As famous as she was from winning the National Book Award for The Sea Around Us, Rachel was averse to public speaking and aggrandizement, much to the chagrin of her agent. When The Edge of the Sea hit the New York Times Bestseller list in the fall of 1955, she had numerous requests to speak at public events and declined most of them.
She was a solid "NO" to the numerous requests from magazines to run a profile on her as well. Rachel didn't see her author life as a brand and didn't seek the attention. I'm not sure if she was afraid of the scrutiny she would receive by allowing the press into her personal life, or her natural shyness, but it doesn't mean she wasn't focused on the success of her work.
Indeed, The Edge of the Sea and another book about life at the sea, albeit, a non-scientific and philosophical take, Anne Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea exchanged places on the top ten list throughout 1955-56 on various news outlets. Rachel takes note of it in letters to her friend, Dorothy.
"...I truly-even now-don't expect The Edge (The Edge of the Sea) ever to reach #1 spot, but I'd be happy that it is Mrs. Lindbergh's book and not something sensational or trashy."
Trashy included the book about a woman who under hypnosis discovers she'd lived another life decades earlier. After years of being at the top ten, Rachel doesn't hold back on her disdain for losing rank to Bridey Murphy (1956) which hit #1 on Chicago Tribune in 1956. "I think this silly Bridey Murphy thing is going to scoot right up and crowd Mrs. Lindbergh...The Edge by the way is No. 6- up one." And then weeks later, "That wretched Bridey Murphy thing has displaced Mrs. Lindbergh! That is really a blow. "
Rachel didn't have to deal with today's social media spotlight that casts rays well beyond the reach of newspapers or magazines of her time. And she wasn't in a position to write anything with a pseudonym like Elena Ferrante, you don't get the chance to write a biography of the sea, and a scathing indictment against the chemical industry anonymously. Yet, her detachment from public scrutiny allowed her to write one of her most challenging work of all--Silent Spring (1962). And then all hell broke loose.
With that in mind, I've gotten to 7k words in this novel set in Maine that has Rachel as a 'macguffin' in the story. And I'm thinking with the holidays coming, this might be time to shut down my own social media, and detach myself from that public for a few weeks so I can keep writing.
Happy Holidays everyone! See you in the New Year.
Hi, I'm an author of contemporary and historical fiction. My next novel features a young protagonist from a lobstering family living on an island in Maine who pretends she's doing research for Rachel Carson to impress the people in her small town. Join me as I procrastinate writing the novel by blogging about Rachel.
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