THERE are many unspoken postulates in literary criticism, one being that the more one writes, the less remarkable one’s work is apt to be. Joyce Carol Oates, the author of more than 50 novels (not counting the 11 written under the pseudonyms Rosamond Smith and Lauren Kelly), understands perfectly how little use critics have for prolific writers. In one of her journals she wrote that she seemed to create “more, certainly, than the literary world allows for a ‘serious’ writer.”
As with most postulates dealing with subjective perceptions, the idea that prolific writing equals bad writing must be treated with caution. Mostly, it seems to be true. Certainly no one is going to induct the mystery novelist John Creasey, author of 564 novels under 21 different pseudonyms, into the Literary Hall of Heroes; both he and his creations (the Toff, Inspector Roger West, Sexton Blake, etc.) have largely been forgotten.
The same is true of the British novelist Ursula Bloom (over 500 published works, under many pseudonyms), Barbara Cartland (over 700) and a host of others. One is reminded of Truman Capote’s famous bon mot about Jack Kerouac: “That’s not writing, that’s typing.”
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