German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said: “Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.”
We lost so many good authors in 2016 and people of the literary world mourned their deaths. This year, we were forced to bid farewell to some of the brightest ones we’ve ever had. Let’s have a look-see at these authors who’ve contributed a great deal of knowledge and inspiration to writers in the content world.
(January 5, 1932 – February 19, 2016)
Umberto Eco was an Italian author, critic and literary theorist, most notoriously known for his classic mystery novel “The Name of the Rose.” Now how can 1.) a mystery novel, 2.) set in medieval times, and 3.) with monks as detectives become a classic and sell millions? You’d be surprised at how Eco was able to weave in these three factors and add to it a religious theme and a winding journey of symbology. No wonder, books like The Da Vinci Code and documentaries about the Knights Templars seem to draw audiences to this mysterious enigma to what the truth holds and answer the dreaded questions about the church. Eco himself would describe his millions of reading fans as masochists, meaning they tortured themselves into wanting more of his brand of confusion. And Eco was a master torturer. But people around his literary circle would admit that Eco was not only a great author, he was also a very lively person. He had a certain humor around him.
One of the most memorable lessons that writers can learn from Eco’s style of writing is that we should never rush our work. We may not all be novelists but we all have an article, essay or eBook that we’ve done and can be proud of. What Eco is trying to say is that we need to take time with these “literary masterpieces” in his case, his books. Why? Because for him, writers who publish on a regular basis like clockwork lose the pleasure in telling a wonderful story. His best advice and something all writers can relate to and should follow: “Go step by step, don’t pretend immediately to receive the Nobel Prize, because that kills a literary career.”
(September 30, 1928 – July 2, 2016)
Elie Wiesel was no stranger in the literary world. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 and is most famous for his autobiographical novel “Night.” This is a distressing description of Wiesel’s days during the Holocaust and in that ever-famously grim Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. He tells of how the men and women were separated and so he and his father were thrown in one ghetto while his mother and three sisters were placed in another. At the tender age of 10, he witnessed how World War II began and was in his mid-teens when the Nazis invaded his town. The mere thought that your young life cannot unravel because of war will send chills down your spine. His descriptions of what went on during those times will make you imagine how sickening life was with the Nazi’s treatment of Jews. Readers could have had more of the gory stuff had the novel not been trimmed down to a fourth of the original manuscript.
Yet, Night was written with a simplicity that can be devoured easily even by the non-reader. It does not hide its intention to scare you of the horrors of war or the concentration camps. But you become like the boy Eliezer and you realize that nothing stays permanent and that things can turn dramatically south with just a blink of the eye. What Wiesel has done was to make his journey your own personal journey, too. This is something writers can take note of. Our stories can and should inspire even the most stoic members of society. His journey was horrible to say the least, but he had an optimism while horror was staring right at his face. He says forgetting is not healing and we should not forget the ills of history. In fact we should inspire people because there is a story to tell.
(April 28, 1926 – February 19, 2016)
Harper Lee was the author of only one famous book – the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird – which was written over several years with multiple revisions. After it was published in 1960, TKAM became an instant best-seller with great accolades from literary critics and awarded Lee a Pulitzer Prize. In just after two years, the novel was adapted into a full-length movie. This proves time and time again that, you can’t hurry a masterpiece.
Why was it such a hit with the readers? It was a clear case of “whodunit?” Something that will always sell as it entices the readers to get to know characters, cases and evidences. Case in point: The television series Law and Order ran for twenty seasons. We do love our courtroom drama!
Lee’s topics were quite controversial: racism in the 1960s and rape. Two taboos during that time but that’s where the draw was! We like what is taboo; we love to try what may be sinful. Which brings us to a few lessons in writing as taught to us by Lee: be daring sometimes! Not all taboo topics should be ignored. Lee believed that “real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” If you think a topic may not be a hit, but you believe in it, then go for it. If you are doing a biography, you have to get involved in the character. Atticus was trying to explain to his daughter, that you need to “climb into his skin and walk around in it” to get his point of view.
Fans of To Kill a Mockingbird were thrilled to see the publication of the prequel Go Set a Watchman after 55 long years and before Harper Lee died. And a third novel? We’ll just have to wait.
Go read their works
These are only three of the biggest names in the literary world and they all left us in 2016. While their written works will never leave us, their lessons too will never be forgotten. If you haven’t read any of these authors’ books, grab one now and start getting inspired and by their works. Together we can celebrate their individual uniqueness that changed the lives of so many readers around the world.