Whatever I thought of his Life of Pi, Yann Martel qualifies as a beloved author, and with serious accolades to back it. For that reason alone I was surprised to see that his new novel, Beatrice and Virgil was selling slower than nail polish in a leper colony.
Was it the reviews? It took a trashcan-in-the-alley kind of beating from critics.
But you know as well as I do that if book sales were even somewhat critically driven, the bestseller list would look a lot different. Still, there are the kinds of Pi fans out there, one thinks, who wouldn’t be deterred by reports that Martel has just pinched out a deuce and called it a novel. Fandom is like that (it’s why I inevitably crack open each new Philip Roth retread).
But where’s Martel’s following? After a month and a half, my store’s sold just two of the 40 copies of Beatrice and Virgil we ordered in.
Maybe it’s just been too long. Life of Pi won the Man Booker and sold like eleventy million copies worldwide, but back in 2002. Is that too much of a hiatus to retain a reader base? Some authors have overcome that, but not many I can think of.
Has there been a case where you lost interest in an author you once adored? Maybe because something changed in the interim: your tastes, attitude, etc. Or maybe, quite simply, it’s been too long?
I think there’s reason to believe that, in spite of the horrendous reviews, Beatrice and Virgil would have fared well when it was 2005 and we were still popping collars and wearing Crocs.
Then again, our tastes certainly have changed.