Bach, Richard: Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
(researched by Laura Martin)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

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

Richard Bach. Illusions: Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. USA: Delacorte Press/Eleanor Freide, 1977. Copyright 1977 by Creature Enterprises, Inc. Design copyright 1977 by Joan Stoliar.

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

First edition published in white trade cloth. No parallel first editions found.

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

4 Pagination

72 leaves; [1-24] 25-42 [43-44] 45-46 [47-48] 49-50 [51] 52-56 [57] 58-64 [65] 66-86 [87] 88-91 [92] 93-102 [103-104] 105-109 [110] 111-115 [116] 117-129 [130] 131 [132] 133-136 [137-138] 139-143 [144]

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?

Introduced by author. In it, Bach writes that he ìdoes not enjoy writing at allÖ But once in a whileÖsomeone seizes me by the throat and gently says, ëI will not let you go until you set me in, in words, on paper.íî This is what led him to write Illusions.

6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?

No illustrations

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?)

Paper size: 6.5 in. x 8.5 in. Margins: On average, just over 1 inch from top; 1 in. side margins; at other points, margins are as much as 4 in. from top and 4.2 inches from side The type that is used most commonly appears as 127R, making it larger than the type in most novels. Further description of typography: Three different fonts are used throughout the book. The book begins with a ìjournalî section of printed handwriting. After 15 pages of that, a typed font (127R) with serifs is used. Later in the book, a more elaborate, scripted font with serifs is used to indicate sections of the Messiahís Handbook.

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?)

Three different stocks are paper are used in this book. All appear to be wove paper. A thick, granulated kind is used for the endpapers. The journal section of the story is printed on a moderately thick stock with even edges, reproduced to look like notebook paper but obviously made of a much higher-quality stock than actual notebook paper. The rest of the book is printed on thicker paper than the journal, and the edges are not smoothly cut. The book looks like it has been read only a few timesóthe pages are unstained and no discoloration or aging is shown.

11 Description of binding(s)

Bound in white trade cloth with dust jacket. The dust jacket has a black background with white text and is covered with protective mylar. The front of it is transcribed as such: ILLUSIONS| The Adventures of a| Reluctant Messiah| [image of feather and flecks of light] Richard Bach| [author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull]. The back of the dusk jacket features a quote from the text in white letters on a black background. ìHere is| a test to find| whether your mission on earth| is finished: If youíre alive,| it isnít.î Below that a photograph of light (copyright Joan Stoliar) appears, and at the bottom right corner the ISBN number is printed. Five separate sections are bound, then all sections bound together as one. The binding is a dotted line grain, and there is an impression of a feather on the front of the book. Gold lettering is used on the spine to write Richard Bach| ILLUSIONS| Delacorte Press. The binder's title appears in the same font as the one on the dust jacket and title page. The spine itself is .67 inches. The bound book measures 6.73 x 8.71 inches. Bright blue endnotes are also included in the book.

12 Transcription of title page

Illusions| The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah| by Richard| Bach| Delacorte Press/Eleanor Friede Verso: Copyright 1977 by Creature Enterprises, Inc.| Design copyright 1977 by Joan Stoliar| All rights reserved. No part of this book may be repro-|duced in any form or by any means without the prior| written permission of the Publisher, excepting brief| quotes used in connection with reviews written spe-|cifically for inclusion in a magazine or newspaper.| Manufactured in the United States of America.| First printing| Designed by Joan Stoliar| Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data| Bach, Richard.| Illusions: the adventures of a reluctant Messiah.| I. Title.| PZ4.B121 [PS3552.A255] 813í.5í4 76-30788| ISBN: 0-440-04318-2

13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings

Information not available at this time.

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

Interlinear decorations appear on pages 30, 38, 66, 101 (two on this page), 137, and 140 (a feather as opposed to a leaf). See supplementary materials for pictures of the decorations. Copy specific information: A 1-- is written in pencil on the verso of the first leaf, indicating that at one time this edition was probably sold for $1.00.

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

Illusions: Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. Dell/Eleanor Freide. 1979. 191 p., 18 cm. Illusions: Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. Dell/Eleanor Freide. June, 1981. 191 p.; 17 cm. Illusions: Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. Laurel/Eleanor Friede. 1984. 191 p.; 18 cm. Illusions: Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. Mass Market Paperback. Dell Publishing Company. February 1984. 192 p.; 6.7 inches. Illusions: Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. Dell: ìNew Dell Edition.î 1989. 191 p.; 17 cm. Illusions: Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. Paperback. Febrary, 1998. 144 p. ; 8.39 inches. Illusions: Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. Dell/Eleanor Freide: Book Club Edition. 144 p.

