Telephone Telephone discussion


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3 Versions of Telephone

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message 1: by Betsy (last edited May 21, 2020 04:19PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Betsy Robinson SPOILER CONVERSATION WARNING
I read the version of this book with the compass on the top right of the cover pointing northeast. Per my review, I was so satisfied that I probably won't read the other versions. But I'd love to have the kind of discussion Everett originally intended (described in this Creative Capital interview).

Which version did you read: Northeast, Northwest, Southeast? Can you identify your version and give your thoughts? I'd love to discuss.


Keith One of my grad school professors was Matthew J. Bruccoli, who was the leading authority on F. Scott Fitzgerald. Broccoli was into textual criticism (comparing and contrasting the changes in texts over time, i.e. from drafts to revisions to publication, etc.). For one of my projects he gave me the original typescript of Fitzgerald's story "The Last of the Belles," and I was to track the changes from that version to the magazine publication (in The Saturday Evening Post), and then to the version of the story that appeared in the collection Taps at Reveille. I found some really interesting stuff!

Textual criticism is tedious, precise work, because you have to look at every letter, every word, every punctuation mark, etc. But doing the project in Bruccoli's class made me appreciate that way of looking at texts, which is why I'm interested in the other versions of Telephone.

I can appreciate why someone would want to hang on to their preferred version of any text, but ultimately what I had to realize when doing textual criticism is that everything is in flux, even texts. I think that's part of what Everett is saying. Which version is "correct"? Is ANY version of ANY text "correct"?


Betsy Robinson Keith wrote: "One of my grad school professors was Matthew J. Bruccoli, who was the leading authority on F. Scott Fitzgerald. Broccoli was into textual criticism (comparing and contrasting the changes in texts o..."

I love this, Keith, and I think this was exactly Everett's point in the interview he did for Creative Capital. I may eventually read the other versions, but right now I'm savoring. I'm curious about how the version you read ended. (I guess I should put a spoiler warning in the intro to this discussion.) Since you read a different version than mine, which, to my mind ended perfectly, I'm so curious.

In my version (NE compass), Zach successfully returns the captive women to Mexico. I read toward it feeling such trepidation I could hardly breathe. How did yours end?


Phyllis I am deeply intrigued at the rare opportunity the three published versions of Telephone provide to see the choices a novelist makes while writing. Especially from an author like Percival Everett, whose writing is about as far from formulaic as it gets.

I write non-fiction evaluations of a certain kind of system. These are factual evaluations, so the facts are what they are and I don't get to choose them. But each time I write a report, I have to make decisions about which facts are relevant and which are not, about in what order to present the relevant facts for them to be understandable, and about how to translate professional vocabulary and jargon into plain English. These decisions are often difficult to make, yet I consider the process to be circumscribed within a limited area.

The world of fiction seems limitless in its choices. As a novelist develops a story, it can go in any direction at every moment. And that is before deciding where the story begins, where it ends, word choices, tone, characters, themes -- lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

I've read the northeast version of Telephone, and I can't wait to get my hands on the other two versions (if only I can figure out how, in the midst of this germ-y world). Thank you, Mr. Everett, for this rare opportunity to peek just a bit inside the fiction writer's mind.


Betsy Robinson As an editor and a novelist, the process of birthing a story is something I'm intimately familiar with, so I understand the enormity of what Everett did. According to the Creative Capital interview, he really wrote three books--which means he had to be so open to the story telling him which way it wanted to go. I sensed the enormity of his source in the NE edition. As I said in my review, it literally made me pass out at first--an experience I've had in the presence of realized beings or in deep meditation. It's a drugged feeling where you're overcome by an energy that's bigger than anything you normally experience. So to write three versions, he must have been so open I can hardly comprehend it.

It's so interesting to hear you, Phyllis, with your experience, and you, Keith, with yours. And then add mine. This feels like a kind of symphony of response.

I'm looking forward to this discussion and maybe eventually reading the other two versions.


Keith So, I’m now on my second novel since finishing Telephone, so I suppose I’ll need to go back and review at some point, but here’s a possible starting point. Betsy said, “In my version,...Zach returns the captive women to Mexico.”

