Meridian Fiction

Publisher: Meridian Books (1960), World Publishing Co. (1960-1969)

Years: 1960-1969

Related Series: Forum Books, Jewish Publication Society Series, Meridian Books, Meridian Giants, Meridian Library, Living Age Books

More Information

Meridian Fiction Series Will Debut in 1960, PW, Aug. 17, 1959, at 23-24.

Ad, PW, Jan. 25, 1960, at 90 (full-age ad showing MF1 - MF8 and indicating they will be published in February or March).

From the copy in an ad in the Evergreen Review (issue 13?):

All Meridian Fiction publications are contemporary works of literary distinction deserving the broader readership made possible by paperback editions.

Kenneth C. Davis, TWO-BIT CULTURE 295-96 (1984):

There was no room for fiction on the Meridian list until [Arthur A.] Cohen found an “angel” who was interested in backing a line of Meridian fiction. Louis Strick had been successful on Wall Street and then bought a failing typewriter company in Brooklyn that he turned around to profitability. In 1959, with only his love of literature and a checkbook, Strick joined Cohen and Asher in creating the Meridian fiction list. As Asher later recalled, “Louis Strick was a guy who loved books and publishing and fiction. Arthur sort of conned him into supporting the Meridian fiction list.” (Strick later bought the Taplinger Publishing Company, which he still owns and runs.)

The Meridian fiction list made its debut in February 1960 with Simone de Beauvoir’s The Mandarins, Randall Jarrell’s Pictures from an Institution, Sybille Bedford’s A Legacy, and The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel. The raison d’etre of the list was purely and simply literary resuscitation. As Asher described the series, they were personal favorites of the three men and not the kind of novels that would ever be reprinted for the mass market. The second group of titles, appearing in March, was The Middle Age of Mrs. Eliot by Angus Wilson, A Long Day’s Dying by Frederick Buechner, The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay, and Goodbye, Columbus.

Asher later recalled, “I met Roth when he was in New York, but I was not in a position to do anything. After Goodbye, Columbus was published, he had an offer from NAL -- three or four thousand -- and we offered less. But he gave it to us because of friendship partly and because, apart from the Mentors, mass market books wouldn’t be around long. At the same time, there was the prestige of the ‘quality paperback.’ Our books were in bookstores, not in drugstores. He didn’t that young people in drugstores would buy his books. Those were his assumptions.”

Just as Meridian was going to press with the plates for the book borrowed from Houghton Mifflin, Roth was announced as the winner of the 1960 National Book Award. Asher said, “Houghton Mifflin started screaming because they needed the plates to go back to press. We refused until we had printed. And we were the ones in the stores. Our edition benefitted from the award.” (At about the same time that he bought the rights to Goodbye, Columbus, Asher also bought The Little Disturbances of Man by Grace Paley. But Roth’s book was clearly the biggest success in Meridian’s fiction series.)

While Meridian was embarking on its idealistic fiction series (which proved to be short-lived, comprising only some twenty titles) . . .