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Year in Review: 2009

This past year has been decidedly more low key compared to last year’s worldwide celebration of the centenary of Anne of Green Gables, but it’s been a milestone year for me, particularly because this year, Penguin Canada published my edition of L.M. Montgomery’s rediscovered final book, The Blythes Are Quoted.

The Blythes Are Quoted (Viking Canada, 2009)

The never-before-published complete and unabridged last work of L.M. Montgomery

Adultery, illegitimacy, misogyny, revenge, murder, despair, bitterness, hatred, and death—usually not the first terms associated with L.M. Montgomery. But in The Blythes Are Quoted, completed shortly before her death and never before published in its entirety, Montgomery brought these topics to the forefront in what she intended to be the ninth volume in her bestselling series featuring the beloved heroine Anne. Divided into two sections, one set before and one after the Great War of 1914-1918, The Blythes Are Quoted contains fifteen short stories that include an adult Anne and her family. Between these short stories Montgomery inserted sketches featuring Anne and Gilbert Blythe discussing poems by Anne and their middle son, Walter, who dies as a soldier in the war. By blending together poetry, prose, and dialogue, Montgomery was experimenting with storytelling methods in ways she had never attempted before. The Blythes Are Quoted marks L.M. Montgomery’s final contribution to a body of work that continues to fascinate readers all over the world.

I published several blog posts published in the months leading up to this book’s publication in late October.

On 8 April, I announced that the book’s forthcoming publication and shared the first version of the synopsis (see above).

In early July, I reported that the book had has been included in the Canadian fiction section of Quill & Quire’s fall preview, compiled by Steven W. Beattie and included in the July-August 2009 issue:

Benjamin Lefebvre edits The Blythes Are Quoted (Penguin Canada, $25 cl., Oct.), a posthumous novel from L.M. Montgomery that features the author’s usual themes: adultery, misogyny, revenge, and murder.

On July 10, an article about The Blythes Are Quoted by Alison Flood appeared in the Guardian:

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s last work, featuring surprising experiments with poetry and prose, to be published in full

Penguin Canada is due to publish Lucy Maud Montgomery’s final book in its entirety, casting a new shadow over the author of Anne of Green Gables. . . .

Despite the darker elements to The Blythes Are Quoted, Penguin is hoping to reach children as well as adults, aiming for the readers who bought Budge Wilson’s prequel to Anne’s story, Before Green Gables, last spring.

This story was subsequently picked up by the Wall Street Journal and included in its Morning Roundup blog:

Anne Returns, Again: Someone who wasn’t afraid of sequels is Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of the “Anne of Green Gables” books. Penguin Canada is going to publish the ninth volume of the series in full. “The Blythes Are Quoted” follows freckle-faced heroine Anne Shirley through the First World War.

This story was then picked up again by The Examiner in an article by Peter Franklin entitled “A Scandalous Week”:

Lastly, it was revealed just today that Penguin Canada is set to publish an unabridged version of the final book of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic Anne of Green Gables series. Entitled The Blythes Are Quoted, the novel is said to include “adultery, illegitimacy, misogyny, revenge, murder, despair, bitterness, hatred, and death,” as well as an experimentation with storytelling not seen in the other volumes.

This development adds to the growing pall around Montgomery’s public perception; her granddaughter admitted last year that the children’s author had died of a drug overdose.

However, most shocking here is Penguin’s plan to market The Blythes Are Quoted in all of its murder and misogyny to kids. Alison Flood writes: “Penguin is hoping to reach children as well as adults, aiming for the readers who bought Budge Wilson’s prequel to Anne’s story, Before Green Gables, last spring.”

On September 3, I shared the cover art for the hardcover edition.

On October 3, the book was mentioned in a Winnipeg Free Press article by Morley Walker entitled “Book World Slowly Grasping Value of Sequels to Classic Tales,” which is primarily about the publication of a new Winnie-the-Pooh sequel that had been published that day:

Here in Canada, the estate of L.M. Montgomery has got into the act. On Oct. 27, Penguin will release The Blythes Are Quoted, an unabridged version of the stories Montgomery intended as the ninth volume in her Anne of Green Gables series.

Montgomery supposedly submitted the manuscript to her publisher the day she died in 1947 [sic].

She did (supposedly), although she died in 1942.

On October 23, the day after the book’s official publication by Viking Canada (Toronto), Elizabeth Renzetti’s article “A Different Anne and Gilbert” appeared in the Globe and Mail and an article entitled “Green Gables Tale Darkens in Final Book” appeared on the CBC News website. A news story also aired on CBC’s The National.

