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Saturday, March 27, 2021

Posthumous Literary Fame

     In America, very few writers become famous. That's because the country doesn't have much of a literary culture. People who do get famous are athletes, film actors, TV personalities, musicians, politicians, and serial killers. But even for them, fame is fleeting. Take a television personality you see every day off the air. Within weeks after they vanish, they are forgotten. Out of sight, out of mind. In a year, someone might ask, whatever happened to...?

     Of the handful of bestselling writers who are well known today, how many will be known and read 100 years from now. How many will be subjects of biographies, have their books reprinted, and be studied by literature majors?  Probably none, including contemporary literary giants Stephen King and J. K. Rawling.

     The following list includes the bestselling novelists of the 1920s and 1930s, how many of these names do you recognize? How many are being read today?

     Edna Ferber, Margaret Ayer Barnes, J. B. Priestly, Mary Robert Rinehart, Hugh Walpole, A Hamilton Gibbs, John Erskine, Kathleen Norris, E. Phillips Oppenheim, Zane Grey, E. M. Hull, Percy Marks, Warwick Deeping, Vina Delmar, and Gene Stratton-Porter.


  1. Hi, Jim. Hope you and your family are well. I recognise only J. B. Priestly, Hugh Walpole, and Zane Grey among that lot. I also read yesterday about Marie Corelli. A massively popular fiction author of the late Victorian period, but totally unknown today. Do you know Project Gutenberg? It has all these authors and many more unknown greats who were giants in their time: Hall Caine, Vicki Baum, et al. Hopefully, Stephen King and the truly awful Margaret Attwood will soon be forgotten.

    1. Thank you for the comment and information. Interesting.