Now, without saying too much here, is it necessary to assume that in any of the versions, he doesn’t return them? It could be a matter of detail. For example, where, specifically, is Zach at the end? Where is he going? What is the last word he says and who does he say it to? Is there a clear resolution? What’s going on?

I read the Kindle edition, by the way. My immediate reaction after it ended was, okay, that was a bit sudden.


Betsy Robinson Keith wrote: "So, I’m now on my second novel since finishing Telephone, so I suppose I’ll need to go back and review at some point, but here’s a possible starting point. Betsy said, “In my version,...Zach return..."

Now I'm really intrigued. That hadn't occurred to me that he could do the same thing in the different versions but that the difference Everett refers to could be in state of mind, etc. The last sentence of my version erupted in my heart like an earthquake. I sobbed and fell apart. Now I guess I really have to read the other versions.


Phyllis I think perhaps that Betsy, Keith, and I are miraculously (without having conspired) accidentally demonstrating exactly what Everett talks about in the Creative Capital interview. And that's happening without our even really approaching the actual substance of the different book versions. Every reader comes to every book with their own personal history and experiences and hopes and expectations, and we can't help how that influences the way we perceive both the content and the structure of a book. Pretty amazing stuff.


Betsy Robinson Phyllis wrote: "I think perhaps that Betsy, Keith, and I are miraculously (without having conspired) accidentally demonstrating exactly what Everett talks about in the Creative Capital interview. And that's happen..."

I was thinking the same thing, Phyllis. This is the game of "Telephone" that we're talking about. If in fact the same things happen in all three versions, but characters' qualities or feelings or who knows what is different, then they too are playing "Telephone." So the really big theme of this project is the same one that governs all human experience: we all project; we all experience everything as programmed by our own experiences; yet we're usually so sure our version is the truth.

I can think about this forever.


Tristan I read this book with three other people. We all purchased the book from different sources to try and get different editions and see if we noticed the differences.

All four of us (and later a fifth person) ended up getting the NE Compass edition. The odds of this many people getting the NE edition if there is an equally distribution of the other editions is shockingly low. We've contacted the publisher for an explanation and they haven't responded.

We all liked the book. Not sure I understood the ending and suspect I need to reread it (hopefully a different edition) to pick up on a lot of the references and symbolism I missed the first time.


message 11: by Betsy (last edited May 22, 2020 08:54AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Betsy Robinson Tristan wrote: "I read this book with three other people. We all purchased the book from different sources to try and get different editions and see if we noticed the differences.

All four of us (and later a fif..."


Well, that's interesting, Tristan. I wonder what's going on with distribution. Let us know if you hear from Graywolf. They're on twitter. That might be an effective way of publicly asking.

Re the ending: I was absolutely slayed by the last line, which to me meant that Zach remembered Life--what it is to be alive. "Seeing the bear" was a life-bubbling experience for him and Sarah (or was it imagining finally having a bear sighting? I think Sarah longed to see a bear and they never saw one when hiking.) And at the assisted living facility, when a bear appeared outside her window, and she couldn't take it in, he mercy killed her. He says at the end that the Mexican women saved him. He needed to help them to feel alive again. So at the end, after they are liberated, when he says, "I remembered seeing the bear," it's a return to the possibility of fully being alive. I couldn't stop crying.

Anybody else have opinions on this?


Tristan Betsy wrote: "They're on twitter. That might be an effective way of publicly asking."

I left a comment on their instagram post about the book. They haven't responded.


Betsy Robinson Tristan wrote: "Betsy wrote: "They're on twitter. That might be an effective way of publicly asking."

I left a comment on their instagram post about the book. They haven't responded."


And I just sent a tweet to Fionna McCrae, publisher, referencing this conversation, She had liked and thanked me for my review, so I put the question in a reply to that. I'll let you know if I hear back. I'm really curious.


Phyllis Tristan wrote: "I read this book with three other people. We all purchased the book from different sources to try and get different editions and see if we noticed the differences.

All four of us (and later a fif..."

Now I'm wondering whether the distribution of the three versions might be more straightforward than I was thinking. We know Keith read it on Kindle and had the northwest version. Sounds as if all of us so far who bought a domestic print version received the northeast version. Do you think the southeast version might have been distributed out of country? Just conjecturing here.


