Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Favorite writers

Why is it that my favorite writers from high school/early college were famous for only one book--for instance, Katherine Dunn's Geek Love, Keri Hulme's The Bone People, and Marilynne Robinson, until Gilead, Housekeeping.
Some of it seems to be busy-ness but some of it seems to be satisfaction. Once their book was nomiated or won a huge prize, perhaps that's all the needed to accomplish? Or they knew themselves that the most perfect rendering of their words had been written? Or is it fear of the next book failing?

I guess it's somewhat true for the man-types--Salinger will always be better known for Catcher in the Rye but almost as read is Franny and Zooey or Raise High the Roofbeam Carpenters. Who else has read Dunn's Attic or Truck?

6 comments:

Molly said...

Writing is fear. Or maybe that's not true. Maybe writing is the break between a life of fear. How much genius are we capable of, if any? How much do we get to accomplish with our little lives and little energies? My favorite books of all time might be the Little House on the Prairie series, so that's like, six books. But I think most prolific writers of talent are a little maniacal and crazed in the energy department. Maybe Dunn was not so.

Nik said...

I was just reading Bich Minh Nguyen's memoir "Stealing Buddha's Dinner." She's from GR and loves Laura Ingalls too. You should read it. Best part is, I learned there's Pho and Dim Sum in these parts.
Maybe that's it--not enough crazy. But I'm pretty sure Dunn had enough crazy, if perhaps not in that maniacal sense. Maybe it a kind of crazy exhaustion and writing exhausts a certain kind of crazy. I certainly imagine these women to be much more at piece having written their book.

Dr. Write said...

I also loved Geek Love. But haven't read anything else. It can't be as good, can it? I think a lot of people write a good book and then go on to write worse books. But maybe you have to do that.
And I think a lot of people who are brilliant writers may be crazy in the sense that they have focused intensity. I have unfocused intensity, which has led me, just today, to start a load of laundry and leave it with the lid open, half-full, because I have been distracted by making ice tea, which I left steeping too long, because I got distracted by looking for paint colors for the breakfast nook.
But, you'll be happy to know, I finished the load, took out the tea bags and stopped looking at paint colors.
Now, if I could only get some writing done.
I've (almost) decided to stop writing the novel and write a collection of essays. That's crazy, right?

Nik said...

Oh Dr. W, you made my day. It's all about remembering to restart the washer by the end of the day. My worst habit is leaving the laundry in the washer until it smells of mildew. But you seem to manage to wrap things up just right.
My advice re writing is to write all three genres simultaneously so when you're bored with, tired of, stumped by, frustrated with one, you can work on the other. It also leads to triple the rejection but a woman who makes iced tea and does laundry and reads Geek Love can handle that.
(Dunn's other novels were written prior to Geek Love. In 1970, 1971 ish. Geek Love came out in 1989.)

rwellor said...

Perhaps you have the pathology backwards?

Do you only like one-hit wonder authors?

coincidence, or evil plan?

/all question post...

Oscar Madison said...

I've always assumed it was the flame-out problem. Wouldn't it be ironic if these great first-time authors stopped publishing because they discovered the wisdom of no longer needing to seek the approval of others -- and therefore didn't share it with us?