Long before we lived in Twin Peaks and Melrose Place, we lived in Peyton Place. In fact, millions and millions and more millions of us all around the world lived in Peyton Place, or thought we did as we read the steamy pages of a book that was probably the most controversial novel ever written. This book didn't just shock us for a spell and then get tossed on the shelf along with the other discarded bestsellers of the day. This book wouldn't go away -- it seemed to be everywhere for a few years. We even saw references to it on the covers of other novels that came along, books that wanted to steal a little of the Peyton Place thunder for themselves. But Peyton Place out-classed them all and for a few years was the bestselling novel of all time. Of course, there had been literary sensations before and there were huge blockbusters yet to come, but no other novel had the impact of Peyton Place. It was nasty, notorious and, most important, lots of fun to read, even if you had to read it in secret -- and many of us did. Peyton Place was both literary blockbuster and sociological phenomenon.

Naturally a book that big had to have a movie version. And a book that big also had to have a sequel and then a movie verion of the sequel. And then the inevitable TV series. And then some rip-off continuations of the book by undistinguished writers. And then a short-lived daytime "soap" version. Eventually the TV version of Peyton Place returned to prime time for a couple of made-for-TV movies that recruited a few of the stars from the original TV series, but by then nobody really cared very much. Peyton Place had become sort of a cliche.

 

But in the beginning, back in the late 1950s, there were those shocking books by Grace Metalious. The paperback editions changed the publishing industry forever.

 

   

 

If the Meeker Museum ever decides to compile a "Recommended Reading" list, Peyton Place will probably be listed in first place, with Return to Peyton Place following close behind. It would be hard to think of another book that had such an impact on its readers, particularly young readers. A generation of American youth came of age after experiencing life & lust first hand in Metalious's not-so-mythical small New England town. The influence of Metalious' creation just goes on and on, all the way up to the present. Each time the TV networks announce some new variation on Dallas or Dynasty or Melrose Place, or even the "reality-based" dramas like E.R., there's an echo of Peyton Place there. And aren't Survivor and Big Brother sort of, well, Peyton Placey? Hell, isn't the place where you work sort of Peyton Placey?

 

As for the original book, we are most happy to report that Peyton Place is now back in print thanks to Northeastern University Press, and with the addition of an excellent "new introduction" by Ardis Cameron. In her Open Secrets: Rereading Peyton Place, Ms. Cameron sets out to rescue the book's long-tarnished reputation:


 

"This reissue of Peyton Place provides an opportunity for a new generation of readers and scholars to reconsider the cultural politics and literary legacy of Grace Metalious."

           
 --Ardis Cameron

In the "Notes" section following Cameron's essay, we learn that Peyton Place quickly surpassed Gone With the Wind as the top-selling fiction book of all time. As of 1988, Peyton Place was in third place, behind The Godfather and The Exorcist.

 

So turn off those TVs and computers and those awful cellphones and find yourself a good book to read -- preferably Grace Metalious's Peyton Place. We whole-heartedly recommend it.

 

PEYTON PLACE PAGES      MEEKER MUSEUM