Selden Edwards’ 30-year
A little goes a long way
World War II, the folk music scene in Edwards, who retired from educa-
By J. Rentilly
IN MALCOLM GLADWELL’S recent nonfiction Edwards at Stanford: “A very simple tale about a guy,
bestseller, Outliers, the author’s extensive research much like me, who woke up one day in old Vienna
and hypothesizing led him to believe that those with the mission of killing the child Hitler.”
who achieve indisputable greatness have one Edwards, a JV basketball player whose best tal-central thing in common: they have practiced ent was his bottomless reservoir of enthusiasm and
their craft—be it the violin, hockey or computer tenacity, dashed out a first draft, despite never pos-programming—for at least 10,000 sessing any real ambitions of authoring
hours. Overnight success, oftentimes, books. “I did not know then what I
takesdecades. know now, which is that this book
By his own assessment, Selden would take me 34 years to write. Of
Edwards is an outlier, having labored course, I don’t know that would have
more than 30 years on his debut novel, deterred me anyway,” he laughs. “I’ve
The Little Book, a sweeping, charming often been asked, if I was going to spend
bestseller. The bildungsroman features all that time writing a book, why didn’t
time travel, vividly realized history (fin I just make it good to begin with. Well, I
de siècle Vienna, Europe on the eve on didn’t know how!”
1960s Cambridge, Massachusetts, and tion in 2003, is a child of wonder and
much more) and breathtaking romance. “pathologically extroverted,” he says.
Think Back to the Future meets Forrest Gump as Penning The Little Book was less a choice than a miswritten by Charles Dickens. sion—the myriad, magical threads of narrative wak-
“I’m a late bloomer, a junior varsity player, a ing him in the middle of the night, seizing his
first-rate second-rate mind,” says Edwards, larger vacations, always insisting he keep working.
than life and contagiously wide-eyed. “My fuse just Edwards added to his long-simmering stew ele-burned really slowly, and so now, at 67, I’m getting ments of Jungian psychology, Victorian history, pop
the E-ticket ride.” culture and real-life celebrities. Many of his friends
Edwards speaks quickly, passionately, joyously— and peers thought him obsessive and deluded, but he
like comedian Robin Williams or a child on was determined to keep on keeping on. After a
Christmas morning—as he recounts the years of “seemingly endless” round of submissions and rejec-anonymity and hard labor that went into crafting tions, Edwards hired a freelance editor in 2003 to
his first book. An alumnus of Stanford and Princeton, help him put a final polish on the book. He and edi-Edwards has worked as headmaster at more than a tor Joe Lobruto worked together via e-mail for one
half-dozen esteemed private schools in California. year, at which point Lobruto had the author submit
The initial concept for The Little Book came to the manuscript to a single agent. Within a week, the
book was represented. A week after that, Edwards
was inking a high-six-figure, two-book cont ract. Last
August, The Little Book was released to stellar reviews,
brisk sales and movie offers.
“If you had told me three years ago, or 20 years
ago, that any of this would happen, I would say you
were smoking something funny. This whole novel is
about wish fulfillment, and now I’m living it,” laughs
Edwards. “I’m a rock star in my 60s.”
But as any rock star knows, audiences demand
encores. He is already halfway through his sophomore novel, which offers “surprising and terrible”
backstories for several of The Little Book’s characters. Asked if his follow-up will take another
30 years, Edwards twinkles momentarily. “Oh,
no, they put it in the contract,” he smiles. “I only
get one year to do the next book. Good thing I’ve
got so much life experience to write about!” C
COSTCO HAS 50 signed copies of Selden
Edwards’ The Little Book to give away. To
enter, print your name, membership number,
address and daytime phone number on a
postcard or letter and send it to: Selden
Edward, The Costco Connection, P.O. Box
34088, Seattle, WA 98124-1088. Or send
an e-mail to
“Selden Edwards” in the subject line.
NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS
NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES.
Purchase will not improve odds of winning. S weepstakes is sponsored
by Penguin Putnam, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014. (Open to legal
residents of the U.S. (except Puerto Rico) who are age 18 or older at
the time of entry and who are current Costco members. One entry per
household. Entries must be received or postmarked by August 3, 2009.
Winners will be randomly selected and notified by mail on or before
September 1, 2009. The value of the prize is $15. Void where prohibited.
Winners are responsible for all applicable federal, state and local taxes.
Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.
Employees of Costco or Penguin Putnam and their families are not eligible.
Send your feedback on this month’s book to:
J. Rentilly is a Los Angeles–based journalist who
writes about film, music and literature.
PARDON ME if I sound
presumptuous, but I think we
could all use a little more fun
in our lives. Selden Edwards’
The Little Book is just that:
400 pages of lighthearted joy.
Wheeler Burden, 47, is
the exiled heir of the famous
Boston banking Burdens.
He is a philosopher, writer,
rock-and-roll idol and Harvard
baseball hero. He is also, quite
suddenly, transported back in
time to 1897 Austria. There,
his first goals are to procure
appropriate clothing and find
out more about a woman he
sees. While trying to figure out
how he ended up in Austria 50
years before his birth, he
learns much about his family.
The Little Book is available
in most Costco warehouses and
at Costco.com. For more book
picks, see page 32.
Costco Book Buyer