Inaugural Blog Tour: Every Man Dies Alone
by Paul Oliver
More and more, we find ourselves in awe of the quality, depth and variety of places on the internet talking about books. Thus, we’ve decided to take a year-end look at how those places talked about our titles. (Read the kickoff.) The point is to highlight not only the titles we proudly published in 2010, but also some of the great writing about those titles from around the internet. In some cases the writing may only mention our book. In these instances the posts would of course have to be extraordinary.
The opportunity to publish, let alone resurrect, the works of a writer like Hans Fallada is of the once-in-a-lifetime order of events. When one of the writer’s books is a true masterpiece, as Every Man Dies Alone is, then the importance of the opportunity is even greater.
That is why all along we here at Melville House have been thankful for the energy and enthusiasm on behalf of Fallada shown by booksellers, readers and critics alike. Today we’d like to thank a handful of the blogs that championed this very special book.
Before that though I’d like to dust off the series called Anatomy of a Marketing Campaign that we ran a few months ago describing the xs and os (as in chalkboard not kisses and hugs) of our advertising campaign for Every Man Dies Alone. If you haven’t seen the ten-part series then you definitely need to check it out.
I mention the series here because one of the key ingredients to the campaign was outlined in the last post of the series and amounts to what for better or worse can only be called luck. Word of mouth. Individual bookseller champions, hand-selling the books they believe in. Book club participation. The literary paladins known humbly as librarians. The level of involvement this book has enjoyed outside of our office is like no other.
And this phenomena extends to the realm of blogs as well.
A blog post can be a very involved affair and really the thing that has impressed us the most is the creativity and time intensive length of the criticism found on blogs. A lot of smart people are out there doing big things for literature. So luck is certainly on the side of publishers when it comes to the realm of electronic criticism.
And out of our general luck, we’d like to point out a trio of blogs that championed Every Man Dies Alone.
It would be wrong if we didn’t kick this off with one review in particular: Montreal’s truly amazing Argo Book Shop runs an equally amazing blog. Bookstore blogs are truly great things but usually error towards propriety and good conduct. It makes sense. You’re running a bookstore and want to have a professional appearance, even on your blog.
Yeah, not so much Argo. When they want to say something they do just that. Admirably done too.
Hans Fallada. HANS FALLADA. HANS FREAKING FALLADA. That is me yelling his name from the literary rooftops. Where has this guy been all my life? Have you ever wondered what Dostoevsky would have written about the Third Reich? Well now I think we know.
It’s kind of tough for the other blogs to follow that. That’s blog showmanship right there. P.T. Barnum nods his approval.
The other blogs on hand today aren’t ones to go quietly into the night. Next up on the list today is the blog of a book club named Living To Read. Twenty-five years running too, this book club. Not to be outdone they offer up this clear description of Every Man’s nature and importance:
Hans Fallada took the real life events and wrote a compelling story about a non-descript working class couple, Otto and Anna Quangel, who decide to wage a silent war against Hitler when their son is killed at the front. Fallada sums up their unrelenting determination when Anna concludes “No one could risk more than his life. Each according to his strength and abilities, but the main thing was, you fought back.” This is the strength and beauty of this book. It gives the reader a lost insight into the small but meaningful resistance that some Germans took part in against unbeatable odds.
Last but not least we have The Peking Duck, which is, er, well, We’ll let the Duck explain the situation.
A peculiar hybrid of personal journal, dilettantish punditry, pseudo-philosophy and much more, from an Accidental Expat who has made his way from Hong Kong to Beijing to Taipei and finally back to Beijing for reasons that are still not entirely clear to him
On thing for sure, he’s a mallard that’s keen on Fallada’ Every Man Dies Alone:
The book is also rare because it has languished, virtually unknown outside of Germany for more than half a century, which is completely inexplicable. This is a great and powerful book and one of the most penetrating and disturbing examinations of life in a totalitarian society, written before the historians and anthropologists wrote the books that have shaped so many of our impressions of the Third Reich.
The Duck’s long-form post on Every Man is thorough and insightful. In the comment section of the post our feathered interlocutor goes ahead and shows that they aren’t scared to ruffle feathers with a slight but succinct questioning of whether or not there are comparisons to be found in Fallada’s tale of Nazi terror and the totalitarianism of modern day China. Such is the power of a book like Every Man Dies Alone. The Quangels are still fighting the good fight all these years later.
It might not be luck that garnered these favorable words but it certainly feels lucky to receive such praise.
What more can a publisher want when there is such a diversity of bloggers out there proclaiming our wares?
Brief but important aside: Here is to hoping that our blog tour doesn’t land our duck in China in any hot water. Still, the important things is…
Paul Oliver is the marketing manager of Melville House. Previously he was co-owner of Wolfgang Books in Philadelphia.