Tom Wolfe has a new novel out, titled BACK TO BLOOD. It's been eight years since he published a novel. The literary hype about BLOOD got me thinking of Wolfe's excellent work, A MAN IN FULL, which I read in 2001. Not long after, 2002, I read THE LITTLE FRIEND by Donna Tartt, and it wowed me. Darn good novel.
Maybe in my mind the two authors are linked by the time period when I read their work, or by their literary acclaim. Or maybe by the length of time between publications. It was 11 years from Wolfe's BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES to A MAN IN FULL. I think ten years passed between Tartt's first book, THE SECRET HISTORY, and the release of THE LITTLE FRIEND.
I rarely see news of Tartt. I don't think she's in the J.D. Salinger mode of aggressive recluse, but she isn't outgoing either. Perhaps she is simply indifferent to the public eye? I don't think she has a web site, or a Facebook account, although there is a fan page. You don't see her tweeting on Twitter, but I'm sure her tweets would be clever. Galley Cat, the publishing news site, ran a short article in August that said her next novel would not be out in 2012. At least that implies there will be a next novel.
Her previous books appeared to do well among critics and readers, and expectations are probably high. This can pressure a novelist, and slow them down instead of speeding them up. Most writers and some readers understand that while you may write many books in your life, you will be fortunate if you write even one great novel.
Maybe she put her pen down and went into other work? If she was discovered in the Antarctic doing a long-term study of Emperor penguins, I would not be astonished. Or maybe her health has been poor, but I hope not. No, I hope she is somewhere quiet and well lit, writing a novel.
Is there an author out there that you wonder about?
(Here's the Galleycat article. And a website that has a bunch of articles about or by Tartt, although nothing newer than 2004.) (I found five Donna Tartts on Twitter, and one named "Damn You Donna Tartt" which is either funny or kind of mean. I didn't click on it.) (The book cover above is different than the one I have, but similar. Mine is from Alfred A. Knopf, with a jacket design by Chip Kidd.)