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?

According to Publishers Weekly, there were at least 13 printings of the book. By August 15th, 1977 there had been five printings. By September 19th there had been a 6th printing. By October 31st, there was a 7th printing. By January 23rd, 1978 there had been an 8th printing. By May 8th, there had been a 10th printing. Christmas 1978 inspired a 13th printing of the book, taking the total number of copies to 438,983. I found no evidence of later hardcover printings.

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

Large print edition. 176 p.; 24 cm. Boston, G.K. Hall, 1977. Large print edition. 175 p.; 25 cm. London: Prior, 1978. Originally London edition. London: Heinemann, 1977. London edition. London: Pan Books, 1979. 144 p. ; 17 cm.

6 Last date in print?

According to InfoTrac's "Books in Print" section, Illusions is out of print now. The latest edition to be printed was the mass market paperback in 1998, which I found through

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

The total number of hardcover, first edition copies printed was 438,983. The last sales figures available reported that, when 365,000 copies of the book were printed, 345,145 of them had actually been sold. Bowker's Annual reports that a total of 462,688 copies were sold in 1977 and 1978.

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

After the third printing, there were 150,000 copies. By August 15th, 1977 there had been five printings which had produced 200,000 copies of the book. By September 19th, after a 6th printing, there were 240,000 copies. By October 31st, there were 290,000 copies after a 7th printing. Bowker reports that over 300,000 copies were printed in 1977. By January 23rd, 1978 after an 8th printing, there were 325,000 copies of the book. By March 27th, there were 337,129 copies in print. By May 8th, there had been a 10th printing, producing a total of 365,000 print copies of the book, 345,145 of which had actually sold. By July 3rd, a total of 400,000 copies were in print. Christmas 1978 inspired a 13th printing of the book, taking the total number of copies to 438,983. Bowker reports that 162,688 copies were sold in 1978, taking the total to over 462,688. Source: Publishers' Weekly , March 1977-February 1979. and Bowker's Annual .

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

After extensive searching in Publishers' Weekly , Harpers , The New Yorker and The New York Times Book Review , I could not find any evidence of an ad specifically designed for Illusions . I did, however, find an ad for another of Bach's books. In the ad the success of both Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Illusions was celebrated. The ad proclaims Illusions' "79 weeks on the bestsellers list!"

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion

Richard Bach was featured in an add for Delacorte Press. His picture and name appeared on the top of a page of Delacorte's most popular authors. The advertisement appeared in the June 26th, 1978 issue of Publishers' Weekly . In an article by Anthony Starr that appeared in the April 10th, 1977 New York Times Book Review , Starr reports that Bach is "going on a nationwide barnstorming tour to promote his book." I did not find any other reports of the tour tour.

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

Several sound recordings of the book were made. Bach, Richard. TITLE: Illusions PLACE: Los Angeles, CA : PUBLISHER: Audio Renaissance, YEAR: 1994 1977 PUB TYPE: Recording FORMAT: 2 sound cassettes (ca. 3 hr.) : analog, Dolby processed. NOTES: Container has subtitle: The adventures of a reluctant Messiah. Unabridged. Read by the author. TITLE: Illusions, the adventures of a reluctant messiah [Sound recording] General note: Notes by the author in container. General note: Duration: 58 min., 4 sec. Physical description: 1 cassette. 2-track. mono. Publication info: New York, Caedmon, 1978.

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

Ilusiones. Barcelona: Pomaire publishing, 1977. 140 p. ; 23 cm. Ilusoes. Lisboa: Moraes, 1978. 154 p. ; 20 cm. Ilusiones. Buenos Aires: Pomaire, 1984. 140 p. ; 22 cm. Illiuzii. Kiev: Sofiia, 1999. 222 p. ; 17 cm Illusions: ou, Les aventures d'un messie recalcitrant. Saint-Laurent, Quebec: Flammarion, 1978. 160 p. ; 22 cm. NOTES: Comprend des reproductions en fac-sim. du manuscrit autographe. Ilusiones. Buenos Aires : J. Vergara, 1985. 140 p. ; 22 cm. Ilusoes: as aventuras de um messias indeciso. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Record, 1977. 156 p. ; 21 cm. Illusionen: die Abenteuer eines Messias wider Willen. Berlin: Ullstein, 1977. 149 p. Illusions. Mandarin, 1992. 143 p. Ilusiones. Buenos Aires ; Mexico : J. Vergara, 1986. 199 p. ; 18 cm. Iluze. Praha : Synergie, 1996. 83 s. ; 18 cm. Illusioni: le avventure di un Messia riluttante. Milano : Biblioteca Universale Rizzoli, 1997. 148 p. ; 20 cm. Meng huan fei hsing. Tëai-pei shih : Fang chih chëu pan she, 1991. 215 p. ; 21 cm.

