Continuing from Part One, iUniverse here lists five more “one hit wonders” of the world of literature – authors who are remembered for one book that has given them literary immortality.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin: After its publication in 1852, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the most widely read book in America except for the Bible and perhaps Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Many historians believe that it had a profound influence on causing the US Civil War, as it invigorated the northern states with a passion against slavery, which was practiced in the South. The book is intertwined with American history and has inspired many film adaptations.
Gone with the Wind: Like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind captures the Civil War period of American history. One major difference is that Gone with the Wind was made into perhaps the most memorable epic film of all time, with both actors and characters that will remain popular names forever: Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, and Vivian Leigh as Scarlet O’Harrah. Mitchell resembles Harper Lee from Part One of this article, in that both won the Pulitzer Prize.
Dracula: Although Bram Stoker didn’t invent the vampire legend, he succeeded in consolidating it into a coherent narrative that introduced readers to the traditional elements of vampiric lore. These include castles in obscure parts of central Europe, coffins, seduction, English country houses, and of course the character of Count Dracula himself – one of the most famous in the world of horror. Stoker wrote other novels in this genre, but curiously, they have not been read over the years.
Frankenstein: As with Dracula, Mary Shelley’s novel is in the occult genre, though it pre-dates Stoker’s book by about 80 years. Interestingly, Frankenstein is probably the most successful book ever written on a dare: Shelley made a jocular promise with her husband Percy and their good friend Lord Byron that each of them should try writing a Gothic novel; she was the only one who kept to her word. Like Count Dracula, the character of the Frankenstein Monster (the book’s title, “Frankenstein”, actually refers to the doctor who creates the monster) is extremely well-known in popular culture. While scholars continue to explore her other novels written after Frankenstein, it is on the strength of this one work that she is known to the world.
The Catcher in the Rye: A book that is beloved by teens and adults, while sometimes banned by schools in the US, JD Salinger’s first-person narrative of a youth experiencing feelings of alienation in the 1950s continues to excite discussion and provoke strong reactions. It is a safe bet to say that Salinger himself probably had no idea of the impact that his novel would make; and, as he seldom made public appearances after its publication, one can say that he found the attention overwhelming! Salinger’s literary output, aside from Catcher, was scant, with just a novella and some collections of short stories. Nonetheless, as the novel continues to sell over 250,000 copies a year, it kept him in comfortable financial circumstances till the end of his long life – he lived to be 91.
Here’s a question: why do you think some authors only write a good book once?