Monday, August 29, 2011

One- Book Wonders

Saw a good documentary on Harper Lee called HEY, BOO: HARPER LEE and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. ("Hey. Boo," is what Scout says, when she finally meets Boo Radley.)

Lee kept her silence both in this film and over the years. She has not been interviewed since the sixties. It is also poignant that she never wrote another book. No one knows why although I suspect it was the very success of this one.

Quite nauseating though how Truman Capote ended his lifetime friendship with her when she won the Pulitzer. He insinuated for years that he had a hand in the book.

Who are some of the other one-book wonders?


Dana King said...

Did I read that correctly? Capote broke off a friendship with Lee because she gave him some credit for MOCKINGBIRD after it won the Pulitzer? Really?

Anonymous said...

John Kennedy Toole, A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES. Actually, I think there was a second posthumous book but it did not have the success of the first one.

Margaret Mitchell, GONE WITH THE WIND.

Dow Mossman, THE STONES OF SUMMER, which I bought when it was reprinted but still haven't read.

I have read the others.

Jeff M.

Dave Zeltserman said...

Mr. Arkadin by Orson Welles. This is a bit fuzzy since I've read Orson Welles's claiming both that he didn't and did write this book, but it's one of my favorite crime novels.

Also Fast One by Paul Cain, although he also wrote some short stories.

Scott Cupp said...

In science fiction, Walter M. Miller's A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ is certainly a one hit wonder, though he did have a couple of short story collections. The book is really a linked sequence of novelettes and is wonderful.

Dan_Luft said...

Frederick Exley worked, I think, for over ten years on A FAN'S NOTES. It's nearly perfect. He wrote two other books in much less time (fulfilling a contract?) that were abysmal. That's kind of a one-book wonder.

Mikhail Bulgakov's only finished novel was MASTER AND MARGARITA -- just love it.

With crime fiction it's tough because I've always sought out prolific authors. The one's that only wrote a single novel usually wrote a thousand short stories.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sorry, Dana. Sloppy writing. I hope I cleared it up.
Ross Lockridge for Raintree County also comes to mind.

pattinase (abbott) said...

A FAN'S NOTES is one of the books you force on strangers, it was so good.
And the Master was amazing. A bolt out of the blue
Jeff-I read STONES a year or two ago.
Leibowitz-another amazing book.
Of course, none of us remember the lousy one-book wonders. I guess they wouldn't be a wonder then though.

Erik Donald France said...

The Bible, the Koran & Tao te ching all (-- joking).

Marcel Proust, À la recherche du temps perdu (-- joking)

Truman Capote was a "piece of work" himself. Does Dorian Grey count?

pattinase (abbott) said...

Good question. Lots of plays but only the one novel.
Of course the religious matter was not the work of a single individual unless you say God.

Anonymous said...

I meant to mention RAINTREE COUNTY too.

I love A FAN'S NOTES too. The second one (PAGES FROM A COLD ISLAND), which I read immediately after finishing NOTES, was a huge disappointment. I have the third book (LAST NOTES FROM HOME) but could never bring myself to read it.

Jeff M.

Erik Donald France said...

Indeed -- depends on if one is a literalist. I am not, though Lao tzu might've pulled off the tao te ching, if such a person (akin to "Homer") existed as such. Maybe.

I've always thought Harper Lee is cool.

Ed Gorman said...

Being Truman Capote couldn't have been easy in an unkind world. Unfortunately he dealt with it by being a jerk. He spoke at my college when In Cold Blood was hot. In the Q&A he spent an undue amount of time trashing Tennessee Williams, his literary superior in just about every way.

Ed Gorman said...

BTW Patti I had the honor of getting shit-faced with Fred Exley several times in Iowa City. Quite a guy. We got kicked out of a Pizza Hut for bringing in our own bottle of booze. We made the mistake all drunks do--thinking we were invisible when we splashed whiskey into our cokes.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am in awe of both Fred and you. Would love to have been a fly on the wall.

Steve Oerkfitz said...

Ive Been Sown So Long It Feels Like Up To Me by Richaed Farina and Homeboy by Seth Morgan-both died in motorcycle accidents if I remember correctly. Farina on the day his book was published. He was married to Joan Baez's sister Mimi.Also Lightning On the Sun by Robert Bingham.