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

No record of serialization was found.

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

Bach notes in the introduction that this book follows Jonathan in a lot of ways, as a sort of sequel of ideas.

Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

See Jennifer Sloggie's entry on Jonathan Livingston Seagull for a complete biographical sketch of the author's life.

Richard Bach's process of writing is as mystical and metaphysical as his books are. As he tells it, "Before one starts writing a book, one hasn't the faintest idea what one is getting into," ( Through all my research in Lexis Nexis, The New York Times , Publishers Weekly , Newsweek , and more, I was unable to find any more details behind the creation of Illusions than the ones Bach offers on his webpage and in his forward to Illusions . On his webpage, Bach replies to a reader's question on why he set the book where he did by saying, "Reading the land, like reading books, soaks into one's being, and when Donald Shimoda appeared to me, asking to be written, he came with a hometown not so far from yours, with attitudes and education and outlooks I did not invent. Yes, the land east of Fort Wayne touched me, but so deeply that I can't begin to understand, and less explain" (

Even though Illusions followed Jonathan Livingston Seagull in time and in content, even though it was a bestseller and inspired more people to quit their jobs, leave a bad marriage, or try to walk through a wall (these examples and more are cited on various webpages in tribute to Bach), Illusions never achieved the same height of fervor that Jonathan did (L.A. Times, 2/1/93). In the forward to Illusions , Bach writes that he was often asked about his next project. He goes on to say that he replied, "I didn't have to write anything next, not a word, and that all my books together said everything that I had asked them to say. Having starved for a while, the car repossessed and that sort of thing, it was fun not to have to work to midnights." Yet in the next paragraph, Bach explains the soul of Illusions, as he describes how he took his antique biplane into the "green-meadow seas of midwest America, flew passengers for three-dollar rides," he began to feel "there was something left to say, and I hadn't said it." In his Midwestern summers, as Bach laid on his back, imagining he could vaporize clouds, he could not stop thinking of what it would be like if someone came along who had absolute control over clouds, reality, life (Illusions, unnumbered page of forward). "Maybe he wouldn't be like the messiah on the oil-streaked grass-stained pages of my journal, maybe he wouldn't say anything this book says? But then again?we magnetize into our lives whatever we hold into our thought?" (forward). In the three brief pages of his forward, Bach seems to explain everything he wants to about the origin of the story and the time behind his Illusions .

Since the time when Jennifer Sloggie wrote her entry, Bach has divorced Leslie Parrish. In April of 1999 he married Sabryna Nelson-Alexopolos. Bach describes their relationship as "supremely happy," but mentions that Sabryna prefers to stay out of spotlights, so the journey of their relationship may never be written. Bach has also changed publishers and is now published by Morrow rather than Dell. Bach's son, appropriately named Jonathan, has also entered the publishing world with a novel called Above the Clouds , which chronicles Jonathan's relationship with his father (L.A. Times, 2/1/93).

Assignment 4: Reception History

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

"A lot of things said in [Illusions] are the kind of sentences somebody might want to embroider on a sampler?or bake into a fortune cookie," wrote Richard Lingeman in the New York Times (April 1, 1977). Apparently fortune cookie phrases were what readers in 1977 wanted, because they sent Illusions to the bestseller chart and kept it there for almost eight months. Even as Bach's writing inspired readers to leave relationships, change careers, and learn to fly, it met with lukewarm, even chilly, critical reviews.

