Have you heard the saying, “What happens in Vegas stays on Twitter?” In our social media age, it’s not easy to disown stuff, let alone forget it.
But even before Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and SnapChat there was: the printing press.
Spare a thought for five best-selling authors who fell out of love with their creations: Ian Fleming and Virgil tried to halt publication, Anthony Burgess dissed his most famous work, John Banville’s first novel makes him cringe, and Peter Benchley spent the latter part of his life trying to reverse the ecological effects of his most celebrated work.
Once a novel is print and it sells, there is no going back.
1. The Spy Who Loved Me by Ian Fleming
Ian Fleming wrote, in the introduction to The Spy Who Loved Me, that it was by someone called Vivienne Michel. He added, “and after obtaining clearance for certain minor infringements of the Official Secrets Act I have much pleasure in sponsoring its publication.”
In fact, Fleming’s ninth novel was an experiment; he wanted to write about James Bond from a female perspective. Critics panned it and readers were disappointed. His publisher agreed to his request not to publish a paperback version. They stuck to the agreement until two years after his death.
2. Nightspawn by John Banville
In an interview with The Paris Review, Banville admits that he hates all his novels. But, if his comments in The Independent are anything to go by, he actually regrets his first novel, Nightspawn. “My wife’s American grandmother always held that when pancakes were being made, the first one, being a test- run, should be thrown away.”
He has also described the novel as, “completely undisciplined and crazed and full of bad influences.”
3. The Aeneid by Virgil
I was almost relieved to find out that, just before his death, Virgil asked for his manuscript to be destroyed. His epic account of the aftermath of the Trojan War, and its prelude to the founding of Rome, has always struck me as a pale imitation of Homer’s mighty works, The Iliad and The Odyssey. Not to mention a work of blatant propaganda.
The Aeneid wasn’t quite finished at the time of Virgil’s death. Though he had left instructions that it be destroyed, Emperor Augustus overrode the request.
Okay, I know Virgil would never have said “stop the presses.”
4. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
“A novel I am prepared to repudiate,” Anthony Burgess said of A Clockwork Orange. Burgess said a whole lot more which leaves no doubt that he really would have preferred the book never to have been written, let alone published:
“The book I am best known for, or only known for, is a novel I am prepared to repudiate: written a quarter of a century ago, a jeu d’esprit knocked off for money in three weeks, it became known as the raw material for a film which seemed to glorify sex and violence. The film made it easy for readers of the book to misunderstand what it was about, and the misunderstanding will pursue me until I die.”
5. Jaws by Peter Benchley
Peter Benchley’s first novel, Jaws, and its film adaptation, changed the way we see Great White Sharks. Not surprising as Benchley’s antagonist, the shark, is human-like in its lust for revenge.
Unfortunately, Jaws set off another form of carnage, thanks to the ‘sharkophobia’ that his creation unleashed. Until his death in 2006, Benchley, advocated strongly for the preservation of sharks through the conservation movement.
Do you know any authors who’ve regretted their novels? Did it affect your enjoyment?
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Featured image via The 007 Dossier