ArtView June 2014 - Page 5

The books which he wrote afterwards were far Another interesting case is J. D. Salinger. His from being artistic failures. One of them, Rites of first novel, Catcher in the Rye, achieved such iconic Passage, won the Booker Prize in 1980. His body of status that it sealed his reputation forever, as the work, without Lord of the Flies, would have been recluse who retired from literature after writing one enough to earn him a reputation as a fine writer. If brilliant book. In fact, he published a number of Lord had been his last book, it would have been seen books afterward, whose very existence has been as the culmination of a brilliant career. However, denied by the cult of Catcher... standing as a towering achievement at the beginning It may have been to avoid this fate that Harper of his career, it created an impression that his life was Lee really did refuse to publish another book after To actually a story of decline and diminishing talent. It is Kill a Mockingbird. It is reported that she told her understandable that he would have complicated niece she would never write another book, because feelings about his first great success. “When you’re at the top, there’s only one way you Golding dreaded the idea that he would be remembered only for his first book. Yet that seemed can go...” It is understandable that a creative artist would to be his fate, when the major biography by John find it difficult to acknowledge that their best work is Carey was published in 2009 – with the subtitle “The far behind them. Or that they would want to continue Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies.” to strive to produce something better in future. Only Another author who suffered from the aftermath with hindsight, after the life or career has ended, can of early success was Richard Yates. His first book we try to assess the place of individual works in their was Revolutionary Road, published in 1961 to great entire opus. But are these authors justified in their acclaim. It was a finalist for the National Book ambivalence about their early success? Surely, to Award. Its bleak, uncompromising outlook on have produced a work that stands as one of the great contemporary life in America was praised by many of artistic achievements of their time, at any stage of the most distinguished authors of the time. But the their career, would be enough to feel contented works that followed did not have the same impact. about... even if they never produced anything else. Yates wrote slowly, and kept true to his own dark Joseph Heller’s first book was Catch-22, which vision, while the literary fashions were changing was not only a classic, but added a new phrase to the around him. His reputation faded away during his language. He went on to write several others lifetime, until he was almost forgotten. After his (including a sequel to Catch-22) that didn’t reach the death, his books went out of print. He remained in same heights. When somebody told him later in life deep obscurity, until a revival of interest in his work that he hadn’t written anything as good since in recent years, marked by a film version of Catch-22, Heller had a nice answer: Revolutionary Road starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. It didn’t alter his reputation as an author who “wrote his best book first.” “Neither has anyone else.”