Todd Mason said...

Walter Miller wrote a number of books, including a novel sequel to CANTICLE, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, so that's a stretch.

A figure comparable to Paul Cain in crime fiction is T. L. Sherred in fantastic fiction, also one novel (and posthumously-completed sequel, finished by Lloyd Biggle) and a small slew of brilliant short fictions. In contemporary mimetic fiction, Ralph Ellison would be roughly comparable to those two, even with more than one other collection (of nonfiction in his case).

I'm hard-pressed to think of any women writers who were so restricted in their publications who hasn't already been mentioned...Emily Bronte comes close...short fiction writer Wilma Shore managed to be almost as unprolific as me (saying something)...

Todd Mason said...

David R. Bunch, with hundreds of short stories and an utterly untallied number of poems in little magazines and fanzines, saw published during his life one novel (which combined a number of shorter works that he'd set in and around the society of Moderan) and one short-fiction collection, Bunch!.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Steve-have read that and saw them perform in Massachusetts in 1965. Really terrific.
Todd-you are a walking compendium.

Anonymous said...

Wow, would love to have witnessed the Gorman-Exley meetings.

Jeff M.

Todd Mason said...

Thanks...though a faulty one, with missing pages (and I would've liked to have heard the Farinas together "in person", too...).

Wilma Shore would publish something like a story every three-four years, and most of them would blow the doors off for her WorldCat notes:

maybe her third published story: ACCENT (little magazine), Summer 1942

Newspaper story / Wilma Shore --
Goethe and Rilke : contemporary revaluations / Harry Slochower --
Ida M'Toy / Eudora Welty --
Desire & the object / Wallace Stevens --
The trains / Marguerite Young --
John Landless cleansed by the void / Ivan Goll ; translated by Clark Mills --
Affectation of Praehiminincies : part II / Katherine Anne Porter --
Five poets / David Daiches --
Review of The company she keeps / James Laughlin --
Review of Go down Moses and $1000 a week / Charles Shattuck --
Review of New Directions 1941 / Kerker Quinn.

[--the company she keeps, indeed. She had a story, a different one, in BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES and O. HENRY AWARDS volumes. Meanwhile, a Porter serial? in a quarterly? hmmm.]

--[the] Most widely held works by Wilma Shore
Who in the zoo by Wilma Shore( Book )
1 edition published in 1976 in English and held by 133 libraries worldwide
Relates what happens in the zoo when a little boy asks the animals if he can stay.

Women should be allowed : a verbatim report on the imbroglio between the sexes by Wilma Shore( Book )
3 editions published in 1965 in English and held by 102 libraries worldwide

A cow on the roof by Wilma Shore( Book )
1 edition published in 1958 in English and held by 2 libraries worldwide

The California quarterly. Ed. : Sanora Babb, Leslie Edgley, Thomas McGrath, Wilma Shore, [etc...]. Vol. II. N° 2, Winter 1953( Book )
1 edition published in 1953 in English and held by 1 library worldwide

[Jewish Women's Archive:]
Shore also wrote for television, was commissioned to write a song for Carol Channing, and was included in the anthology Best From Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1965 and 1973. She also published autobiographical pieces in the New York Times Sunday Magazine and the Women’s Studies Quarterly.

Todd Mason said...

Gorman and least before you guys were rowdy enough to be ejected from Pizza Hut...does sound like as good as company as one can have in a plastic booth.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I'd settle for Ed gladly. Both might be too much of a good thing. I would probably go mute.

Anonymous said...

James Jones, From Here to Eternity. The rest didn't amount to much.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Wilma Shore, wow.
But that one was pretty spectacular, Richard.

Todd Mason said...

Jeff mentioned the O'Toole, a book I found sadly overbroad, a constant Hoo Boy elbow in the ribs. I have no idea why so many find it so funny, much less poignant (the story behind the book, maybe).

There's really nothing much to be said for SOME CAME RUNNING nor THE THIN RED LINE? (I haven't read them.)

