Wednesday, April 3, 2013

One Hit Wonders of Literature

Tomb of Oscar Wilde
By JccKeith

I’ve been writing short posts all day.  No need to break my stride so here goes.  I thought, for all those who wonder, “Where are they now?” about some classic figures in literature, I’d enlighten you.

They’re no longer among the living.  That covers that. 

Let’s do a one hit wonder post anyway and look at authors who only had one hit, one brilliant novel which would later (now) be considered a classic.  Note: These authors did have other works just none that measured up to the standard of their most famous work:

Oscar Wilde and The Picture of Dorian Gray.  Social rebel, yes, brilliant, yes, consistently successful, no.  In his day, this novel was considered outrageous and morally corrupt but it was great enough to ensure him a place in Literature classrooms everywhere today.  He died at a young age from cerebral meningitis.

   Anna Sewell and Black Beauty.  Honestly, I was ill informed about this author but have since learned she wrote this book late in life, in her fifties and died five months after its publication.

   Sylvia Plath and The Bell Jar.  Plath suffered from mental illness and took her own life shortly after the publication of this successful novel.  She also won a Pullitzer Prize for her poetry after her death but this was her only novel.

   Emily Bronte and Wuthering Heights.  When published, this novel was highly criticized although it is considered a classic now.  Bronte did not publish anymore novels due to poor health and untimely death from tuberculosis.

Margaret Mitchell and Gone with the Wind.  She published this novel late in life and didn’t survive to publish any subsequent novels.  She was hit and killed by a car on her way to the movies.

   Boris Pasternak and Dr. Zhivago.  Although known as a great poet, this was Pasternak’s only novel.  He did not survive to publish a second due to his death two years later from lung cancer.

I left out a few classic authors but I promised a short post.  It may not be long but hopefully this post informed you of something: If you write and publish a novel destined to become a classic, beware.  In fact, you may want to just go ahead and write your second one before you publish the first, then publish them both at the same time to beat the odds.


  1. Excellent post. They made up what they lacked in quantity with absolute golden quality!