On October 24, Barbara Aggerholm’s article “Waterloo-Based Academic Finds L.M. Montgomery’s Last ‘Darker’ Work” appeared in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record.

On December 12, I signed copies of The Blythes Are Quoted at the Lucy Maud Montgomery Museum, located at Crawford’s Village Bakeshop in Norval, Ontario, where Montgomery and her family lived between 1926 and 1935.

On December 14, I was interviewed on Ontario Today on CBC Radio One:

L.M. Montgomery’s last manuscript, The Blythes Are Quoted, has just been published for the first time in its entirety. The manuscript was submitted to Montgomery’s publisher the day she died. It’s the ninth volume in the Anne series. The editor who re-discovered the typescript will be our guest on Ontario Today. And of course Ed Lawrence will join us as well.

Also on 14 November, two reviews appeared in the Globe and Mail: Aritha van Herk’s “Blythe Spirits,” a review of The Blythes Are Quoted, and Irene Gammel’s “The Daughters of Lucy Maud,” a review of Jane Urquhart’s L.M. Montgomery.

On 16 November, I did a book signing at the Kitchener Public Library.

And on 28 December, a CBC News story announced that The Blythes Are Quoted had been selected as one of “10 biggest publishing stories of 2009”:

Fans of the precocious, freckle-faced redhead from P.E.I. had reason to rejoice this year when an amended version of the final Anne Shirley stories was released under a new title, The Blythes Are Quoted. But the book’s additional 100 pages revealed a darker story—complete with references to adultery and suicide. Novelist Jane Urquhart ably provided a context for these bleak scenes in her comprehensive, unflinching biography of Anne’s author, Lucy Maud Montgomery. Anne’s banner year ended with a triumphant Sotheby’s auction—proof that great CanLit never goes out of fashion.

New Books, New Editions, New Projects

Of course, The Blythes Are Quoted was hardly the only new Montgomery book to appear this year.

In April, 100 Years of Anne with an “e”: The Centennial Study of Anne of Green Gables, a collection of essays edited by Holly Blackford, was published by University of Calgary Press. The book contains an introduction by Blackford as well as chapters by Joy Alexander, Hilary Emmett, Irene Gammel, Monika Hilder, Melissa Mullins, Eleanor Hersey Nickel, Sharyn Pearce, E. Holly Pike, Cornelia Rémi, Laura M. Robinson, Christiana R. Salah, and Theodore Sheckels.

In August, McClelland and Stewart published New Canadian Library reissues of Emily Climbs and Emily’s Quest (following similar reissues of Emily of New Moon in 2007 and Anne of Green Gables in 2008), with the original afterwords by Jane Urquhart and P.K. Page, respectively. In the UK, Puffin Classics reissued Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island, each with an introduction by Budge Wilson, joining their reissue last year of Anne of Green Gables with an introduction by Lauren Child.

Cover art for Jane Urquhart's biography /L.M. Montgomery/, published as part of the Extraordinary Canadians series by Penguin Canada.

Jane Urquhart’s L.M. Montgomery, part of the Extraordinary Canadians series, was published by Penguin Canada on 22 September 2009. That same month, St. Martin’s Press published a paperback edition of Irene Gammel’s Looking for Anne of Green Gables: The Story of L.M. Montgomery and Her Literary Classic, while Davenport Press published the paperback edition of Kevin Sullivan’s Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning.

A Collector's Guide to L.M. Montgomery Firsts (2009)

In December, a notice appeared on the website of the L.M. Montgomery Institute concerning Frank and Juanita Lechowick’s new book, A Collector’s Guide to L.M. Montgomery Firsts:

In the course of research in libraries and used book stores from Charlottetown to Victoria, the authors have discovered the points of Montgomery’s original editions, from Anne of Green Gables (1908) to Anne of Ingleside (1939). A Collector’s Guide to L.M. Montgomery Firsts presents their findings systematically, with photographs and descriptions of each of the 39 first editions.

Conferences and Calls for Papers

L.M. Montgomery—Writer of the World (University of Uppsala, 20–23 August 2009)

In June, I shared a press release for L.M. Montgomery—Writer of the World, which was hosted by the University of Uppsala (established in 1477) and which was billed as “the first international conference on L.M. Montgomery outside Canada”:

Uppsala, Sweden, will be the venue for an international conference entitled L.M. Montgomery—Writer of the World, 20-23 August 2009. The conference commemorates the first translation of Anne of Green Gables, the Swedish Anne på Grönkulla which appeared in 1909. Conference organisers are Gabriella Åhmansson, University of Gävle  and Åsa Warnqvist, Uppsala University.

