Writer Olympics

The Olympic games are upon us. All that farther, higher, faster, stronger business is quite exhausting, even when viewed from the proverbial armchair.

I’m not much of an athlete, armchair or otherwise, so while watching gymnasts turn themselves inside out and runners huff and puff around the stadium like ants around a clock, my mind inevitably turns to other things. And as it happened, I recently started thinking about literary feats of Olympic proportions, in particular prolificness, or prolificacy, if that’s the term you prefer, though I don’t, because it sounds too much like profligacy, which is a state of shameless debauchery. And I wouldn’t even accuse the author of Fifty Shades of Grey of such unseemly conduct. Or perhaps I will, once I have actually plowed through her tome and not just read about it.

Back to prolificness. P.G. Wodehouse, Georgette Heyer, Agatha Christie and other popular writers now deceased produced dozens of books in their lifetime. And there is slew of contemporary writers who are busily adding to their equally considerable oeuvre, book by book. These are Olympics-sized achievements in my book, and I was properly in awe.   Until I found out that there were writers who have published books by the hundreds: Isaac Asimov (506), Enid Blyton (600), Barbara Cartland (722). And that’s just those writing in the English language! I cannot imagine writing 722 books in any language. Not ever. Not even for Olympic gold.

But English-writing authors are not alone. The list of literary prolifics is an international one, and the one who beats them all is a lady from Spain, Corín Tellado, who clocked up a whopping 4000+ published works, mostly novels.

Four. Thousand. PLUS. The mind boggles.

Now these people, I assume, glued their bottoms to their chairs, and actually wrote every single word themselves, be it on a typewriter, a computer keyboard, or a note pad. Blood, sweat, and tears—not to mention the wearing-off of fingertips—went into their work. If that’s not an Olympics-worthy effort, I don’t know what is.

Enter Philip M. Parker, whose tally of works totals 200,000 and counting. Yes, he is the world’s most prolific author you may have never heard of. But here’s the thing: Mr. Parker, a Professor of Management at a business school, didn’t go for the old bum glue routine to reach this dizzying height. No, his method of production is as new-fangled as it gets: his works are created with a computer algorithm that trawls data bases and puts the information together into readable form, conveniently sorted into genres. Romances, dictionaries, thrillers, self-help, medical texts—you name it, there’s an algorithm for it. His publications are original compilations clobbered together from bits and pieces of publicly available data found on the Internet (though there may well be questions about copyright infringement, but let’s not go there right now). The question is: is this writing? Is this writing in the bum glue sense of the word? I concede that bum glue is required to develop the algorithm, but that’s where it stops. Computer programs do the vast majority of the work that results in a new book.

The question is, does he qualify as an entrant to the Writers’ Olympics? Well, given the general absence of bum glue in the production of the actual volumes, my vote is “no.”

Which still leaves us with Ms. Tellado. I have no idea how she did it. My mind is stuck in a boggle when contemplating the 4000 plus.

So, without further ado, the Writers’ Olympics Gold Medalist in Prolificness for Writers Past and Present goes to:

CORIN TELLADO!

CUE:  Olympic Fanfare

(I hope this works – if it does, you will have leapt 2 feet into the air)

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