After extensive research in Book Review Digest , The New York Times , Galenet, Lexis-Nexis, and Contemporary Literary Criticism , among many other sources, I was only able to find a handful of reviews on Illusions . The reviews I found were all from male newspaper critics, and were printed within three weeks of the release of Illusions . Together, these critics let out a collective sigh of disappointment in the quasi-religious questions and answers Illusions proposes. The New York Times critics, Lingeman and Greeley, both disparaged Bach for aspiring to write something to create a sort of new religion. Greeley criticized Illusions because, "The twin problems of purpose and evil with which religion has traditionally wrestled are not even addressed, but dismissed as illusory" (New York Times: April 10, 1977). Bach's avoidance of ethical ambiguities concerned Greeley, and the critic concluded by saying, "Whatever it may be worth, my own reaction was underwhelming? I think I'll stick with St. Mark" (New York Times: April 10, 1977). In his review, Lingeman bluntly sneered, "damned if Bach hasn't written another of his high-brow, big-think books" ( New York Times: April 1, 1977). Lingeman ended his response to Illusions in Bach-mocking humor, offering his own messiah-like sayings, such as "If this book helps you get through the night, then it's better than Jack Daniels."

Joseph McLellan of The Washington Post acknowledged the popularity of Bach's writing for its "common currency" of ideas?"enlightenment, miracles, reincarnation, out-of-body-experiences" even as he felt unfulfilled by the depth and content of the book ( The Washington Post, April 24, 1997: qtd. in Contemporary Literary Criticism, 36). McLellan described the book's "easiness," a characteristic of "pop mysticism" and exceedingly appealing to readers in the late ?70s.

(A review of Illusions also appeared in the April 18th, 1977 issue of Time magazine, but the review was torn out of the library's copy of the magazine, so I was unable to read it.)

Useful Sources in this Assignment Contemporary Literary Criticism New York Times microfilm: April 1, 1977; p. C27 and April 10, 1977, p. 11 Twentieth Century Literary Criticism : useful in directing me to CLC .

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

After its initial release and obligatory reviews, critics set Illusions aside. In reviews of his subsequent books, Bach is always referred to as the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull . But while Illusions may not have a scholarly afterlife, it is still a powerful force to the 167 readers on who have reviewed the book. One devotee raves, "Every time I have lost my soul, I have read Illusions" (April 3, 2000 entry). Natalie from Massachusetts calls it "absolutely incredible" and says it has "greatly changed [her] life" (February 28, 2000 entry). John from Jefferson entitles his review, "Big Time, I like it" and calls the book "an extension of [himself]" (February 24, 2000 entry). Readers gave the book an average of 4 ½ out of 5 stars. One of the few negative voices came from Joey B., who wrote, "Upon finishing this trite book I felt I had been had by yet another corporate motivational speaker. You know, the one that makes you feel good about your job until the next day after the warm and fuzzy feelings wear off and reality sets in your back to sending out resumes." Most readers, though, agree with the Johanna, Jen, and the many others who wrote to say that they were "forever changed" by Illusions (various entries).

If any Bach devotees are disturbed by others' less-than-flattering comments of the author, Amazon provides them with a way to take out their anger. Under each reader's review is a box to click and vote whether or not you found the review helpful. As of April, 2000, no negative reviews have been rated as helpful, which says something about Bach's inspired followers and the standing ovation they are giving him today, more than twenty years after the publication of Illusions .

Useful Sources in this Assignment Lexis-Nexis: provided me with links to reviews of subsequent reviews of Bach's books

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

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

Like many other bestsellers, Illusions cannot attribute its success to just one factor. Richard Bach's persona and the fact that he had just written the extraordinarily successful Jonathan Livingston Seagull both contributed highly to the book's popularity. The fact that it inspired readers and made them feel empowered was another reason for Illusions' success. None of these categories was new for a bestseller, though. Illusions teaches us that books often become bestsellers more for the author's name and life than for anything that is written in them. Illusions belongs to the category of bestseller that sells because of the author's persona and previous success, while it is also an empowerment/inspirational bestseller and one that violates traditional fiction/non-fiction boundaries. Persona

Richard Bach fits into a small but notable crowd of authors whose personas draw readers to them. Bach simultaneously makes readers feel that he understands them while also presenting the aura of someone who lives an extraordinary life. Something in Bach's manner makes readers feel that he understands them and wants to hear from them. Bach had to remove the e-mail box on his website ( because he was flooded by more mail than he could handle. Bach likes to personally respond to readers, and on his website he says that he could no longer keep up with the readers' responses and his own writing and flying. He consoles fans, though, by saying, "If you think you're alone, if you think you're the only one with the crazy thoughts and ideals and understandings about who we are and what the rules might be to enjoy living on this little planet...if you think you're alone, you're not!" ( This just enhances the idea that he understands his readers and cares deeply about them.

