Created By: 0dd1 on October 6, 2009
Troped

One Book Author

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alt title[s]: One Work Wonder

Alice has just finished reading a book by Bob Campbell, written over 50 years ago, that she had randomly found at the library. It was an amazing read that really got Alice wondering what other books he has written. Excited, Alice goes on the internet to search for works by Campbell and she finds that in his entire lifetime, Campbell had never written any other books, although the one book that he did write was extremely popular.

This is called a One-Book Author, when a person produces one work that becomes extremely popular but never forays into that field again. Compare One-Hit Wonder, where someone has produced several works but only one had managed to become popular. May overlap with Author Existence Failure, where the author doesn't live long enough to compose another work (i.e.: works published posthumously).

Examples:
Community Feedback Replies: 31
  • October 1, 2009
    Iron Salticus
    Fictional example: The premise of Finding Forrester involves Forrester being a One Work Wonder. In the end, he writes a second book.
  • October 1, 2009
    Cat22
    Although Tom Hanks has one of the most successful acting careers of all time, many people were eager to see him turn film director after the enjoyable That Thing You Do. He's never directed another film since. Although he did direct miniseries From The Earth To The Moon and Band Of Brothers, he has not returned to the big screen.
  • October 1, 2009
    random surfer
  • October 1, 2009
    Cat22
    ^ Should examples where Author Existence Failure is the reason be included? In that case, Rent also falls here as well, since Jonathan Larsen is no longer with us and therefore incapable of producing another musical.
  • October 1, 2009
    0dd1
    That would probably work as well. Unless Jonathan Larsen made other plays.
  • October 1, 2009
    0dd1
    Not too sure if Rent would work-- Larson also made the musical tick, tick... BOOM! so it might fall under One Hit Wonder. Unless it was popular. I don't know how popular it was.
  • October 1, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Wuthering Heights was Ann Bronte's only novel, although she wrote a lot of poetry.
  • October 1, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Emily Bronte wrote Wuthering Heights but your point still stands
  • October 1, 2009
    Some Guy
    Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger.

    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.
  • October 1, 2009
    melloncollie
    ^ Joseph Heller wrote sequels to Catch-22.
  • October 1, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    But it was a terrible story, and captured very little of the original brainscrambliness. I mean, a dead guy on a rollercoaster underneath New York, Yossarian deciding to spend his holidays in hospital, the eleven people following Yossarian and the people following the people following Yossarian. A high society wedding in a bus terminal. and then when the world gets toasted, the people in the bunker discover that they'd remembered condoms but not women

    a pale imitation
  • October 1, 2009
    Micah
    @UT 131: That makes Catch-22 a One Hit Wonder, not this trope.

    Salinger also wrote some other stuff before disappearing into the ether, but none of it is particularly famous.
  • October 1, 2009
    Madrugada
    But this trope isn't "Never wrote another book as good", it's "Never wrote another book, period." One Book Author might be a better name, though, because One Book Wonder or One Work Wonder does have too strong of a connection with One Hit Wonder, which is "One good one and others that nobody ever heard of."
  • October 2, 2009
    0dd1
    I like that title, One Book Author. I'll change it to that.
  • October 2, 2009
    0dd1
    I found a brief list of these here: http://dgmyers.blogspot.com/2009/03/one-book-authors.html

    Some have already been mentioned here. This is the list, plus some others mentioned on the page.
    • Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird.
    • Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind.
    • Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights.
    • J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye.
    • Oscar Wilde, The 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, The God of Small Things.
    (others mentioned)
    • The Invisible Man (by Ralph Ellison)
    • Leonard Gardner’s Fat City
    • Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s Leopard
    • "Cyril Connolly’s satirical novel about the literary intelligentsia, The Rock Pool"
    • The Fathers (by Allen Tate)
    • John Okada’s No-No Boy

    ...there are quite a few others listed on the page, too. Can somebody check them, please?
  • October 2, 2009
    0dd1
    Also, I'll add the ones that people mentioned to the main list.
  • October 2, 2009
    archie
    One of my friends managed to make an ass of herself when she couldn't remember who Anne Frank was, only that she was a "one hit wonder".
  • October 2, 2009
    Madrugada
    One thing: this has to be clarified: is it an author who only ever published one book, or one who only ever published one work in a particular genre / of a particlar type ( lots of poetry but only one novel or lots of novels but only one bok of essays, or lots of essays but only one play? Things like that.

