Kaufman, Bel: Up the Down Staircase
(researched by Louisa Buchanan)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

Published by Prentice - Hall, Inc. Published in Englewood Cliffs, NJ
Copyrighted in 1964

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

First edition printed solely in cloth.

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

176 leaves(342 numbered pages, 10 unnumbered = 352 total pages) [(i)I-IV(/i),V-VII,(i)VIII-X(/i)],(i)1-2(/i),3-45,(i)46-48(/i), 49-85,(i)86-88(/i),89-127,(i)128-130(/i),131-157,(i)158-160(/i), 161-180,(i)181-182(/i),183-194,(i)195-196(/i),197-209, (i)210-211(/i),212-217,(i)218-220(/i),221-231,(i)232(/i), 233-250,(i)251-252(/i),253-277,(i)278-280(/i),281-308, (i)309-310(/i),311-326,(i)327-328(/i),329-335,(i)336-338(/i), 339-340,(i)341-342(/i).

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?

The book was neither edited nor introduced.

6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?

There are several small illustrations throughout the book. However, they are not attributed to anyone, and are meant to appear as though they are drawn by the characters in the book.

7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

The book is still in excellent condition. The binding is not broken and the dust jacket is still intact. The dust jacket is cream colored with orange and pink print. The pages are plain and off white, except for the beginning of each new "part" which is a black page. The style is strange however, with many short stories, notes, quotes, and paragraphs on every page.

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

The paper is a thick, heavy, off white paper pf good quality. It is not crumpled or tearing anywhere, including the edges.

11 Description of binding(s)

All the pages are sewn together and glued to a binding strip to make the binding.

12 Transcription of title page


13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings

The manuscripts are currently held at: The New York Public Library

15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

The book is not a true single story. There are little remembrances throughout the book, which can give the book a very decieving look. The dust jacket and its print go along with the strange style of the book, as does the color of the print. Other than that, the book and its appearance are typical. The book was made into a Warner Brothers Movie, and a play was also published.

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A

N/A. The original publisher split and let a small portion of the publishing company become independent. The new publishing company, Simon and Schuster, took the right to the book with them (Prentice - Hall published no more).

2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

7 first edition printings First Printing: 25,000 on Jan 27, 1964 Fourth Printing: Feb, 1964; total in print: 50,000 7th printing: Aug 2, 1965; total in print: 135,000

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

Harper Perrenial (July 1991) Demco Media (June 1991) Bucaneer Books (June 1993) Avon Books(1964, 1966) Prentice - Hall (1988 - 25th anniversary edition) Pan Books(1973)

6 Last date in print?

currently in print. Last edition : 1993

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

4,046,319(Hackett, 1977)

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)

222,519 - 1965

9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)


10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion

New York Times Best Seller List - 32 weeks on list Publishers Weekly Best Seller List - 64 weeks on list Bestsellers Magazine: "Paperback novel of the year" promotional tie ins when the movie is produced including advertisements in major media, personal appearances by Kaufman, window streamers, rack cards, shelf tags, and display racks.

12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A

Up The Down Staircase : A Play; June 1969; Damatic Pub Co Up the Down Staircase (Movie) ; 1967; Directed by Robert Mulligan

