Corrections or additions?

This article was prepared for the June 9, 2004

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Between the Lines

‘The Rule of Four," the novel by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason, was our cover story for May 26, and it is doing very, very well. Published in May, it is already in its ninth printing, and first editions are being bid up on E-Bay. Those who went to a reading in New York are selling first editions, signed by both authors. The prices were $89 to $139 as we went to press on Tuesday, June 8.

Here’s the hype: "Double-signed by both authors, Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason on the title page. Just their names, no "to …" or "best of luck" or other inscriptions. This book is already highly collectible, and the first printings are already scarce. Prices will definitely go up. "

In a case of fact imitating fiction that itself is imitating fact, we do need to make a correction to our story. We told how it centered on a manuscript in the Rare Book Room of Princeton University’s Firestone Library. The book, the Hypnerotomachia, dates from the Italian Renaissance.

Our author, Pete Maladineo, explained that the Hypnerotomachia (pronounced HIP-ne-ROto-MAHkia) was published in 1499 in Latin, but uses several other so-called dead languages, including Chaldean and Egyptian hieroglyphics, and even some words made up by the author, whose identity is still a matter of debate. Its title literally means the "Poliphilo’s struggle for love in a dream" and is, essentially, a voluminous puzzle that has confounded scholars for 500 years and is said to contain secrets encrypted within its text. This book really is the main character in the novel.

But another paragraph describing the Hypnerotomachia should have been attributed to Caldwell and Thomason, because it was a direct quote from the novel, but we inadvertently omitted the quotation marks. Here is the paragraph:

"The Hypnerotomachia is a tangle of plots and characters connected by nothing but its protagonist, an allegorical everyman named Poliphilo. The gist is simple: Poliphilo has a strange dream in which he searches for the woman he loves. But the way it’s told is so complicated that even most Renaissance scholars – the same people who read Plotinus while waiting for the bus – consider the Hypnerotomachia painfully, tediously difficult."

Caldwell and Thomason were scheduled for a signing at Barnes and Noble MarketFair on Tuesday, June 8. When we stopped by the day before, we saw about 120 chairs set up and as many books. Another table had a "Rule of Four" display as well, but we wondered whether that number of copies could meet the demand? Not to worry, said a bookseller. In addition to the 200 copies on the floor, the store had another 1,000 copies still in the boxes.

Set up next to the chairs for the best-seller reading were a small circle of chairs for the writers’ group that meets at the bookstore monthly. Surely those writers, gathering to read their manuscripts to each other, hope their first novels will be as successful.

Which reminds us, it is not too late to submit fiction and poetry to the U.S. 1 Summer Fiction issue. Guidelines are on page 33. Deadline is June 23.

Who knows,

Mladineo suggests that between Sylvia Nasar’s "A Beautiful Mind" (the book behind the Oscar-winning Ron Howard movie about Princeton Nobel laureate John Nash) and this new novel, Princeton may be developing a reputation for mad professors and raving students, who occasionally shuck clothing when it snows.

We can go Mladineo even better. We think that Caldwell and Thomason will be Princeton’s version of name of Harry Potter author.


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