This week’s question comes from reader Theo Kanbe: I think we all have that certain author or musician or filmmaker who doesn’t ever seem to put out enough work to sate our appetites for their particular view of the world. The inspiration for this comes from my own obsession with Kelly Link’s incredible, dense stories, the likes of which I’ll likely never grow tired of. Link writes with a combination of piercing literary insight and a sense of weirdness that would put David Lynch to shame. It’s too bad she had what I’d call “George R.R. Martin syndrome”—a penchant for ignoring her own work in favor of editing others’. Most of her time seems to be absorbed by Small Beer Press and the zine Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet (both of which produce excellent fiction, so that’s kind of an excuse). Link’s last collection of short stories was Pretty Monsters, published in 2008, so as 2014 begins, we enter the sixth year without another hit of the drug I’m jonesing for. It’s a burning addiction only made slightly better by the recent announcement that new stuff is out next year, but I want it now! What creator can’t put out work fast enough to satisfy your insatiable appetite?
George R.R. Martin was, at one time, a fairly prolific author. Over the course of seven years in the 1980s, he published six novels and four short-story collections, and has never gone more than three years without publishing some kind of work. But ask his fans, and he’s a regular J.D. Salinger, holed up in seclusion, pointedly not completing his A Song Of Ice And Fire series (on which TV’s Game Of Thrones is based) just to spite his readers. Initially, Martin announced a trilogy—with the three books released two years apart —followed by a five-year time jump, and then two or three more books that would revisit the characters further down the line. But after his initial books became bestsellers that broke out of the fantasy ghetto, he decided to write two books to fill in that five-year gap. (Presumably, a dump truck full of money driving up to his house was involved.) Problem is, the first of those books took five years, the second took six, and the plots set up in the first book—undead walkers coming from the north, once-extinct dragons returning in the east—were only inches closer to coming to fruition. “Winter is coming” has become the series’ catchphrase and slogan, but in the 14 years since A Storm of Swords finished the original trilogy, nary a flake has fallen, and the next book, The Winds Of Winter, still has no release date. Martin claims he can wrap up the series with one subsequent book, A Dream Of Spring, but fans have worried (loudly, repeatedly, and insensitively) that Martin may die of old age before that happens.
Don’t get me wrong. I want all the Thrones I can get. But the franchise that is really and truly stringing me along is Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke’s Before Sunrise series, which wasn’t even supposed to be a series, and is now a trilogy, and maybe in nine years there will be another one? But how on earth am I supposed to wait that long for another installment of the Jesse and Celine’s relationship, which has turned out to be one of the most important cultural milestones of my life? In the meantime, I’ve watched all three installments—Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight—several times, and I will probably watch them many more times before there is another movie from these three talented filmmakers about these two characters. Incidentally, in my anticipation, I have also watched the trailers for the second two installments numerous times, and can probably recall them with more accuracy than the films. (Do you have a flashback to the thrill of learning that Before Sunset was going to be a film whenever you hear Ivy’s “Edge Of The Ocean?” Because I do!)
This is kind of a weird answer, since he still regularly produces albums, but there was a time in 2006 when I thought Sufjan Stevens was going to be one of my all-time favorite musical artists, and then he just sort of slowed his output to a crawl. He’s continued to produce music—music that I really like, even—but the more time that elapses between releases, the more that he seems to recede in my memory, until one of his songs comes on shuffle on my iPod or Spotify starred list, and I remember, hey, I really love this guy’s music. I now realize that the 50 States project, which I was breathlessly excited about in the mid-2000s, was probably never going to happen. But would it kill him to release an EP every so often? So I can remember how much I like him? So I don’t have to think about how I’m getting old?
To be clear, a lot of creators who’ve done work I enjoy are too damn prolific for their own good. That makes it all the more painful when some oddball strikes a rich, deep vein and then, instead of mining it forever, disappears for years at a time, finally seeming to fall off the face of the earth. There are at least a score of these jokers I could name off the top of my head, but for no better reason than he’s on my mind right now because I was just alphabetizing my comic books, I’ll go with David Boswell, author of the classic Heart Break Comics and creator of the immortal Reid Fleming, World’s Toughest Milkman. Boswell’s hot streak was in the ’80s, when he published the bulk of the work that made him a legend and made hopeful noises in interviews about making a Reid Fleming movie. Then he vanished for a while, staged a comeback in the late ’90s that mostly consisted of putting out shiny reprints of his previously published work, then he disappeared again. He maintains a website where he sells prints and original artwork, offers downloads of his old comics, and promises, “More to come here, very, very shortly.” And very, very slowly.
It’s awfully entitled of me to complain about a drought from a man who co-wrote and directed every episode of a television series just last year, but how are we going on eight years since the last Christopher Guest film? There was a time when Guest and his de facto improv troupe would put out another mockumentary every few years. Since 1996’s Waiting For Guffman, a community theater riff that’s still my favorite Guest film, Best In Show, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration followed, each just three years apart. I’m not unreasonable. Three years is nothing for fans of Paul Thomas Anderson or Arnaud Desplechin. But eight starts to look like permanent hiatus. It’s nice to see Michael McKean, Catherine O’Hara, Fred Willard, and company pop up as sitcom parents (or Bob Balaban as Hannah Horvath’s psychiatrist), but the truth is they’re funnier than their sitcoms’ stars, and I’d love to see them back together soon.
It seems that the drought I’ve been complaining about for several years now is about to come to an end, but given there’s still no concrete date locked in for the album tentatively entitled World Peace Is None of Your Business, I’m still going to have to go with Morrissey. We’re going on half a decade now since the former Smiths frontman released his last album, Years Of Refusal, which isn’t the longest he’s ever gone (that honor goes to the seven-year gap between 1997’s Maladjusted and 2004’s You Are The Quarry), but it’s still too damned long, especially considering his obsessive fan base will buy anything and everything he offers up, anyway. As ever, Mozzer’s kept up his claim that he’d rather wait for the right record deal to land in his lap than self-release an album and sell it out of the back of a van, but given the state of the music industry today, it’s hard to believe even a man as prone to getting his own way as Morrissey hasn’t had several someones tell him he’s probably better off going the indie route nowadays.