Bach's personal life is the sort of continuous adventure his readers fantasize about living. It is an endless quest for fulfillment and new experience, where stagnancy is the greatest enemy. Bach walked out on his first wife and their six children to pursue a different sort of existence. At one point he sold his car in order to keep his airplane. He promoted Illusions with a barnstorming tour (Washington Post, April 24, 1977). He believes in soulmates and in human flight. Readers are mesmerized by him, in awe of the way he thinks and lives.

Robert James Waller captures readers in much the same way. After the publication of Bridges of Madison County , readers wrote to tell him that the book had changed their life. Today, six years after the book's unprecedented success, readers are still reaching out to Waller. "Some people call me in tears," he says. They say, "You've given me hope" (Washington Post, Feb. 3, 1993). The readers' personal responses are a testament to the way they connect with Waller and feel that he wrote the book for them.

Both Bach and Waller speak of overcoming time and space, of living past confines. Both authors hold themselves in high regard, and base their protagonists on themselves (Richard in Illusions; Robert in Bridges ). Waller's sexually-charged, messiah-like male protagonist in Bridges is also named Robert. Both Roberts are photographers, both are tall and aged to the look of a silver-haired cowboy of eras gone past. The book's Robert immodestly tells Francesca, "I am the highway and a peregrine and all the sails that ever went to sea." Waller reminds women of their fantasies, and in doing so, they begin to see him as the ideal lover, as the flesh-and-blood form of Robert Kincaid.

Rebecca Wells, author of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is a new example of this author who has an intense connection with readers. While Wells possesses a very different sort of allure and persona than Bach and Waller, fans still hold her in undeniable awe. Wells plays out the Southern belle life her characters live. On her website, there is an audio clip of her saying, "Much obliged" to her readers ( Her welcome letter begins, "Summer dahlins," and goes on to say, "I am a home-lovin' gal who WANTS TO BE HOME, LOVIN'!!!!!!!" (ibid). Readers have become so enchanted with the idea of Ya-Yas that Ya-Ya clubs have been started across the country, where women meet and celebrate Wells, womanhood, and friendship (

These authors carry so much passion and intensity into their work, and readers are entranced by that. Fans become captivated by Bach and Waller and Wells, and want to get as close to the authors as possible. This magnetism draws readers back to the authors' books, because readers want not just the story but the persona of the author.

Follower to Previous Bestseller

Illusions was released seven years after Bach's phenomenal bestseller Jonathan Livingston Seagull . During the time Jonathan was #1 on the bestseller list the book was reprinted twenty-seven times; by 1975 there were over nine million copies of it in print (Jennifer Sloggie's database entry for Jonathan Livingston Seagull ). Paramount made a movie of it and Neil Diamond recorded the soundtrack. After all this attention, it was inevitable that whatever Bach published next would be a success.

This type of second- book success has been seen often in the world of publishing. Joseph Heller's Catch-22 was so popular that his subsequent book, Something Happened skyrocketed to the bestsellers list even as it received terrible reviews. One critic called it "a terrific letdown" ( Another referred to it as, "a lump compared with Catch-22 ( In spite of this, the public rushed out to buy the book because Heller wrote it.

Robert James Waller's Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend is another example of this type of success. The millions of readers who made Bridges the bestselling hardback of all time rushed to buy Slow Waltz ( The Washington Post February 9, 1993). In 1993, Bridges was #1 on the annual bestsellers' list and Slow Waltz was #3 (

Among the many other authors who experienced a similar success is Willa Cather. Though she had written several other books before Death Comes for the Archbishop , it was the success of that book that helped sell Shadows of the Rock . Death Comes for the Archbishop was released in 1927 and it met with such acclaim that advertisements for Shadows referred to her as the author of it, without mentioning any of her previous works (Jennifer Clem's database entry on Shadows of the Rock ).

A 1993 article in the Los Angeles Times tells of the "phenomenon" bestseller and describes several authors, including Bach, who have had success with subsequent books based on their single powerful title. S.J. Diamond, the author of the article, writes that "In a classic case, the book starts with a limited printing and less promotion and ?just takes off'?into worldwide sales in the millions. And the little-known author makes the tours, takes the money, and quickly tries to extend the ?phenomenon'" (Feb. 1, 1993 L.A. Times). As time wears on, these authors' subsequent works are forgotten and the writers are referred to as something like, "the guy who wrote the book about the seagull" (ibid).