Another guy with one novel and some brilliant short fiction and then he died youngish: Richard McKenna, THE SAND PEBBLES being the novel.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Booker Prize winner THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS by Arundhati Roy, the Indian writer and activist, and DR. ZHIVAGO by Boris Pasternak come immediately to mind. Ms Abbott, you have a point when you say that Harper Lee might not have written another book because of the (unexpected) success of TKAM. In June 2010, The Guardian quoted Ms Lee as telling The Mail, in a very rare interview on the 50th anniversary of her book, that she "never expected any sort of success with Mockingbird" and "It was like being hit over the head and knocked cold." She also says, "I didn't expect the book to sell in the first place. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of reviewers but at the same time I sort of hoped that maybe someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement."

Cap'n Bob said...

Emily Bronte, Oscar Wilde, Anna Sewell. Also J.D. Salinger if you concede that his second book wasn't a true novel.

Cap'n Bob said...

Oh yeah, Sylvia Plath. Did anyone mention her?

pattinase (abbott) said...

I guess there are those that die before the second book like Bronte perhaps.
Roy, I think writes essays which she believes have more impact.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

That's true. Essays in prominent Indian political magazines that go against the grain and often spark a debate. I found another one-book author in my modest collection, an early hardbound edition of the pathbreaking THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS by Erskine Childers. It's one of a dozen-odd books that I have been hoarding over time and haven't got to reading yet.

Todd Mason said...

Bronte, McKenna, a slew of others. I didn't think to cite those who, like Plath and Salinger, published several books (particularly when their Other books were reasonably popular) while alive, even if only one novel.

wv: unhot (those Other books?)

Charles Gramlich said...

Did anyone mention Kerouac with "on the road>"

pattinase (abbott) said...

He wrote Dharma Bums too, didn't he?

George said...

I'd vote for Joseph Heller and his CATCH-22. It's a classic, but his later work was dull. And I could throw in Ralph Ellison's INVISIBLE MAN. Some people only have one real book in them.

MP said...

James Jones: "The Thin Red Line" is very good, and he also wrote a fairly decent crime novel called "A Touch of Danger". There's an excellent 600 page novel buried in the 1200+ pages of "Some Came Running", but it may not be worth reading the entire book to get to it.

Joseph Heller: Many people, including me, consider "Something Happened" to be superior to "Catch-22"

Yvette said...

THE GRASSHOPPER KIND by Jordan Ellenberg.

CROFTON'S FIRE by Keith Coplin

Two brilliant books. No further work from either author that I know of.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The movie SCR was kind of scattered too. Didn't even know it was his.
I saw a review of a new bio on Heller.
Never read either of those, Yvette.

Yvette said...


As many times as I've recommended these books, you'd think I'd know how to spell the damn title.

Anyway, Patti, I love both these books and really wish more people would read them. Fabulous doesn't quite cover it.

SteveHL said...

I always mentally group Wyman Guin with Sherred - one terrific short story collection and one novel (a slightly better one than Sherred's, in my opinion).

Tom Reamy also had one novel, Blind Voices, and one short story collection.

Thomas Heggen, Mr. Roberts. Heggen and Lockridge both published their books in the 1940's and then committed suicide not long after.

I was pretty sure that Flowers for Algernon was Daniel Keyes' only book but upon checking, I see he published two other novels as well.

Todd Mason said...

George, I tossed Ralph Ellison in earlier...he published a few other books (of essays) and then had the posthumous, unfinished novel JUNETEENTH...

Steve, yep, Sherred's two novels (including the posthumous, unfinished one) are not up to his brilliant short fiction. Tom Reamy and Wyman Guin are good further examples...Reamy's novel could've used another draft...he died, as you know, at the typewriter, having finished a draft.

And I guess we should mention Kate Chopin...

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have been trying to think of Mr. Roberts for days. There was a book about the two of them I read a long time ago.
Oh, Kate, of course.

SteveHL said...

Patti -

The book was Ross and Tom: Two American Tragedies by John Leggett. I read it when it first came out and thought it was really good. (I didn't read Raintree County until years later.) Just recently I read Shade of the Raintree: The Life and Death of Ross Lockridge, Jr. by Lockridge's son Larry Lockridge. He was quite critical of Leggett's book.

I keep thinking that someone could do three weeks of FFB using Leggett's book, Mr. Roberts, and Raintree County.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I'll have to look for that one. I really enjoyed Ross and Tom but can see how a child might not.