That One Great Novel

John Grisham, the internationally bestselling author whose books have been translated to forty languages, said once in an interview that he still wants to write that one great novel.

Most authors when interviewed would voice with John Grisham. That’s because as a writer you always aim to make the book you’re writing be better than the one you just wrote or the ones you have written before. You raise the bar every time you start on a new endeavor. You want the book you’re writing to be immortal and beat the times. And hope that you may be read with interest by a few generations and find a place, however small, in the history of the world’s literature.

“I think the novel is the tragedy of our day. I will never write a big novel. My big novel is the mosaic of all my small novels.” Georges Simenon

Looking back on his work William Faulkner said:
“I like to think of the world I created as being a kind of keystone in the universe; that, small as that keystone is, if it were ever taken away the universe itself would collapse. My last book will be the Doomsday Book, the Golden Book, of Yoknapatawpha County. Then I shall break the pencil and I’ll have to stop.”

The same way J.K. Rowling stopped at book number seven of her famous Harry Potter series. She created her own magical world, the world of Harry Potter, and her big novel is the sum total, the medley of all her seven novels.

Somerset Maugham wrote:
“The Journal of Jules Renard is one of the masterpieces of French Literature. He wrote several novels, of which one, Poil de Carotte, was very successful. It’s not a book that you can easily forget. His other novels are of no great consequence.”

And yet Jules Renard was elected to be a member of Academie Goncourt that awards the Prix Goncourt, the most prestigious literary award in France.

Whether you are creative and have a written a massive number of books or you are a one book writer just like Alex Hailey, the author of Roots and coauthor of another, in the words of Alberto Moravia:

“In the works of every writer with any body of work to show for his effort, you will find recurrent themes. I view the novel, a single novel as well as a writer’s entire corpus, as a musical composition in which the characters are themes.”


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