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“I’ll try another one anyway, I guess.”

Six weeks after The Day of the Locust was published in 1939, Nathanael West wrote a letter to his friend, F. Scott Fitzgerald. He was updating F. Scott Fitzgerald on how book sales were going.

The letter contained this quote from West:

“The box score stands: Good reviews— fifteen per cent, bad reviews—twenty five per cent, brutal personal attacks—sixty percent. Sales: practically none.

“I’ll try another one anyway, I guess.”

Source: Nathanael West: Novels and Other Writings

Interestingly enough, Fitzgerald was writing his own Hollywood expose’ of sorts, The Last Tycoon, so he was probably interested in how West and his book were faring.

We’ve talked about this many times on the blog, but I always find it interesting how we often appreciate the great authors much more after they’re gone.

It’s a bit mind boggling to think that a book like The Day of the Locust, a book that ends up on a greatest 100 novels list, sold so poorly when it was first published. Gatsby was just a well-received, modest-selling novel before Fitzgerald died, and only 25 people attended his funeral.

And, with Nathanael West, it seems like another case of an author who become much more recognized—in both fame and sales—after he was gone.

That makes me wonder—are there any authors struggling out there today who, once they are gone 50 years from now, will be household names? I’m sure there are many.

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13 Comments
  1. That is some deep thinking on a Tuesday before the big cold front comes thru!!!! I think I need another cuppa coffee……

    Take Care and God Bless 🙂 Kenny T

    Like

    January 21, 2014
  2. It seems the same for a lot of classical composers. Look at poor Mozart. And artists. There are probably some obscure blogs here on WP that are going to be considered brilliant by future generations.

    Like

    January 21, 2014
  3. While they’re not exactly struggling by any stretch of the imagination, I think that there are several Science Fiction and Fantasy authors alive today who are still going to be read for the next 50 years and beyond. I also think that they’re going to receive a lot more critical acclaim than they currently do, and several of their books are going to start cracking into lists such as the one you’re reading through.

    There are already a few genre fiction books on the list, most notably Lord of the Rings and Neuromancer. But I’ve also commented before on your blog that I think that Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro has a strong SciFi element to it, and The Watchmen is a graphic novel and it made the list as well.

    To give specific authors, I think J.K. Rowling is an author whose books are going to read for quite some time. Are the Harry Potter books the high point of literature? No, but they’re entertaining stories and they do a wonderful job of getting kids interested in reading. Also, while I’m not a huge fan of his writing, Neil Gaiman’s books are incredibly well received and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if American Gods appears on a list like this in my lifetime.

    As far as lesser known authors, I don’t know if his work will be praised more as the years go on, but I certainly hope that more people become aware of Hubert Selby Jr. He had a very unique writing style and also told very different stories from what you normally see in books. His best known novel is Requiem for a Dream (and that’s largely because of the wonderful movie directed by Darren Aronofsky), but my personal favorite novel of his is The Willow Tree, which is one of the best books that I’ve ever read.

    Like

    January 21, 2014
    • Totally agree about the Harry Potter series. Very comparable to Narnia, I think, which is revered by many people today.

      Like

      January 22, 2014
  4. My name seems to come to mind.

    Like

    January 21, 2014
    • Haha. You never know.

      Like

      January 22, 2014
  5. Reblogged this on Charlotte Gerber and commented:
    This could be you, authors! Never give up.

    Like

    January 21, 2014
  6. At least Fitzgerald had more attendees at his funeral than Gatsby. Although that wouldn’t be hard.

    Like

    January 22, 2014
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