13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

Braille 1968 Korean 1989 Russian 1989 Spanish 1971 Swedish 1966 Israeli 1968

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A


15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A


Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

Bel Kaufman is the author of two books: "Up the Down Staircase" and "Love, Etc.". Her first book, "Up the Down Staircase" was a best seller for over 15 months and sold more than 1,500,000 copies within the first month (Publishers Weekly, 1966). This was her greatest, but not her only, literary accomplishment. Kaufman was born in Berlin, Germany (Who's Who In America). However, she did not grow up in Germany. She spent most of her childhood years in Russia. She moved to the United States with her family when she was twelve years old (Contemporary Authors). After graduating from high school, Bel attended Hunter College of the City University of New York. She then mastered in English at Columbia University, graduating with high honors (Contemporary Authors). Kaufman then went on to begin her teaching career. She first taught in New York City schools, which is what gave her all the information and insight for her book about education, "Up the Down Staircase" (New York Times Book Review, 1965). In 1964 she taught at the School for Social Research and then also at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. She taught english at all of these schools. She was not merely a teacher though. She also lectures and holds fiction workshops at other colleges and universities in the United States, as well as speaking at various Jewish organizations (Contemporary Authors). Kaufman did not only write books. Kaufman grew up surrounded by writers. Her mother, Lyala Kaufman was a writer and her grandfather, Sholon Aleichem was a famous Yiddish humorist. Kaufman incorporates some of her grandfathers ideas in her work by trying to teach lessons through humor (Who's Who in US Writers, Editors, and Poets).Kaufman has also written TV plays, lyrics for musicals,translated Russian poetry in Poems of One World, written short stories, and published articles in national magazines. All this was done with the help of her agent Sidney Gluck (Contemporary Authors). Aside from writing, Kaufman leads a family life. She was married once, but is now divorced. She has two children: Jonathan Goldstine and Thea Goldstine. She enjoys traveling, which her work has allowed her to do, and bicycling(Contemporary Authors). Kaufman currently resides in New York City, New York (Http://www.Ancestry.com).

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Up The Down Staircase, by Bel Kaufman, was reviewed by a variety of magazines and newspapers in the first few years after is was published. Although there were few who disliked the book, it did receive many different reviews. One thing that everyone acknowledges is that the book does accurately show the truth about metropolitan schools (Dan Pinck, pg 46). Kaufman manages to show the harsh reality with a touch of humor. The book is composed of humorous, sad, and witty remarks from different characters. Most reviews commented on the fact that it seems to be a very realistic portrayal of what would go on in a New York city high school. The novel shows how education is so often overlooked, with students and teachers sidetracked by by the formalities and pettiness of everyday life at a school (David Lodge, pg 260). What Bel Kaufman reveals in her 'novel' is not shocking to many. Most americans are very aware of the problems faced in our educational system. Bel Kaufman just sheds a different view on it. A schoolmaster said in a review published in Life, "The school system is terrible, but as good as can be expected" (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr, pg 9). After the reader is done, he feels that everything will be all right as lond as there are such teachers as Sylvia Barrett, that will survive the system and provide us with some sort of hope (Robert Bone, pg 778). The book is hard to classify as a 'novel' because it is composed of a collection of personal letters to her college roomate and other faculty members, memos from the principle's office, students notes, extracts from the school paper, and items rediscovered from the teacher's trash can (Paul Woodring, pg71). The title itself is taken from a note from an administrator to Miss Barrett: "Please admit bearer to class - Detained by me for going up the down staircase and subsequent insolence". This is all too true of what occurs in a high school, any high school (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., pg 9). The issue most debated in the reviews is the style of the 'novel', thus the reluctance to call it a novel. As Paul Woodring said in a reivew published in the The Saturday Review, the book is a "different and yet unnamed literary form", which most reviews seemed to comment on. The difference is whether they believed her technique to be affective or not. The book has no narrator, in the conventional and traditional sense (David Lodge, pg 260). It is composed of different collections of notes and letters. There are those who feel that the 'novel' was very unique, original, and cleverly threaded together, and that the style perfectly communicates the idea that Kaufman attempts to and succeeds in delivering (Kathering Gause, pg 198). There are a few however that believe otherwise. As was published in Choice, the "mechanical device is an artificial one that, together with the sentimental ending, fails to carry complete conviction". For the most part, the new and different style is perfect for the material presented and manages to keep the reader interested for the duration of the book.
Sources: Life, Kurt Vonnegut Jr Reporter, Dan Pinck Commonweal, David Lodge Teachers College Record, Robert Bone America, Catherine Gause Choice, no author Saturday Review, Paul Woodring LIbrary Journal, Carol Eckberg

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

The reaction to the book has not changed much over time. It was breifly mentioned in reviews about Bel Kaufman's second book, Love, Etc., that was published in 1979. In a review by Anne Tyler in the New York Times Book Review, she is diescussing the style the book, and refers back to Up the Down Staircase. She states "Was it because it worked for her so well in Up the Down Staircase? There it served a purpose: the confusion and multiplicity of a large public school came alive in a whirlwind of unrelated chits of paper." Tyler was one who believed that Kaufman's unusual style was effective in her book. In another review published in 1979 in The Washington Post, Susan Isaacs says "In Up the Down Staircase, she showed her capacity for warmth and humor". We see that fifteen years later, the book still has the same effect.