Tristan I got the kindle sample and looked at the cover of the kindle version. Its appears to be the northeast version.

I don't see where Keith said he had the NW version, but I'm using the terrible Goodreads app so I may have missed it


Tristan Ok I bought the kindle version. It totally has a different ending than the book.


Phyllis Tristan wrote: "Ok I bought the kindle version. It totally has a different ending than the book."
Look at us sleuthing our way through this scavenger hunt! Thank you, Tristan, for the confirmation on that.

I believe Keith identified having gotten his from Kindle in the comments to his review, here https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Now to track down the southeast version. We can do this fellow readers!


Tristan I looked at the cover for the nook edition. It appears to be SW. Anyone still using a Nook in here? I've already purchased the book twice anyone else willing to buy a nook copy?


Tristan The colophon of the kindle version and nook version appear to be the same. They both have
2 4 6 8 9 7 5 3 1 C
While the paper copy has
2 4 6 8 9 7 5 3 1 A

Where is edition B is the next question. Audio?


Betsy Robinson Tristan, you're amazing. I checked Twitter and still no answer from Fionna McCrae. But I sense we will prevail! This is exciting.


Betsy Robinson Tristan wrote: "I looked at the cover for the nook edition. It appears to be SW. Anyone still using a Nook in here? I've already purchased the book twice anyone else willing to buy a nook copy?"

I don't have a Nook. But this makes sense with the way you publish books. Different files are used for a paperbook, a Kindle, and a Nook or a Kobo. So that would be the easiest way to distribute different versions.

Hearing that what Keith read (NW version) ends so differently than what I found so perfect (NE version) kind of makes me lose my interest in reading another version. But I may change my mind again. I'm fickle this way.


message 22: by Betsy (last edited May 23, 2020 06:35AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Betsy Robinson I think I solved the puzzle by searching for ISBN numbers--they are
978-1-64445-022-2 A, B and C.

The A, B, and C don't register in the regularly listed ISBNs (they are probably a publisher's add-on, and Bookscan merely records things as paperback and ebook sales), but for A and C, the paperback and the Kindle come up in a google search. The first listing that comes up when I do a search for B is Kobo:
https://www.kobo.com/my/en/ebook/tele...

Kobo is the most popular e-reader for all countries outside the USA.

So, it seems:
A=all paperbacks
B=worldwide Kobo
C=Kindle


Tristan I bought the kobo version (with a coupon is was only $5.00). It appears to be the same as the kindle version. Same ending and same C on the colophon.


Betsy Robinson Tristan wrote: "I bought the kobo version (with a coupon is was only $5.00). It appears to be the same as the kindle version. Same ending and same C on the colophon."

Damn!


message 25: by Phyllis (last edited Jun 08, 2020 11:43AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Phyllis Is there an audio version that might be the "B" version? I'm thinking it would be kind of a cool twist on the whole concept if the version you get also depends on how you take in the content -- reading a book, reading digitally, listening.


Tristan I have not been able to find an audio version.


Betsy Robinson Phyllis wrote: "Is their an audio version that might be the "B" version? I'm thinking it would be kind of a cool twist on the whole concept if the version you get also depends on how you take in the content -- rea..."

That's an interesting idea. Eventually this will come clear. My guess is there is a glitch in the distribution process. I'm surprised there was no reply from the publisher. Alas.


Christmas I put together a book club to read this book thinking it would be fun to all have different versions. Unfortunately, based on everyone's covers, we all ended up with the SAME book (NE). Seven people in six different states. I even read an interview with Everett where he says he thinks the idea of a book club discussing the different versions and realizing the books are different was a fun idea to him. Unfortunately, this book club isn't going to have that experience. If the publisher is going to promote this book based on the three versions, they need to do a better job distributing all three versions. I'd think it was all a trick, but I've also seen posts from book reviewers that claim to have been given all 3 versions to compare for their reviews.


Betsy Robinson Christmas wrote: "I put together a book club to read this book thinking it would be fun to all have different versions. Unfortunately, based on everyone's covers, we all ended up with the SAME book (NE). Seven peopl..."

Christmas, if you read back through the comments, you'll see that we in this discussion have found 2 of the editions. It appears NE is the common paperback, and the Kindle version (per Keith's review and comments after it--his original book review) is NW edition. The one none of us here have found is the SE edition. Can you ask the reviewers you saw who said they have 3 versions where they got the SE? And then let us all know?


