Something for the NaNoWriMo weary: History’s most famous unknown authors

Just when you think that the Muses have conspired to drive you mad and dash all but your most horrid dreams in the wake of National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo to the initiated) your comrade-in-arms, the Bookish Diva, has a bit of sadistic frivolity to perk you up—as long as you do not ask me about my own NaNoWriMo word count.

Literary success is a lofty goal for most of us who put pen to paper or finger tips to keyboard. At one time in this writer’s life the prospect of dying unknown, in obscurity, would have been the worst possible fate. Then I discovered the goodness that is The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure (Melville House, November 4, 2014). C.D. Rose amassed a veritable who’s who of literary failure. This gloriously delicious testament to efforts of the wordy kind that seem to have gone off the rails offers the literary shenanigans of some rather suspect authors.

The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failures coverOne such tantalizing tale is the story of Eric Quayne, whose exploits included a bit of forgery. I am not one to spoil the fun, but he does come to a bit of a sticky end. Another is the account of the travel writer who did not actually travel. I know what you want. You want to know the name of the ne’er-do-well. You will have to read The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure to discover his identity.

So once you regain your equilibrium, uncramp your fingers and let that last dose of caffeine wear off, trust this Bookish Diva and thumb through this trusty tome. It most definitely will not increase your word count (which you should have submitted by now), but it will help ease the pain as you face the prospect of editing your NaNoWriMo draft. Remember, it can always be worse. You could be included in The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure, volume two*.

*This Bookish Diva has no idea if there is a volume two in the works. I am just padding my word count. No judgment. I am not the only NaNo-er guilty of that particular quasi-deceptive literary tactic.

For the record, today’s word count: 359, a far cry from the 1,667 daily NaNoWriMo word goal.

Featured Images: Left to Right (Excerpt from The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure)

Ellery Fortescue was a sickly child, and had resorted to the world of books early on in life. By the age of twenty-eight, she found herself beset by alternating insomnia and narcolepsy, mysterious weight loss followed by baffling weight gain, aches, pains, blotchy skin, hair loss (head), hair growth (other parts of the body), a constantly running nose, bones that seemed to fracture and ligaments that sprained whenever she tried to hit so much as a single key on her IBM Wheelwriter 3500. For years, Fortescue listed all her symptoms and feelings about them in an ever-growing pile of notebooks. It was only when the pile of notebooks had begun to block the door to her bedroom that she realized she could diagnose herself. She knew what her disease was, and its name: graphomania. She banished any kind of writing implement from her flat. She has never felt better since.

Robert Robert’s first poem was composed in his early teens and concerned the death of his pet cat, which had not yet happened. He had imagined the worst thing that could have happened, put it in writing, and when, indeed, McWhiskers passed away a year later, Roberts’s belief that he had brought the event into being was formed. As many teenage boys do, he wrote long poems detailing the agonies of having been abandoned by lovers whom he had not yet met. Having perhaps overestimated his ability, he wrote a novel, John Johnson, about a teenage psychic who went on to become a novelist who won the Booker, the IMPAC, a MacArthur fellowship, then the Nobel (for peace, not literature). Unfortunately, the book was rubbish, and far from achieving its desired results, it has lain in the slush piles of numerous literary agents and publishing houses for many years now, slowly going moldy, an outcome its author had not foreseen.

Hans Kafka was born in 1883 just across the street from the other Kafka family, son to a seamstress and a successful retailer of fancy goods. He sent stories to the journals Hyperion and Arkadia but was turned down with a series of baffling rejection letters. Dear Sir, they began. We are endeavoring to publish your work. Please do not feel the necessity to send us more pieces under a clumsy pseudonym. As yet unaware of the fate of his almost homonymous former neighbor, Kafka did not let the rejections dissuade him and began work on his first full-length piece, a grotesque tale of a beetle who is transformed into a man.

 

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is an anime and theater nerd who works only to feed those addictions. Between her plans to take over the world, perfecting her winged eyeliner and cooking large batches of Korean fried chicken, Mea managed to complete her M.A. in Communications at Sacred Heart University. She lives in Connecticut with two loving pets: her daughter and her boyfriend.