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

Bel Kaufman's book "Up the Down Staircase" was reprinted in 1988 for its 25th anniversary and since then has sold close to 900,000 copies. The book was first published in 1965. After thirty years, to have a book
be republished and make such a hit is a great accomplishment. Those who have read and know about this book, however, are not surprised. The book sold 1,500,000 copies within the first month after being published on January 27, 1965. It has sold close to s
ix million copies in all, and has been translated into 16 different languages. "Up the Down Staircase" is difficult to classify as a book because of its unusual style. "Perhaps it is a novel - a story emerges and characters develop - but we prefer to thin
k of this as a different and as yet unnamed literary form" (Woodring 71). The book is a collection of the main characters' letters, notes, and memos and such that could be found in any elementary or secondary school. The main character, Sylvia Barrett a
lso writes letters to her best friend from college, Ellen. These letters are the only source of true narration in the traditional sense. In the novel, Barrett is a young female fresh out of graduate school who teaches in a New York City high school, Calvi
n Coolidge. Barrett enters the system "eager to share all I [Barrett] know and feel; to imbue the young with a love for their language and literature; to instruct and inspire" as she writes in a letter to Ellen (31). She is soon confronted with the realit
y of the situation. A large portion of her day is filled with responding to memos and dealing with "the frills and foolishness (Faculty Follies) that waste the time of both teachers and pupils" (Ward 19), and she is faced with children who do not want to
learn and a school whose building should not pass the city inspection. The reviews that she received and the publicity received from other forms of media helped to make her novel prosperous. The occurrences of the 1960's popularized the initial publicat
ion. The manner in which Kaufman wrote the book (her unique writing style), the topic of education, and the outcome of the novel were the main reasons for its success and popularity.
After the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, the United States inaugurated his vice president Lyndon B. Johnson. The United States began its involvement in the Vietnam War in 1955. However, the degree of its involvement had just stepped up with
more soldiers sent to Vietnam in late 1964 and early 1965. With the United States at war for ten years with no sign of an ending in the near future, America was not a cheerful place to live. With the government's focus on the war, many of the books were
also about wars. There was also the dilemma of whether Americans believed they should even be involved in the war. This created additional tension throughout the country. To release a book that was not a romance or mystery, but rather a book with a moral,
that was in no way related to the war was a welcome relief to the public. "Up the Down Staircase" was a welcome distraction from the subject of war. This book is an optimistic book, revealing the hope that exists for children as long as there are teacher
s like Miss Barrett. "Sylvia Barrett, her [Kaufman's] heroine, is on the job, and that takes all of us off the hook. By virtue of this reassurance, the book is bound to be a best seller" (Bone 778). Of comfort to the teachers and parents who read this bo
ok is the realization that a "hopeless" student can reform. The Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, and in 1965 integration was still a fairly new idea. Kaufman was apparently ahead of her time when she wrote her book, for Calvin Coolidge was integrated. Th
e fact that she made the school integrated was a smart idea by Kaufman because it allowed her to attract a much larger audience, since the minorities would not consider it a book solely describing "white schools" and vice versa. Kaufman addresses the prob
lems of both segregation and integration in the book through a character named Edward Williams, Esq.. In his first letter to Miss Barrett he states "Here they tried to integrate me and it didn't take? but the teachers are too prejudice they are mostly Wh
ites and I never got a fair mark out of them"(80). In another letter "Everybody is always picking on me because of prejudice and that goes for everybody,"(112) and in a later letter, simply "Abollish prejudice"(175). By the end of the book there is no cha
nge in the boy's attitude toward whites, showing that there are those children that need more than Miss Barrett for a semester. Perhaps they need someone like her as a teacher throughout high school. Johnson introduced his main idea in 1965, called the G
reat Society Proposal. Part of his proposal "called for an enormous program of social welfare legislation including federal support for education" (Britannica Online). When this act passed, Americans came to terms with the fact that education in the Unite