The main theme for the conference is reading response and it has attracted 28 speakers from 10 different countries, including major Montgomery scholars such as Elizabeth Waterston, Mary H. Rubio, Elizabeth Rollins Epperly and Irene Gammel. The last day of the conference, Sunday August 23, is open to the general public, a tribute to one hundred years of devoted Montgomery readers in Sweden.

Special issue of The Lion and the Unicorn

On 16 April, I shared the news that The Lion and the Unicorn, a peer-reviewed academic journal about children’s literature published by Johns Hopkins University Press, was inviting essay submissions for a special issue on L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, to be guest-edited by Michelle Ann Abate (Hollins University):

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

• the past place, present status and future importance of Anne in children’s literature
• Anne and (de)construction of gender and girlhood
• the pastoral tradition and literary romanticism in Anne
• Anne and/as adolescent literature
• Anne and Canadian identity, literature, nationalism and culture
• cinematic, theatrical and television adaptations of the Anne story
• Anne in American, British and Canadian popular and material culture
• Anne and/in the evolution of the “girls’ book”
• L.M. Montgomery as Anne author and icon
• Anne as a reflection and/or revision of the orphan story
• female friendship in Anne; the novel as both homosocial and possibly homoerotic/queer
• re-reading Anne in light of recent news about Montgomery’s battle with depression and her death by suicide
• centenary celebrations of the publication of Anne; Montgomery’s classic at 100

L.M. Montgomery and the Matter of Nature (University of Prince Edward Island, 23–27 June 2010)

I published on this blog two versions of the call for papers for this, the ninth international conference hosted by the L.M. Montgomery Institute, with a deadline of 15 September.

The initial version, on 8 May:

In 2010 we invite you to consider L.M. Montgomery and the matter of nature. While multiple romanticisms have informed L.M. Montgomery’s passionate views of nature her descriptions were complex as she wrote both of and for nature. What are the effects of the representations and images of nature that are crafted and circulated in the fiction of Montgomery, and in that of other writers of literature (especially for children and youth)? How do her narrations of nature shape children and adults within and across cultures? How do particular constructions of nature work in fiction, across such differences as gender, race, culture and class? What are the cultural and historical contingencies surrounding nature in Montgomery’s work? In recent years, the matter of “nature” itself has been the subject of much-contested debate and theoretical innovation across disciplines. Nature situates binary relationships that are often represented as hierarchical and oppositional. These include nature and culture; child and adult; animal and human; male and female; reason and emotion; mind and body; modern and traditional; raw and cooked; domestic and wild; urban and rural─among others. How might any of these formulations be examined and challenged (or not) in the context of Montgomery’s work? What does it mean to consider Montgomery as a “green” writer (Doody) or as a proto-ecofeminist (Holmes)? What do Montgomery’s provocative readings of nature offer us at a time of environmental crises and ecological preoccupations?

The revised version, on 18 July:

At the ninth biennial conference hosted by the L.M. Montgomery Institute (University of Prince Edward Island), we invite you to consider L.M. Montgomery and the matter of nature. In recent years, the matter of nature has been the subject of much contested debate and theoretical innovation across disciplines. While multiple romanticisms have informed L.M. Montgomery’s passionate views of the natural world, her complex descriptions show her writing both of and for nature. This complexity extends as well to the depiction of cultural and gendered mores (domesticity, friendship, faith, community, biological determinism) as both natural and cultural. In all its forms, nature situates binary relationships that are often represented as hierarchical and oppositional: nature and culture; child and adult; animal and human; female and male; emotion and reason; body and mind; traditional and modern; raw and cooked; wild and domestic; rural and urban.

We invite the submission of abstracts that consider these issues in relation to Montgomery’s fiction, poetry, life writing, photographs, and scrapbooks, as well as the range of adapted texts in the areas of film, television, theatre, tourism, and online communities. Possible questions include:

  • What are the effects of the representations and images of nature that are crafted and circulated in Montgomery’s work?
  • How do Montgomery’s narrations of nature shape children and adults within and across cultures?
  • How do particular constructions of nature work in fiction, across such differences as gender, race, culture, and class?
  • What are the cultural and historical contingencies surrounding nature in Montgomery’s work?
  • What does it mean to consider Montgomery as a “green” writer (Doody) or as a proto-ecofeminist (Holmes)?
  • What do Montgomery’s provocative readings of nature offer us at a time of environmental crises and ecological preoccupations?
  • How does the notion of “nature” impact some of the most central preoccupations in Montgomery’s fiction, poetry, and life writing (the nature of war, of mental illness, of cultural inheritance, of conflict, of same-sex friendships and of heterosexual marriage, of cultural memory, of national ideologies)?