Violation of Category

Illusions cannot be neatly classified as fiction or as non-fiction. Most bookstores place it in their "metaphysical" or "inspiration" section and avoiding having to categorize it further. Richard Bach himself is the main character in Illusions , and he tells the story as if it really happened to him. In all likelihood, a real-life messiah did not land next to Bach and teach him life-lessons, but Bach tells the story as if it was real, even if it was just real inside his mind. Illusions combines the ordinary (eating canned beans around a fire) with the extraordinary (the ability to walk through walls), and in doing so, creates something indescribable. Other of Bach's books do this even more. One chronicles his relationship with soulmate and ex-wife Leslie Parrish; The Bridge Across Forever explores their transcendent relationship as well.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil also blurs this line of categories. The book was originally released as a work of non-fiction, but has since been classified as fiction (John Unsworth, class lecture). There is a website ( that offers virtual tours of the Savannah spots featured in the book, and Savannah residents have hurried to make a profit by publicizing the book's real-life tourist attractions.

Many of Pat Conroy's books also fit into this nebulous category. They are classified as fiction but are largely autobiographical ( In his writing, he draws on the South Carolina he knows so well, and on the psychological illnesses that have haunted him throughout his life. He plays out his own difficult relationship with his parents through his troubled characters. Beach Music is dedicated to his brother who committed suicide; the book itself focuses on the protagonist's wife, who jumps to her death, and the characters around her who struggle with the loss.

This combination of real and unreal, of truth and fiction, pulls in both fiction and non-fiction readers. Illusion offers the escape of fiction and also the promise of inherent truth in the story. Bach himself writes, "If you will practice being fictional for a while, you will understand that fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats" (


The 1970s were a prime time for books that made people feel good. In the era of women's rights and the sexual revolution, people felt they had potential. The books they read served to reinforce that idea. I'm O.K., You're O.K. by Thomas Harris was a bestseller in 1971 (#4), 1972 (#2), and 1973 (#3). How to Be Your Own Best Friend by Mildred Newman, et al. was 1973's #1 bestseller ( Self-actualization and achieving potential were emphasized throughout this time. People wanted to know that they were capable of things that had never been done before. Bach furthered this belief with Illusions . In it he writes, "You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it come true."

Bach's book also fits into a category of inspiration. On a website dedicated to inspiration, Illusions is listed as the #3 most inspiring book of all time--behind the Bible and Conversations With God ( In Illusions , Shimoda is a messiah who comes to teach Richard and all of his readers how they too can become messiahs. During this same time in the mid-1970s, Billy Graham's Angels: God's Secret Agents was a bestseller.

Today, these same types of inspiration/empowerment books still attract millions of readers. Chicken Soup for the Soul has expanded and now includes volumes like A Fifth Serving of Chicken Soup and Chicken Soup for the Golf Lover's Soul .


Bach's Illusions is a bestseller that cannot be contained to just one category. It jetted up the bestsellers' list because of who Bach was and what readers expected of him. His writing answered a call from readers who wanted to believe in themselves and a greater future. They wanted to read about the extraordinary and be told they could achieve it. They wanted to hear a story with elements of truth in it, and believe it could happen to them. The things readers wanted and found in Richard Bach's Illusions are no different than things readers have sought for decades. Bach's success with Illusions puts him in the company of Robert James Waller and of Rebecca Wells, authors who combine their own persona with the books they write. It places him in the same category as Pat Conroy in the way he blends fiction and non-fiction. It makes readers feel empowered and inspired, like so many other bestsellers from the ?70s did. Illusions teaches us that author of the book matters as much as the book itself, and that the writing itself sometimes matters the least in selling books.

Useful Sources in this Assignment 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Lexis Nexis?provided links to useful articles 8. S.J. Diamond "Sequel/'Phenomenon' Authors." Los Angeles Times . February 1, 1993. 9. The Washington Post . February 3, 1993. 10. 12.Souder, William. "He Wrote the Book on Love." The Washington Post . February 9, 1993. 13.John Unsworth, class lecture. April, 2000. 14.Conroy, Pat. Beach Music 1995. 15.Bach, Richard. Illusions . 16. The Washington Post . April 24, 1977.

Supplemental Material

This image appears on the back cover of the dust jacket.

This feather image (a much smaller version of the feather on the cover) appears only once in the book.

These decorations appear throughout the book.

back cover

feather decoration

interlinear decoration

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