d States needed improvement. "After Reading "Up the Down Staircase" one understands why? education is an urgent item on the agenda of President Johnson's Great Society" (Grunwald 42). Everything that was transpiring in the United States when Kaufman pub
lished the book helped it triumph.
The reviews and various other promotions that the book received were also instrumental in its success. Various respected magazines published reviews of the book. Well known magazines including Time, Publishers Weekly, New York Times Book Review, New York
Times Review of Books, Life, The Saturday Review, and the National Review published these reviews. Although there were some discrepancies between reviews, they all agreed on one point: the book was good and gave a realistic depiction of a metropolitan hig
h school. Although the descriptions are quite harsh at first, the depiction of this school does not leave the reader with an unpleasant impression of the school. "American parents are all too aware of education's defects and problems. But this author has
a refreshing way of stating the facts, of breaking down statistics into recognizable teenagers, of making you smile, be contrite and infuriated all at once"(Grunwald 43). "This book, for once, presents not just a picture, but a mood of a high school"(War
d 19). The readers is left to think that the school system will continue to improve and the children will flourish as long as teachers with Miss Barrett's dedication exist. Kaufman effectively illustrates the "harsh truth about these schools" (Lodge 260)
by "taking the clothes off and putting them back on" (Vonnegut 9) so as not to leave the reader dismayed or despaired. The controversial element of the book is Kaufman's style. The book is a collection of memos, wastebasket items, comments on the blackb
oard, suggestions from Barrett's "Suggestion Box", and letters to faculty and her best friend Ellen. Some reviewers thought this style was perfect for communicating her point to the reader. In a review of Kaufman's next book, "Love, etc.", Anne Tyler ad
dresses the fact that Kaufman uses this same style in her second book and says, "Was it because it worked so well for her in "Up the Down Staircase"? There it served a purpose: the confusion and multiplicity of a large school came alive in a whirlwind of
unrelated chits of paper". There were others who were not fond of Kaufman's technique. As published in a review in Choice: "the mechanical device is an artificial one that fails to carry complete conviction". For the most part, her style remained the onl
y component criticized. However, when the review includes other positive remarks, a negative reaction to a book's style would have a tendency to be overlooked because most readers are not overly concerned with a book's style. Several educational magazin
es also reviewed the book, increasing the audience size. One of the educational magazines, Choice: Books for College Libraries, stated "High school students considering a teaching career, as well as undergraduate and graduate students in education should
be encouraged to read this good but not brilliant novel? it has something to say and says it with honesty, accuracy, and humor". In general, the reviews assisted in making the book a success. The making of the book into both a movie (1967 - Warner Brother
s) and a play (1969) renewed interest in the book in the years after its initial release. With the filming of the movie came many promotions for the book including window streamers, rack cards, shelf tags, and display racks that acquired publicity for the
book. "Up the Down Staircase" was on two best seller lists: the New York Times best seller list for 32 weeks and the Publishers Weekly best seller list for 64 weeks. Being on these highly regarded best seller lists advertised the book and increased its p
opularity. The recognition in other forms of media propagated the book's success.
For a book to receive good reviews, the reviewers must like the material, story, style, mood or some other component of the book. There were three things in this book that made it appealing to both the reviewers and readers. These three things are: the to
pic (education), the style, and the outcome. Education is a topic that is constantly discussed in America. There are always ideas on how to change education or improve a teaching method. No one can escape the importance of education; everyone is touched b
y it somehow: at one point himself, and then perhaps later his children. Parents worry about their children and what occurs at school because many children keep their lives at school a secret. The parents become curious about the environment that surround
s their children for seven hours each day, and cannot always rely on the teachers' opinions, for they are biased. So they read any material made available to them about their child's environment. When hearing that this book describes metropolitan school
s, parents of these children run to the bookstore to find out what comes to pass in these hours when their children are away to learn. Parents and children are not the only individuals interested in a book like this; a teacher or someone desiring to becom
