Saturday, June 11, 2011

Penguin Classics Celebrates Its 65th Anniversary

Penguin Classics is celebrating its 65thpenguin-classics-65-horiz anniversary this year and is recognizing that while what readers read matters, how they read is also becoming increasingly important as well.

With that in mind, Penguin Classics has just released a wonderful new amplified eBook (the first of several, sure to shake up your summer reading a bit): OF MICE AND MEN: AMPLIFIED (ISBN: 9781101531693), John Steinbeck’s Nobel Prize-winning tale of commitment, loneliness, hope and loss. A rarity in American letters, OF MICE AND MEN achieved remarkable success as a novel, a Broadway play and two acclaimed films. Now enhanced with additional content, OF MICE AND MEN: AMPLIFIED allows the reader to delve into one of Steinbeck’s most beloved novels as never before. Think of it like bonus features on a DVD, but with literature.

Readers cOf Mice and Men amplifiedan purchase OF MICE AND MEN: AMPLIFIED from Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble (please note: due to the video features included this eBook is not compatible with the standard Kindle device, but will work if purchased on Amazon for use through the Kindle For iPhone/iPad/etc app).

Here’s a full list of the amplified features:
*  An exclusive audio interview with award-winning actor James Earl Jones on his stage performances in OF MICE AND MEN.
*  Stills from the 1992 film adaptation starring Gary Sinise and John Malkovich.
*  The 1962 Nobel Banquet Speech by John Steinbeck.
*  An exclusive Q&A with renowned composer and librettist Carlisle Floyd on OF MICE AND MEN as an American classic opera.
*  A video slideshow of historic 1930s Dust Bowl images that captures the period of several Steinbeck works by American documentary photographer Dorothea Lange.
*  The poem “To a Mouse, On Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough, November 1785” by Robert Burns (the original source of Steinbeck’s title OF MICE AND MEN).
*  An introduction and suggested further reading by Susan Shillinglaw, Professor of English at San Jose State University and Scholar-in-Residence at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas.

Here are several select quotes from the audio interview with James Earl Jones:
“Classics are those plays that can be redone, foreverJames Earl Jones at Plush Studio after the recording of his interview for Of Mice and Men: Amplified. Shown (left to right) John McElroy (producer), Lorie Napolitano (Penguin Classics, Assistant Editor), Elda Rotor (Penguin Classics, Editorial Director), James Earl Jones. Photo courtesy of Penguin Classics. through eternity.  It’s true with a lot of modern plays, I would count Driving Miss Daisy as one, I would count Of Mice and Men as one, of course, King Lear is one, there are many plays.  Because of the nature of the play, nothing dates them, nothing pins them down to a particular time in history.  They are relevant through all of history.”
“Playing Lennie is about someone who does not have language; who has some words and they mostly revolve around texture, texture you can feel.  One scene he gets involved with playing cards, he gets fascinated by the fact that in every card there’s a top and a bottom, there’s a head on each end of the card.  He figures it out and remarks to George, “look George, there’s heads on both ends.”
“For the actor, what I like, is you start with a character at ground zero, a character who has nothing to draw from, from life experience, not that he can remember, a character with no sophistication, nothing to hide what he really is: another animal, a good animal, but still, nothing sophisticated, nothing fancy, nothing social, just a basic creature, what Shakespeare called “the elemental man.”  When King Lear meets Edgar in the forest and Edgar is freezing to death because he has no clothes on anymore, Lear says “ah, the elemental man.”  Meaning he doesn’t have a stitch of clothes, or anything to cover his ass, everything is hanging out, nothing to hide him. Those kind of men are not a challenge to play, but a great pleasure to play because I can reach into my elemental self.  I’m playing a somewhat elemental man now in Driving Miss Daisy, the role of Hoke, the man who is illiterate. Those people are interesting to play—illiterates—because they have no language to cover up who they are.”

Behind the scenes look at the creation of this amplified eBook from Penguin Classics Editorial Director Elda Rotor:
“Teachers were our inspiration to develop the video of historic photos to accompany Of Mice and Men.  Teachers more and more draw from sources such as photographs, films, YouTube videos, and music to enliven the experience of understanding and contextualizing a classic work. In our research we came to Dorothea Lange and her incredible photojournalism documenting American life in the late 1930s.  Steinbeck through his writing and Lange through her lens portray Dust Bowl migrants, agricultural laborers, men, women and children struggling and living through Depression-era America.
“We were drawn by her images of real people vulnerable to the condition of farms and the economy. We hope Lange’s photography will help readers delve deeper into the conditions that Steinbeck’s characters lived through, and perhaps encourage discussion among students, teachers and general readers affected by our own recession.
“We repeated the first image at the beginning and end of the video because we found it the most compelling and powerful. The two men walking down a road remind us of the friendship and journey of Lennie and George, and juxtaposed with this billboard advertisement adds another layer of interpretation and feels very modern at the same time. From the start of developing the video, this image has had a hold on us, and we hope the presentation as a whole enhances the reader’s experience of Steinbeck’s classic.”

And now a video preview of this eBook.

Have you read OF MICE AND MEN? What are your thoughts on this amplified book? What do you think of it being published as an eBook?



  1. Thanks very much for this. Of Mice and Men is one of my favorite books. I have the movie on VHS, I'll have to dig it out. I'll be sure to look for this new amplified version as soon as I get my e-reader.

  2. This is great stuff! I've read a bazillion Penguin books...or so I think.

    Have a great weekend.

  3. Mason - Thanks for this info. Of Mice and Men is really such a classic story, and to have it enhanced with video and so on must be a really special experience. I wonder if those amplified features will make reading more appealing to people who otherwise wouldn't read...

  4. I think it's great. It seems like eBooks are going to be really innovative in adding another dimension to reading books.

  5. Thanks for posting this. E-Books are definitely here to stay.

  6. Considering all of the things one can do with an eBook or an app, I think we'll see a lot more books like this in the future.

  7. Anne, Of Mice and Men is a great movie. I haven't seen it in ages either.

    Teresa, Penguin is a great book company. BTW, like the new photo.

    Margot, you're probably right that the amplified versions will be more appealing to some. Anything to get them reading.

    Joanne, I agree. The added dimensions is one good thing about eBooks that I can't fault.

    Ann, looks as though eBooks are spreading fast.

    Alex, I think you're right. This type of 'extra' will soon be a common thing.

    Thanks everyone for stopping by.

  8. Interesting! Love to see the new direction that we're all moving in. It's very exciting!

    I loved "Of Mice and Men." It was one of the few books, though, that made me cry! I'm not usually one for crying, either...

  9. Wow, it's been many years since I read Of Mice and Men. So perhaps it is time for a reread. Thanks for sharing these exciting celebratory moments with us...and thanks for visiting my blog.

  10. What a cool idea!! I read Of Mice & Men way back & thought it was a compelling book. This amplified edition sounds really intriguing!

  11. Hi Mason .. I'm ashamed to say I've never read it - but the enhancements really allow us to get involved - learn about the story and then read the book almost certainly with greater knowledge and enjoyment.

    Love this post - thanks .. good to know books will be enhanced .. cheers Hilary


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.