Monday, June 2, 2014

One Hit Wonders

Post by Jenny

I’ve been listening to the One Hit Wonders station on iTunes Radio a lot lately. I’m sort of fascinated by the whole concept. Some of the music is truly badd (yes, I mean you guys, Color Me Badd), but many of the songs made a lasting cultural impression. What defines the 80s more than Toni Basil’s Mickey, or the early 90s like Young MC’s Bust a Move?

Some of the OHWs were huge dance crazes—from The Hustle to The Macarena—and others still pop up in movies, TV, and commercials. (Daniel Powter’s Bad Day seems tailor-made for the insurance industry.) My boys know Wild Cherry’s 1976 Play That Funky Music from the Guitar Hero video game. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that It’s Raining Men, the 1982 smash for The Weather Girls, sold over 6 million copies…and is Homer Simpson’s favorite song.

The world of literature has its own crop of one hit wonders who wrote one very famous novel and, in many cases, never wrote another. Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights all make the list.

Oscar Wilde was a playwright and poet but The Picture of Dorian Gray is his only novel. J.D. Salinger followed The Catcher in the Rye with three short story collections and a novella. In his native Russia, Boris Pasternak is celebrated more for his poetry than his epic Dr. Zhivago.

Let’s take a quick poll: how many of the aforementioned titles were made into movies and/or are used in literature classrooms all over the world? Umm…all of them.  

I used to think that One Hit Wonder was a snide pejorative, but now that I’m older and wiser and significantly more desperate, I understand that a One Hit Wonder is way better than a None Hit Wonder. I’d love to count myself among the prolific Agatha Christies, Jodi Picoults, Ray Bradburys, and James Pattersons of the book world. But if offered the opportunity to have my name mentioned in the same breath as Mary Shelley (Frankenstein, of course), I’d be pretty tempted to take it. Maybe I could then cheat a little and crank out a few more hits using a secret identity. (Salinger and Bruce Wayne…both recluses. Coincidence? I don’t think so.)

Would you be happy as a One Hit Wonder?


RichardK said...

Hey, I like that Color Me Bad song (he said with an embarrassed flush on his face).

Kelly said...

It's Homer's favorite song?! But I totally agree about the OHW option. We all dream of having that page in the front of the book full of other titles, but I sure wouldn't spit on a OHW of my own.

Anonymous said...

Right now, I will be lucky to sell at least 55 copies of my new chapbook from Finishing Line Press. You can learn more by visiting my website at

Sarah Reichert said...

You score extra points in my book for mentioning Color Me Badd! I guess Richard and I share an embarrassing love of bad early-nineties hip/hop. I would happy being a wonder of any sort (one hit or otherwise). But I think I'd be happiest being able to continue to write, whether it takes me to the best seller shelf or not. (aw tick tock, you don't stop stop will be playing in my head for the afternoon now) Thanks for a great post!

Jenny said...

Thanks for the comments! I love knowing that there are other closet OHW fans out there.

Sarah Sullivan said...

A resounding YES!!! would be my answer to that question. I would love to be any kind of a wonder when it comes to writing. To Kill A Mockingbird is still one of my favorite books. One good book may be all some talented writers have in them and bless them for knowing themselves well enough to stop when they're ahead. Fun post.

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