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Old 03-06-2018, 04:55 PM   #1
pwalker8
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The Perfect Author

Over the years, it's been pretty rare for me to really like every book an author has written. I can really only think of a handful. Some it's simply because they only wrote a few books (Tolkien for example) and some because I haven't read all their books (Rowlings for example), but there are a couple whom I read all their books and they wrote a fair number of books.

For the vast majority of authors, they seem to come out with a couple of books, then they lose steam. Either they have run out of ideas, or they become stale and predictable. The books stop holding my interest.

So my question is two fold. Firstg, how picky are you? i.e. are there a lot of authors whom you love everything they wrote. or just a few? If it's just a few, what authors qualifies as your "love everything they wrote?" and how many of their books did you read?

The only author who wrote a significant number of books whom I liked all his books was Jerry Pournelle, though I exclude the books he edited from that. I mentioned a couple of the less prolific authors above. Patrick Rothfuss would fall in the same category as Rowlings, i.e. I loved all the books that I've read, but I haven't read everything they wrote.
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Old 03-07-2018, 11:01 AM   #2
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I think the question is too simplistic or my interpretation of it is off.

I don't know if there is such a thing as a perfect author. I don't know that you need to love everything an author wrote to think they are a great author.

My favorite author is John Steinbeck. I haven't read everything he wrote, but I have read the majority of it. I haven't read a bad book by him, though not every book he wrote is The Grapes of Wrath.

It could be I'm just not very picky. I love Stephen King. Not everything he's written over the years has been my cuppa. But his overall average is so much higher than most contemporary authors in any genre.

Not sure if any of that is of any help to you.
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Old 03-07-2018, 11:17 AM   #3
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I love Anne Tyler, but haven't loved all of her books. It's like having a favorite restaurant...it's unlikely that you would love every dish they serve.

It did feel like some sort of failure on my part when I couldn't get through A Spool of Blue Thread
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Old 03-07-2018, 11:58 AM   #4
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For me, that author is James Rollins.

When trying to branch out to a wider selection of writers, I've often started out with the search terms: "authors like James Rollins".

He is the only author where I'll buy every book in paper form, even if I've already bought the eBook. So I can have a complete "James Rollins shelf" to admire when I walk into my room and look at the bookshelf. Several of these paper books have never been touched, other than to shelve them (I've already read the eBooks). But they're there to physically see on the bookshelf.

Extravagant and a waste of money? Perhaps. But it makes me happy.
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Old 03-07-2018, 12:08 PM   #5
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I’m still searching for this mythical author and probably always will be. In the past I have enjoyed David Mitchell, Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, etc but none of them bat 100% for me because what I’m looking for always changes. In fact, I’m afraid to go back and reread some of my favorites because I am a different person now and will inevitably be disappointed. That is the beauty of reading though right? Always something new on the horizon
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Old 03-07-2018, 12:14 PM   #6
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I certainly don't believe that one can only consider someone to be a great author if one happens to personally like everything they've written. I'm perfectly happy to acknowledge authors as great even if they've written material I didn't personally enjoy.
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Old 03-07-2018, 12:21 PM   #7
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There's a laundry list of authors I consider reliable, like old friends, but it doesn't mean I like everything they've written--or that I think they're necessarily great authors.
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Old 03-07-2018, 12:31 PM   #8
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True. I consider Dickens a great author. I consider David Eddings' books to be valued old friends, but in no way whatsoever do I consider Eddings a great author.
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Old 03-07-2018, 02:02 PM   #9
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The other thing to consider is you. There's books I read in my 20s and 30s that I loved; revisiting them 30-40 years later I couldn't see why I loved them. Conversely, there's books I didn't like back then but now I have more life experience I enjoy them.

So consider your changing tastes as well before dismissing authors or their works.

In my case, I will pre-order Kindle editions of Steven Brust, Lindsey Davis, Ben Aaronovitch (PC Grant series only), and will consider Charles Stross (Laundry Files series) if my partner hasn't got in first.
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Old 03-07-2018, 03:16 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by pwalker8 View Post
Patrick Rothfuss would fall in the same category as Rowlings, i.e. I loved all the books that I've read, but I haven't read everything they wrote.
So you've only read one of his books. The quality of Rothfuss combined with the quantity of Sanderson would approach the perfect fantasy author for me.

