THE Book Part 2

by limebirdkate

This post stems off of my post last week. Judging from the comments I received, the majority of us all have a book with which we are struggling. An important, meaningful story that we are driven to tell, and it seems to be the story that is the most difficult to write.

This led me to wondering about published authors. More to the point—famous, world-renowned, successful, published authors.

Did they ever struggle over one of their books? Did that book ever make it to print, or does it still beckon from the depths of a desk drawer? Or even, is there a successful author out there who wrote an AMAZING book—so amazing that nothing else he or she has written, before or since, can possibly compare? Or is there a great book out there written by an author who has never written anything else?

When I debated these questions, I immediately thought about my favorite book of all time. To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee never wrote another novel after Mockingbird. Now, I don’t know if that’s because she didn’t want to, or she tried to write another novel and gave up, or if that one book fulfilled her every want and need to be a writer. But I have to wonder, was Mockingbird the one that said and did it all for her? Was that the book she was meant to write?

Can you think of any authors who have written one amazing book and fallen short with all others? Or who never wrote again? Do you think that one book was THE book for that author? Can you think of any authors who are wonderful but still haven’t reached their peak, still aiming for that one book that they were meant to write?

17 Comments to “THE Book Part 2”

  1. Watched and enjoyed the film version of “Cold Comfort Farm” yesterday.
    Apparently Stella Gibbons wrote a prequel and sequel, but neither enjoyed the success of the original.

    • Hi unpub,

      How interesting. Now I don’t know a lot about Gibbons, but I am not usually surprised to hear about how one installment of a series does better than the others. It makes you wonder whether there needed to be a series at all.

      Thanks for commenting.

  2. On “one work” authors and their work, Herman Mellville comes to mind with his “Moby Dick” masterpiecer, but he also wrote several other works, And then, also Richard Dana’s :Two Years Before the Mast” a non-fiction book. But these are both American and of 1800s era. The former is a classic and the latter is a history. In our time, it is J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye.” I was trying to think of U.K. authors like this. I must admit complete and utter ignorance. But it seems this is a good subject of research………… for someone. A collection with brief biographies of obscure writers would be of much interest. One might search for the “why” of each one. We’ve all seen recording collections of “one hit wonders” of rock and roll music history. Is there a parallel their?

    • Hi tim,

      Ah yes, Melville, that’s a big one I think. I read “Catcher in the Rye” in high school, and you’re right–it is constantly being brought up in literary circles as one of the best books ever.

      Yes, the idea of ‘one hit wonders’ came to my mind also and whether there is such a phenomenon in literature. Surely there is, and probably a myriad of reasons could explain how some authors just don’t go on to write multiple masterpieces, and they simply fade into the background.

      We’ll have to find that ‘someone’ to do the research, I think!

      Thanks for commenting.

  3. I do think about this in regards to one of my favourite books, the Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. She hasn’t written anything else and I think sometimes, who could she write anything that would be so beautiful. It must be diffcult, I think, to return to the laptop after giving everything.

    • Hey subtle,
      I never read the Thirteenth Tale. That is a nice way of putting it, ‘after giving everything’. I agree, it would be difficult. And maybe, who knows, maybe that was all she needed to do to feel satisfied in her accomplishments.

      Thanks for commenting.

  4. I think it’s a shame if they only write one, imagine them crying over their keyboard or typewriter, wishing they could produce more work. But it could well be a choice. I like to see writers grow and often I’ll stick with an author for their next book if I liked their first one. Jane Austen definitely grew as she wrote but I love all her books for different reasons.I guess it depends whether you want to be critically acclaimed and write an important literary work or whether you want to write commercially and have it be your job.

    • Good point, Victoria. I believe that also, that if it’s more about writing from your heart then perhaps you only need to write one to feel fulfilled. Whereas, if you’re writing for a living you must produce, and oftentimes you’re not writing what you really want to. Unless you’re so successful that you don’t have to worry about pleasing anyone but yourself. I think authors like Stephen King reached that point. He is still writing, and not because he has to for the money, but because he loves it, so he’s got it made in both regards.

      Thanks for commenting!

  5. Salinger was the one I thought of first. I remember when we read it in high school and wondered what all the fuss was about. I didn’t see why it was so special! Margaret Mitchell and Gone with the Wind also come to mind, although she did write in other formats.

    Maybe some people really have the one story to tell, and then tell it so well, there’s nothing more they feel they could do. This does make me wonder how many books I have inside me that will see the light of day. And how will they do? Oh for a crystal ball!

    • Hey,

      Yes, Catcher in the Rye is a big one for required reading in schools. I didn’t mind it too much, mainly because I at least understood it and could easily write a paper on it, versus something like The Canterbury Tales, lol.

      While I am relieved to know that I have lots of story ideas, it’s the question of whether they’re marketable that is my trouble. With the volatility of the publishing industry, it is so hard to know from one year to the next if my ideas continue to be marketable. I don’t know if that has ever been a problem for an author who has only seen one book published, but I think it’s a possibility.

      Thanks for commenting.

  6. So many factors can enter into quantity and quality, from personal experiences in the publishing process to life circumstance. And for too many authors, I’ve read but one of their works. And on the flip side lurk my idiosyncrasies, from the type of story and character that interests me to my personal foibles.

    The Red Tent is one of my favourites, but I’ve yet to read another by Anita Diamant.

    • Hi nelle,

      Wow, you bring back a memory…The Red Tent. I think I read that a long time ago.

      I like your point, a lot of it is very personal for both the author and the reader. Just because a book is hot or trending doesn’t mean I’d necessarily read it. I’d have to be interested in the subject matter.

      Thanks for commenting.

  7. I”m not sure about the “one hit wonder” authors … I’m sure I know of lots but just can’t think of any right now. But I do know that Stephen King struggled with Carrie as he was writing it, and even threw it out. His wife fished it from the garbage and told him to keep working on it. Boy I bet he thanks her a lot for that! Stephen King does seem like a rare lot though, he can pump books out by the handfull and never seems to lose steam. He’s even “retired” but just can’t quite find it in himself to quit 🙂

    • Hi Laura,

      Yeah, Stephen King is an entity unto himself. Although that story about Carrie helps make him seem a little more human as a writer, if that makes sense. He definitely has the Gift, but even those with the Gift struggle sometimes. If his wife hadn’t been around, who knows what could have happened.

      Thanks for commenting!

  8. Richard Hooker is famous for “M*A*S*H”; he did write two sequels about the characters back in the US (which I read as a teenager) but they were not successful. Then there is Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” (although a condensed version of his unfinished second novel was published posthumously) and, what about Grace Metalious’s “Peyton Place” (although she did write a sequel and two other unsuccessful novels).

    • Hi Dennis,

      Good examples. I read Invisible Man in college and I had forgotten that tidbit about his second novel. Isn’t that interesting that Hooker’s and Metalious’s sequels weren’t successful. I think sequels are hard sells anyway but I never can pinpoint the reasons why so few make the cut.

      Thanks for commenting!

  9. Hmm, when I see things like this it reminds me how badly I need to start reading again. So I can have an answer!

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