Who are all these authors?

April 30, 2013 § 1 Comment

Sometimes you can’t help but look around a library, a bookshop or a charity shop and wonder who all the authors of the shelved books are. Who are they? Why have they escaped our notice?

Over sixty years ago, George Orwell estimated that 10,000 books were published a year in the UK; now that figure is closer to 200,000.

Who are all these authors?

Some names are so familiar. On the literary front, to mention a few, Ian McEwan, Graham Swift, Rose Tremain and, more recently, Tessa Hadley. The same authors are reviewed by different broadsheets. Will no one take a chance on an obscure author?

How often do these names crop up in bestseller lists: Lee Child, Clive Clusser, and Martina Cole. Their thick-spined books can’t be missed. Yet I haven’t read a book by any of them.

Would we ever get to know about most of the Man Booker prize contenders, if they did not make that shortlist? It is so hard to become known, to have a name that means anything to the browser in shops and libraries.

Then there are other award-winning writers from abroad, who we become aware of long after they have become famous in their own countries, (Claire Messud and Richard Russo).

And what about those other authors who are described as distinguished, who have won awards and who have written a number of books but their names mean nothing to us? Where are they now? Do they still write? Do they live off the proceeds of their writing? Perhaps they have a loyal following: readers who await their next book with impatience.

And we must not forget about the vast legion of unpublished writers. Are they like the characters in Tama Janowitz’s short story ‘Physics’: Most of the people, I know were doing one thing but considered themselves to be something else: all the waitresses I knew were really actresses, all the Xeroxers in the Xerox place were really novelists, all the receptionists were artists.

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