17 March, 2009

Literary One Hit Wonders

I came across this list of the ten best literary one hit wonders:
  • Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Margaret Mitchell - Gone with the Wind
  • Emily Bronte - Wuthering Heights
  • J.D.Salinger - Catcher in the Rye
  • Oscar Wilde - Picture of Dorian Gray
  • John Kennedy Toole - A Confederacy of Dunces
  • Sylvia Plath - The Bell Jar
  • Anna Sewell - Black Beauty
  • Boris Pasternak - Dr. Zhivago
  • Arundhati Roy - God of the Small Things
I have read 8 of these books (I have never heard of Toole and Black Beauty - eh!). Dr. Zhivago, The Bell Jar & God of the Small Things are some of my favorite book ever.

I could have done without Wuthering Heights (really, come on!) and Catcher in the Rye is overdone. Doran Gray is an excellent commentary on vanity and fleeting youth and I think To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most powerful books written in the last 100 years.

How hard to only produce one good book. I think Sewell died months after the publication of BB and Toole's "second book" was published after his death (here is a list of great second books). For the rest, did they struggle only ever sharing one story? I've thought about if I could only have one story published which one it would be - and they are all poignant for different reasons - they say different things and express different sides of me. It's like the frustration of Van Gogh who couldn't find appreciation in his own time, or people who try to force creativity and "art" to fit these pre-designed, cultural boxes.

I was reading something today on why the Scarlet Letter is such a pivotal book. I have never read SL but would like to. Like most things, you can see it as a story of adultery (and how she suffers the shame alone while the man gets to keep his quiet existence) or you can see it for more - as a commentary on culture, judgment, the plank and the speck.

I have fallen in love with the writing of Orhan Pamuk. Snow was amazing, and I am now reading Istanbul. Pamuk has a unique and creative way of telling the story, of pulling you into people's conscious and yet, telling you about Turkey's amazing culture in a very real way that goes yards beyond the superficial and cliche. It's almost as if Pamuk is writing about a place that, to him, is magical and wonderful, a fairy tale land, and yet, it's just the place he's called a home, a land and a people he loves.

What are some of your favorite books?

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