Steinbeck is an excellent choice; when I’m skeptical as to whether The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men are even in your top 3 books, you’re doing something right. He also had range from fiction to non-fiction, and from short story to novella to epic-length novels.

I'd rather an author who has 3 great books and 7 awful ones than one who has 10 pretty good books, personally; I can read reviews and figure out what to read, and the more truly great stuff I wind up taking in, the better.
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Old 03-07-2018, 04:18 PM   #11
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I'd say an author is just like any other artist in that no one is likely to see exactly the same thing in any one piece of their work. For example I never could get the hang of Kurt Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle" but I'm sure there are those who have loved it. I enjoy Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov but I'm sure that there are those who don't care for their works too. It's all very personalized from one person to another as to who is a great author and who isn't.
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Old 03-07-2018, 04:24 PM   #12
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I'd say an author is just like any other artist in that no one is likely to see exactly the same thing in any one piece of their work. For example I never could get the hang of Kurt Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle" but I'm sure there are those who have loved it. I enjoy Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov but I'm sure that there are those who don't care for their works too. It's all very personalized from one person to another as to who is a great author and who isn't.
Asimov and Bradbury are, for me, examples of the phenomenon that maddz mentioned earlier of tastes changing with time. When I was a teenager I loved Asimov and thought that Bradbury was horribly pretentious. Now, 40 odd years later, I find Asimov shallow and uninteresting, with 2-dimensional characters, and I love Bradbury.
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Old 03-07-2018, 04:55 PM   #13
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I think the question is too simplistic or my interpretation of it is off.

I don't know if there is such a thing as a perfect author. I don't know that you need to love everything an author wrote to think they are a great author.

My favorite author is John Steinbeck. I haven't read everything he wrote, but I have read the majority of it. I haven't read a bad book by him, though not every book he wrote is The Grapes of Wrath.

It could be I'm just not very picky. I love Stephen King. Not everything he's written over the years has been my cuppa. But his overall average is so much higher than most contemporary authors in any genre.

Not sure if any of that is of any help to you.
I'm really just throwing out some things for discussion. I don't think there is such a thing as a perfect author either, but I figured that a 3 paragraph long title would be a bit offputting to some. <grin>

I would argue that a great author isn't necessarily one beloved by English Lit teachers around the world, but rather a great author is an author who writes books that I really enjoy and will re-read. Thus I would argue that Eddings might very well be a great author from that stand point.

When I first started thinking about this subject, I was thinking more along the lines of my normal progression of stages for an author. They are

1) initial discovery. I run across some book that I pick up, say "This looking interesting" and buy. For some books it's "Oh my god, this guy is the best!" (the first book in the Wheel of Time fell into that category, as did the first Honor Harrington book).

2) Pick up as much of the author's backlist as I can. Much harder in the pre ebook era. Eventually, the I either put the author on my pre-order list or I grow tired of the author.

3) Over time, an author starts to lose steam. I keep buying the books but they are harder and harder to get through. Once again, WOT was a classic example, though I would tend to point to series by authors like Robert Asprin, or Alan Dean Foster as more typical examples. They start a series and by book 4 or 5 it starts petering out.

4) Author starts to fade into obscurity. I suspect this is at least one reason that many authors use multiple nom de plumes. It allows them to start in a new genre or a new series without the baggage of their previous books.

Some authors continue to churn out very readable books for their entire career, others fade away or stop writing. I have a number of authors on must buy list. Some stay on the list for a long time, others drop of the list after putting out a few clunkers. I suspect that is what I was really driving at. Do others approach books like that?
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Old 03-07-2018, 05:12 PM   #14
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I do. The stages are:

1, The beginner. - Flashes of interest, flashes of greatness, but still stumbling over his/her feet.

2. Journeyman - Has learned the craft, still full of ideas.

3. the "Fat Elvis" - Can still produce a great work, but has run low on ambition, and is coasting.

4. "Dead Elvis" - Throwing words together, and raking in the paychecks from former greatness.

You find the same thing in music, as well.
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Old 03-07-2018, 07:55 PM   #15
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That list is a little sad, Ralph. There is no stage for "Master" in there - they go straight from Journeyman to "coasting".
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