Christmas This thread is the review from the NY Times. I assume she was given all 3 by the publisher: https://twitter.com/jamesyeh/status/1...


Christmas I'm also not sure that you can assume just because one person's Kindle version is NW, that all of them are. I'd say there isn't enough data to be certain of that conclusion yet.


Betsy Robinson Christmas wrote: "I'm also not sure that you can assume just because one person's Kindle version is NW, that all of them are. I'd say there isn't enough data to be certain of that conclusion yet."

Good point. I asked my question about obtaining all 3 editions on the Twitter thread. I previously tweeted Fiona McCrae at Graywolf but no response. Let's see if I get an answer. Thanks, Christmas.


message 33: by MC (last edited Jun 17, 2020 10:56AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

MC It looks like, from skimming these comments, NE seems to be pretty common but I actually have the NW paperback version. It came in my Call Number book subscription box (which is curated by a librarian) and included a description from the curator explaining the 3-ending concept. So, I wonder if that may have altered my reading experience as I was trying to be hyper aware of certain details or trying to guess where the story might deviate in other versions.

I must admit, some things may have been lost on me. For example, I had trouble understanding the purpose of the Latin breaks in between paragraphs, or the breaks in describing fossil specimens. Or even the numbers of the chess moves (I know nothing about chess!)

I found the main character to be incredible stoic and I have almost nothing in common with him and yet I was so deeply moved by him.

My ending also features Zach successfully returning the women home but it concludes on the following page with a few brief sentences. I think it's related to the imminent storm that seems to be trailing him at the conclusion of the book (like the darkness of grief?) but would be curious to know how others interpreted it. I don't know if I could reproduce it here but I can share it via PM if anyone wants to know the conclusion of the NW version.


Betsy Robinson MC wrote: "It looks like, from skimming these comments, NE seems to be pretty common but I actually have the NW paperback version. It came in my Call Number book subscription box (which is curated by a librar..."

Good to know there's a paperback version that is not NE. Tristan is the only other person who read NW. Maybe he'll comment here.

I didn't understand all the italicized subheads--I mean I didn't understand meaning of fossil types, Latin, and chess moves. For a while I looked up the Latin. I think in all cases it's just an added metaphor for whatever's going on. I accepted that that stuff would go over my head. Some of Everett's other books get equally esoteric. I actually bought a beginner's Latin book after being frustrated by my ignorance. I have a brother who's a classics scholar (who taught himself Ancient Greek, Sanskrit, and Latin so he could understand texts in their original form; I'm the dimmer older sister unfortunately and don't have his scholarship or genius for self-teaching). I've asked if I can take his beginner's Latin class and he said yes. So I may reread some of PE's work once I'm more educated.


message 35: by MC (last edited Jun 17, 2020 11:36AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

MC Betsy wrote: "MC wrote: "It looks like, from skimming these comments, NE seems to be pretty common but I actually have the NW paperback version. It came in my Call Number book subscription box (which is curated ..."

That makes me feel a bit better! I also tried Googling them as I went along and some I tried to make inferences based on what I was reading. I got the sense that Everett wanted to tee things up to the reader just to see how we would interpret it, especially in this particular project. Not necessarily in a pointless way but in a playful way.

The interview you shared was very illuminating about his overall approach. The book, the interview and just learning more about his writing approach and his relationship with the reader just reinvigorated me about reading again and shook me out of my reading slump. I will definitely be picking up another one of his books.


Betsy Robinson MC wrote: "Betsy wrote: "MC wrote: "It looks like, from skimming these comments, NE seems to be pretty common but I actually have the NW paperback version. It came in my Call Number book subscription box (whi..."

Great to hear, MC. If I knew your taste, I'd recommend other books by him. Friend me if you want and I'll look at your list.


Tristan I FOUND A SE edition in paperback.

With bookstores across the country opening back up, I emailed my favorite (Brilliant Books) and asked them to look at their copy. They have a SE edition. Unfortunately they are closed until Monday, but when they reopen I'm going to buy it.