    In any case, JD Salinger doesn't belong on the list. Catcher in the Rye wasn't the only novel he wrote. Oscar Wilde doesn't fit either, under either definition: he wrote two novels, as well as plays, short stories, essays and poems.
  • October 2, 2009
    0dd1
    From what I've found, the other books Salinger wrote were either short story collections or novellas, neither of which are, technically speaking, novels.

    As for Wilde, I'll fix that in editing.
  • October 2, 2009
    Lee M
    Opinion: split examples where an author only wrote one book because of existence failure from those where the author lived long enough to write at least one more book but didn't.
  • October 2, 2009
    DarkSasami
    Ralph Ellison wrote Invisible Man, not The Invisible Man. Significant difference there.
  • October 2, 2009
    Micah
    For Salinger, I think it depends on what you think of Franny and Zooey, which was originally published as a short story and a novella but is actually apparently kind of unified? I dunno, I've never read it, and wikipedia is confused (the J. D. Salinger info-box thing lists it as a short story collection, but it appears in categories like Novels by J. D. Salinger and 1961 novels rather than their short-story-collection equivalents). I can google '"Franny and Zooey" novel' and get a bunch of hits by people who think it's a novel, but there's not an obviously comparable set of search terms to use to find people who think it isn't.

    I think splitting by existence-failure is going to be tough--it seems like requires thinking about exactly how long it takes to write another book.
  • October 2, 2009
    0dd1
    I see your confusion and raise you the fact that a novel and a novella are two different things (albeit size being the only difference, but they're considered different things anyway). So Yeah, I'm not sure most people really know the difference. (i.e.: Of Mice And Men is considered a novella, but most might call it a novel.) I think that Franny and Zooey, while a rather strange case, would be considered either a short story collection or a novella, but not a novel.

    Sheesh. Who would've thought figuring out how to classify a book would turn into such a Mind Screw? @_@
  • October 2, 2009
    0dd1
    Will get right on making the Invisible Man error not so apparent anymore.

    As for someone's suggestion to split the Author Existence Failure examples, do you mean make a separate section for it on the page or just not list them? I think there could be an overlap with it. Any suggestions?
  • October 2, 2009
    GracieLizzie
    Didn't Anne Frank write some fictional stuff that was unfinished and got published somewhere?
  • October 2, 2009
    Madrugada
    We still need a clear definition: is this only one novel, regardless of what else they wrote? Or is it only one work, period? Frankly, I think, that prolific writers who only wrote one novel will be a huge page, and that "Only one work at all" is more noteworthy.
  • October 3, 2009
    0dd1
    Perhaps we can split the page into two or three sections:
    • One for when someone does one work, period, and never forays into any other fields
    • One for when a person has forayed into one field but never does so again (i.e.: a sportswriter for Sports Illustrated writes a renouned novel but never writes another)
    • One for when someone forays into one field but does not get the chance to do so again due to Author Existence Failure

    My original intention for the trope included all of these but not necessarily separated. In other words, just when someone does one thing (be it writing a novel, directing a movie, or even recording a song), gets famous for that one work, but never does it again.
  • October 5, 2009
    0dd1
    I'm going to launch the page tomorrow if there are no objections by then.
  • October 5, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    No objections; I just have another example. The Book of Margery Kempe, written by (who else?) Margery Kempe.
  • October 5, 2009
    Treblain
    A Confederacy Of Dunces doesn't count, the author had another little-known posthumous book, The Neon Bible.

    Be careful with this one, a lot of authors have obscure works.
  • October 6, 2009
    0dd1
    Done and done. Page should be up in an hour or two.
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