Abstracts should clearly articulate the paper’s argument and demonstrate familiarity with current scholarship in the field (please see for an updated bibliography). For more information, please contact the conference co-chairs directly: Dr. Benjamin Lefebvre and Dr. Jean Mitchell. All proposals will be vetted blind and should therefore contain no identifying information.

Screen

Sullivan Entertainment’s telefilm Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning, released late in 2008, was nominated for two Director’s Guild of Canada awards (one for best television movie/miniseries and one for Ray Lorenz for best production design in a television movie/miniseries) and for three Gemini Awards: for best costume design (Martha Mann), for best achievement in make-up (Lynda McCormack and Madeleine Russell), and for best performance by an actress in a featured supporting role in a dramatic program or miniseries (Barbara Hershey).

On June 16, I shared the sad news that world-renowned filmmaker Allan King (1930–2009), whose extensive filmography included thirteen episodes of Road to Avonlea (1990-1996), had died the day before, in Toronto, at the age of 79.

On 3 September, I mentioned that there was now a website for the Anime version of Before Green Gables, which had been airing on Japanese television as Konnichiwa Anne since April 2009. The series is directed by Katsuyoshi Yatabe and is produced by Nippon Animation, which produced the 1979 Akage no An anime. See also the entry on Konnichiwa Anne on the Anime News Network. Thanks to Yuka for bringing this to my attention.

On 20 October, Sullivan Entertainment released restored, high-definition DVD sets of the first two seasons of Road to Avonlea, whereas the second season of Emily of New Moon was released on DVD by Echo Bridge Home Entertainment on 29 December.

In the News

On 8 January, an article by Sandra Martin in the Globe and Mail shared the news that Mollie Gillen, author of The Wheel of Things: The Life of L.M. Montgomery, had died in Toronto on 3 January 2009, at the age of 100.

Congratulations to Vanessa Brown of London, Ontario, who, in July, won the second prize in Canada’s First National Book Collecting Contest for best book collectors under the age of thirty, sponsored by the Bibliographical Society of Canada (BSC), the Antiquarian Booksellers of Association of Canada (ABAC), and the Alcuin Society. Vanessa won for her collection, “The L.M. Montgomery Collection in the Forest City.” She was interviewed by Mark Medley on the National Post’s book blog, “The Afterword”:

I remember the first time I bought a book about Lucy Maud Montgomery that wasn’t by her but about her. I was at a shop here in town called Portobello Road, which is no longer there. It was a great shop. There was a publisher’s proof of a biography by Harry Bruce. It was exciting to read about her, to find out there was so much more to learn. Then, of course, I bought the journals. And the obsession grew.

On 1 December, a news story by Randy Boswell commented on how a first-edition copy of Anne of Green Gables was expected to set an auction record:

One of the books most coveted by collectors of Canadian literary history—a first edition copy of Anne of Green Gables—is to be sold at auction next week in New York for what could be a record price.

The vintage edition of the classic novel by P.E.I.-born author Lucy Maud Montgomery, first printed in April 1908 by the Boston publishing house L.C. Page, is expected to fetch up to $25,000 U.S. at Sotheby’s Dec. 11 sale of rare books and manuscripts.

A top hammer price would just surpass the $24,000 record set in 2005 for another inaugural copy of the famous work.

A follow-up article by James Adams, appearing in the Globe and Mail on 12 December, reported that this copy had sold at auction for $37,500:

A first-edition copy of the Canadian classic Anne of Green Gables was sold by Sotheby’s New York Friday afternoon for $37,500 (U.S.)—a live auction record for the famous debut novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery that originally retailed for $1.50.

Another busy year for L.M. Montgomery’s legacy! What will 2010 bring? Stay tuned!

