Thursday, October 10, 2002

Literary Stars Fight the Second–Novel Syndrome

Everyone nurses a soft spot for the wunderkind—the Jonathan Safran Foer, Alicia Keys, or Harmony Korine who swoops fully formed out of oblivion and into Entertainment Weekly. The publishing industry has become as besotted with these instant prodigies as the music or fashion worlds. Where publishers once allowed a writer's voice to develop over long, wiry careers, now they're impatient for that instant payoff, the debut blockbuster.

All this mad love for the first novel could have long-term repercussions, though, dumping unrealistic expectations on the follow-up. The Second-Novel Syndrome has long been an occupational hazard in the world of letters, as authors struggle with writer's block, intense scrutiny, and the self-consciousness induced by sudden celebrity. Take Ralph Ellison, who spent more than 40 years after Invisible Man laboring over his unfinished novel Juneteenth (which Ellison's executor finally "completed" and published a few years ago). Or Harper Lee, whose output ended abruptly after she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, and who eventually became the literary equivalent of a hermit (she hasn't given an interview since 1964)... "

~~From the Village Voice Literary Supplement, Fall 2002

To read the complete article:

Thanks to Morvarn for this link.

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