book which started the ripples moving out, and they are still moving!!
Reblogged this on the EARTH ABIDES project and commented:
In less than one week, Earth Abides will be celebrating it’s 70th anniversary in print, with no gaps in publication history. So I’m re-posting this for the millions of readers and thinkers who’ve kept it in print, and in their hearts for 7 decades.