14 Comments

  1. Sarah

    I’m SO excited! A few weeks ago i was looking on wikipedia about L.M.Montgomery to see what other books she wrote in her life. At the bottom of the list was “The Blythes Are Quoted” At once i started looking on amazon for the book. Unfortantly it wasn’t there to my disiapointment! I was and still reading Anne of Green Gables series when i found out. It puzzled me for some weeks my mom was going to buy some stuff on amazon and told me i had some money on amazon left over from easter from a friend so i thought i would want to get a book i wasn’t sure what book i wanted i was looking for at least one hour then i went on wikipedia and looked at all her books she wrote and then clicked on “the blythes are quoted” and then this website came up I learned it was coming out on my birthday month it made me SO excited i jumped up and down and told my mom! Later i choose to get the book story girl i heard it was her favorite book she wrote. Well I can’t wait to go and buy the blythes are quoted! I feel like october is never going to come! summer is going fast but september won’t! One day i hope i will be as good a writer as L.M.Montgomery she has made my imagination grow bigger and i see things more clearly and love it better because of HER fantastic writing!

  2. Benjamin Lefebvre

    Thanks very much for your comments, Sarah! The reason you haven’t found a listing for /The Blythes Are Quoted/ on Amazon.com is that there is not yet an American edition of the book. It will be published in Canada only this October, but you can order a copy of it on Amazon.ca. In the meantime, have you read Montgomery’s Emily books? It’s about a young girl who wants to become a writer–I think you’ll enjoy it. The first book in the series is /Emily of New Moon/, and it’s followed by /Emily Climbs/ and /Emily’s Quest/.

    As for the cover, I’ll post it on this website as soon as it’s safe to do so, so stay tuned!

    Best wishes,

    Ben

  3. Tammie Bach

    Can’t wait for “The Blythes are Quoted”. L.M. , in my opinion was the best writer in history!

  4. Claire

    This sounds really exciting!

    Ben – thanks for your comment, I had been looking on Amazon UK and Amazon US and couldn’t find anything about it for pre-order, didn’t think to try .ca! I will go order my copy now. 🙂

  5. Sarah

    No I haven’t read the Emily books but I wish! I’m a total fan of Lucy Maud Montgomery! Just for my Birthday two weeks ago I got ‘Story Girl’ and ‘Kimley of the Orchered’ Next year in school I have to read Anne of Green Gables! I stared reading the series in June and ended them by the end of Augest! I was so proud of myself! I don’t think there has ever been better than her in that perspective! The Anne Of Green Gables series is one of my FAVORITES! So now I’m waiting to be able to get them! Hopfully for CHRISTMAS! My whole wish list was all books by her! I can’t wait to read more by her! Because I live in the Middle East I went on like in the morning to see how much it was and it was so funny when I remebered that it wasn’t morning yet! For you guys! I’ve been waiting and waiting telling my mom “one more week” “twomarow the Blythes are Quoted is coming out! Now it is finnaly here! Its made it!

  6. Heather

    I haven’t been able to find this information and am not sure if I’ve simply missed it. I apologize for any inaccuracies–I’m just trying to figure it out for myself. 🙂

    From what I’ve gathered, “The Road to Yesterday” is an incomplete, jumbled up version of “The Blythes Are Quoted”. Will “The Blythes Are Quoted” include the material which was included in “The Road to Yesterday”, or will said material be excluded? I’m incredibly curious as to what the intended sequence of the pieces was/is.

  7. Heather

    To clarify, I assume that, because it is “complete and unabridged”, it will include the text from “The Road to Yesterday” but in its original form. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    • Benjamin Lefebvre

      Hi Heather,
      The simplest answer to your question is yes: /The Blythes Are Quoted/ is the unabridged final text by L.M. Montgomery. /The Road to Yesterday/ omits all the dialogue, all but one of the poems, shortens most of the short stories, and changes the order of some of the stories besides. But it’s actually more complicated than that, because /The Road to Yesterday/ is abridgment of an earlier typescript, so there are also a number of minor differences between the two versions. Ultimately, though, what is now available for the first time is the complete and unabridged version of the book that Montgomery submitted to her publishers on the day of her death.

  8. A. Grimaldi

    A fascinating find after all these years. I had not read an ‘Anne’ book in quite some time, and this restored edition certainly begs for more research on the author and her subjects. Might someone direct me to more of Mr. Lefebvre’s own research on the topic?

    • Benjamin Lefebvre

      Hi Adriana!
      I published a book chapter on The Blythes Are Quoted in the collection of essays Storm and Dissonance: L.M. Montgomery and Conflict, which you may be able to find at a university library. This chapter appeared before Blythes was published, however. I’m still thinking and writing about how this book fits within her lifetime and her legacy–it still fascinates me as much as ever.
      Best wishes,
      Benjamin

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