What makes an author become famous for one book over another? Is it the beauty of the writing? A movie adaptation? The fact that this book wound up on school reading lists? Some time ago I read this article in which the author debates several books- from Corelli’s Mandolin to Slaughterhouse Five– and offers up some suggestions of what he feels are the authors’ better works. This article stuck in my mind because I’ve often thought that there are certain books, which while perfectly fine, or even excellent, don’t really reflect an author’s best work (or at least my favorite works of that author). As you’ll see from the comments section of the Guardian piece, there are a lot of people who feel the same way. A few of my own picks that would be different from most well known works of certain authors:
Othello: I’ve always loved this play. Romeo and Juliet is a wonderful romantic tragedy, but Othello has always grabbed me in a way that Shakespeare’s other tragedies haven’t. Maybe it’s because Iago makes such a great villain? While this isn’t exactly a lesser-known play, it’s not one that gets quite as much hype as some of Shakespeare’s other works, and for my money it’s one of his best.
Tender is the Night: I’m in no way knocking The Great Gatsby here, but Tender is the Night is the book that really made me love F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing. I think that while Gatsby is a somewhat tighter piece of writing, this book packs even more of a punch.
Keep the Aspidistra Flying: No doubt that George Orwell’s 1984 is a classic, and one worth reading, but this story of a struggling young writer determined not to succumb to middle class values has always been much more appealing to me. Orwell’s sometimes sharp tongue shines through a bit more subtly in this novel, and he gently satirizes both young artists and mainstream values while also penning a character who is very relatable.
What do you think? Are there books that you feel deserve more praise than they get?