e one should also read this book, for it demonstrates the strength that a teacher must possess to survive such a school. People involved in the education process search for information concerning such schools as Calvin Coolidge and are inclined to read th
is book. The setting of the book (New York City) is also important. Miss Barrett's pupils are what most people would stereotype as an inner city kid: uneducated, poor, neglected, rude, disrespectful, and apathetic towards education. Each child also faces
his own personal problems. After Miss Barrett gets through to some of the children, the reader feels that if there is hope for these students, there is ample hope for other students as well. The book leaves the reader with the same thought that Miss Barr
ett reaches: "I wanted to make a permanent difference to at least one child"(313). This is the type attitude needed in schools across the nation? teachers that care. These teachers are the ones who comfort parents and bring them peace without even knowing
it. As a reader, one becomes aware of the lack of these teachers, and one hopes that this book will lure some of its readers (possible already teachers) to become more like Miss Barrett. There is a need for such positive role models in the education syst
em. Although the style of this book received mixed reviews, I thought it was extremely effective in reaching the reader. It is difficult to write a book about such a potentially serious subject and have the reader end the book without a negative opinion o
f the school system. The school is not described through rose colored glasses; it is depicted realistically. It is important that the novel is fiction and does not lecture the reader about education but tells a story instead. The main benefit of her style
is that the reader can more easily identify with, relate to, and understand many of the characters, not just the narrator. When a novel is narrated, the reader only sees the story from the narrator's perspective. However, having each character write le
tters in first person, we can better understand where the student comes from and not be so quick to judge. It allows us to have sympathy for these students and not simply see them from the outside, but perhaps try to comprehend why students turn out this
way. When the book begins Miss Barrett's students sign their suggestions anonymously, with names such as Mr. X, Yr Emeny, Disgusted, Dropout, and the Hawk. These names reflect how the students feel they interact with the school and what miniscule part th
ey play in the big picture. At the conclusion of the story, all of the students reveal their true identities and sign their suggestions with their real names. Kaufman instills in them a sense of security and importance, which is why they are able to come
forth and take pride in what they think and say. When the students disclose their true names, the reader finds himself wanting to return to the earlier parts of the book and match up each student with his prior name. The reader is curious to see what each
student's earlier thoughts were, and which ones Miss Barrett succeeds in reaching. The way Kaufman includes the memos and circulars is much more effective than merely describing them, for the reader finds the "actual" circular more believable than a mer
e description. We see how much a teacher's career involves the endless processing of paperwork and realize it is difficult to not let this paperwork engulf the teacher. On the whole, Kaufman's style allows the reader to relate to the characters on a muc
h more personal level. The positive outcome of the novel, Miss Barrett choosing to stay and continue teaching at Calvin Coolidge, leaves the reader satisfied with the novel, with all ending well.
Kaufman's book reached a variety of people, from students to parents to teachers. There are several reasons for its incredible success. The state of the economy and nation made for a perfect atmosphere when the book was released, since the people needed
a boost. The reviews published in magazines helped to grab some readers' attention, while others saw either the play or movie in the upcoming years and then read the book. However, we attribute the majority of the success of "Up the Down Staircase" to Ka
ufman's excellent choice of a topic, her convicting style, and the positive outcome.
Works Cited:
no author, "Choice".v2. Mar 1965. pg 22 Bone, Robert. "Teachers College Record".v66. May 1965. pg 778 Gause, Catherine. "America".v112. Feb 6, 1965. pg 198 Grunwald, Beverly. "New York times Book Review". Feb 14, 1965. pg 42-43 Lodge, David. "Commonweal".v82. Jan 27, 1965. pg 112 Pinck, Dan . "The Reporter". v32. Jan 1, 1965. pg 46 Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. "Life".v59. Sep 3, 1965. pg 9 Ward, Bill. "National Observer". Mar 29. 1965. pg 19 Woodring, Paul. "Saturday Review".v48. Mar 20, 1965. pg 71

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