Anthill. By Edward O. Wilson. 2010.
Norton, $14.95 (9780393339703).
In his vivid, wise, and provocative first
novel, eminent biologist and environmentalist Wilson, winner of two Pulitzer Prizes
for his nonfiction, brings his vast knowledge about ants and his ardor for the entire
living world to the story of young Raff of
Alabama, who finds meaning, beauty, and
a calling in an old-growth pine forest.
Elements of Style. By Wendy Wasserstein.
2006. Vintage, $14.95 (9781400076871).
Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Was-
serstein gave fiction a go in this brisk
and glitzy satire peppered with amusing
dialogue and caustic observations about
Manhattan’s narcissistic, aggressively
thin, obsessively fashionable, and plastic-
Focus. By Arthur Miller. 1945. Penguin,
Renowned dramatist Miller (Death of a
Salesman, The Crucible) wrote more than
30 plays, 13 radio plays, 8 screenplays,
and 1 novel, which grapples with prejudice through the story of an anti-Semitic
businessman whose world is upended
when a new pair of glasses lead to his being mistaken for a Jew and discriminated
The novel has long been exalted as the pinnacle of literary expression, and many an exceptional short story writer has felt pressed or inspired to make the stretch, as have
playwrights, poets, and nonfiction authors. With forthcoming
first novels by short story star George Saunders (Lincoln in the
Bardo, see p. 32) and dramatist, short story writer, and actor Sam
Shepard (The One Inside, 2017), Booklist became curious about
other writers who decided to switch up and try something new.
Here we present an assortment of debut novels, some more
accomplished than others, from master short story writers, dramatists, poets, actors, a singer-songwriter, and a scientist.
A Novel Idea: When Writers
BY DONNA SEAMAN
30 Booklist October 15, 2016
Illustration by Paul Galdone from the
first-edition cover of Shirley Jackson’s
The Road through the Wall (1948).