My theory, supported by no evidence, is that the publisher distributed the three editions to different distributors. During the shelter in place order I'm wondering if only one of the distributors was open and shipping books. Now that country is opening back up, maybe the other distributors are back in business.


Betsy Robinson Tristan wrote: "I FOUND A SE edition in paperback.

With bookstores across the country opening back up, I emailed my favorite (Brilliant Books) and asked them to look at their copy. They have a SE edition. Unfort..."


Yay, Tristan!


message 39: by MC (new) - rated it 5 stars

MC I love all this sleuthing!


Phyllis I’m so excited to hear you all are finding the different versions in paperback. I’m going to start calling my local bookshops that have opened up to see what I can find.


Betsy Robinson I thought this would happen. So exciting.


message 42: by Phyllis (last edited Jun 21, 2020 11:15PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Phyllis MC wrote: "It looks like, from skimming these comments, NE seems to be pretty common but I actually have the NW paperback version. It came in my Call Number book subscription box (which is curated by a librar..."
Hi Christmas,
Is there any chance you could send me a link to how to order the NW paperback version from your Call Number subscription? I read the NE version in paperback, and I'm working hard to get the other two versions. Feel free to friend me if you'd rather private message about it.
Thank you,
Phyllis


message 43: by MC (last edited Jun 22, 2020 05:56AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

MC Phyllis wrote: "MC wrote: "It looks like, from skimming these comments, NE seems to be pretty common but I actually have the NW paperback version. It came in my Call Number book subscription box (which is curated ..."

Sure! I would email Jamillah (the box founder/curator) separately because it looks like she's preparing her July box now. So, I think it's too late to grab a June box by purchasing a subscription unless you contact her directly to inquire. https://call-number.cratejoy.com/


Tristan Graywolf, the publisher, did a Zoom event today discussing the book. My takeaways from that event are as follows:

-Percival wanted to question the authority of the author.
-Percival wanted to see if he could get a publisher to do this in the first place.
-All three editions exist in physical copies. All e-book versions are the C edition.
-It was a nightmare for their marketing people. There was a massive spreadsheet tracking who got what versions for reviews.
-They didn't have the same level of involvement from booksellers because of the pandemic, that is why they did the NY Times story.
-One version is described as "having a happy ending."
-Betsy's tweet was included in their powerpoint.
-Percival's next book will just be one version.
-Each version has different plot differences that start around the middle of the book.
-How his daughter's illness is treated is different. (She doesn't die in each).
-The Paris trip is different (his involvement with the police changes).
-The changes alter the weight and feeling of the ending.
-The Graywolf logo on the spine comes in three colors for each edition.


Tristan And there was an equal distribution of each edition.


message 46: by MC (new) - rated it 5 stars

MC Tristan wrote: "Graywolf, the publisher, did a Zoom event today discussing the book. My takeaways from that event are as follows:

-Percival wanted to question the authority of the author.
-Percival wanted to see ..."


Fascinating! Thank you for sharing!


Betsy Robinson Tristan wrote: "Graywolf, the publisher, did a Zoom event today discussing the book. My takeaways from that event are as follows:

-Percival wanted to question the authority of the author.
-Percival wanted to see ..."


Thank you, Tristan! I wish I'd known about this. But your rundown will suffice and save me time.


Phyllis Tristan wrote: "Graywolf, the publisher, did a Zoom event today discussing the book. My takeaways from that event are as follows:

-Percival wanted to question the authority of the author.
-Percival wanted to see ..."


Tristan, thank you so much for this updated information. I had noticed Graywolf was doing this, but I was unable to watch. I really appreciate your summary.


Phyllis MC wrote: "Phyllis wrote: "MC wrote: "It looks like, from skimming these comments, NE seems to be pretty common but I actually have the NW paperback version. It came in my Call Number book subscription box (w..."

Thank you, MC! I've emailed Jamillah to see if she can help me out.


Phyllis MC wrote: "Phyllis wrote: "MC wrote: "It looks like, from skimming these comments, NE seems to be pretty common but I actually have the NW paperback version. It came in my Call Number book subscription box (w..."

Hi MC. Jamillah at the Call Number subscription service was able to get me the NW version in paperback, so I'm looking forward to reading it and comparing to the NE version I first read. Thank you so much for pointing me to her.


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