5 Famous Books That Authors Regretted Writing

Life for an author is tough. From receiving multi-million dollar Hollywood film offers to obtaining legendary literary status, being an author isn’t always sunshine and rainbows.


Though these five authors have received widespread attention and, in some cases, critical acclaim, their iconic works have led to deep-seated regret.


1. Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx


New Yorker

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It may come as a surprise to some readers that the 2005 Academy Award-winning film Brokeback Mountain starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal was inspired by a short story of the same name written by Annie Proulx. First appearing in The New Yorker in 1997, Proulx’s groundbreaking story offered an honest and touching portrayal of same-sex love during a time in which acceptance was at a low point in America.


Though Proulx’s work was groundbreaking for it’s open representation of LGBT romance, she has animosity towards the fan fiction the story and adaptation have invited. According to Proulx, fans have re-written the ending of the story, which ultimately undermines the entire point of the tragic tale.


“I wish I’d never written the story. It’s just been the cause of hassle and problems and irritation since the film came out. Before the film it was all right,” she said in a 2009 interview with The Paris Review


“[People] can’t bear the way it ends—they just can’t stand it…They can’t understand that the story isn’t about Jack and Ennis. It’s about homophobia; it’s about a social situation; it’s about a place and a particular mindset and morality. They just don’t get it.”


2. Jaws by Peter Benchley



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If you’ve ever seen 1975 Steven Spielberg film Jaws, then I’m guessing your childhood was spent avoiding ocean water. The iconic film was inspired by a 1974 novel of the same name written by Peter Benchley. Both the novel and the film portrayed a killer shark hunting down innocent swimmers.


The shark is eventually conquered by man, yet his death didn’t seem to soothe audiences. Both representations led to intense fear and hatred of Great White Sharks, making them into the ocean’s #1 villain. Benchley later expressed regret for his menacing depiction of killer sharks after witnessing the change in perception of the creature. 


“What I now know, which wasn’t known when I wrote Jaws, is that there is no such thing as a rogue shark which develops a taste for human flesh,” he told the Animal Attack Files in 2000.


“Knowing what I know now,” Benchley reportedly wrote in 2006, shortly before his death. “I could never write that book today. Sharks don’t target human beings, and they certainly don’t hold grudges.”


3. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell



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A widely controversial book, The Anarchist Cookbook is a “How To” guide for making explosives and illegal drugs. It was originally written as a way of protesting the Vietnam War. Powell’s book has been linked to various shootings, including a recent school shooting in Colorado in 2013. Powell has since regretted the book after witnessing its effects and has tried to get it pulled from shelves, ultimately unsuccessfully.  


Powell wrote the story when he was only nineteen-years-old, using military manuals that were made public and kept at the New York Public Library. Though the premise of the book may seem extreme to many, it came during a time in which American males were being drafted into the Vietnam War, a war which many Americans didn’t agree with.


“My motivation at the time was simple; I was being actively pursued by the US military, who seemed single-mindedly determined to send me to fight, and possibly die, in Vietnam. I wanted to publish something that would express my anger. It seems that I succeeded in ways that far exceeded what I imagined possible at the time,” he wrote in The Guardian in 2013.


“Over the years, I have come to understand that the basic premise behind the Cookbook is profoundly flawed.The central idea to the book was that violence is an acceptable means to bring about political change. I no longer agree with this.”


4. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll


Lewis Caroll

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, also known as Alice in Wonderland, is undoubtedly a childhood favorite for millions of readers. Written by Lewis Carroll, born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, and published in 1865, Alice in Wonderland initially received negative reviews from critics, but gained popularity later on in the end of the 19th century.


The fantasy novel is perhaps Carroll’s most famous work, though it isn’t his only. While fans have grown to love the story, Carroll grew to despise it. As the story became more popular, Carroll found himself in the public sphere, which, it turns out, he wasn’t a fan of.


“All of that sort of publicity leads to strangers hearing of my real name in connection with the books and to my being pointed out to and stared at by strangers and being treated as a ‘lion,’” Carroll wrote in an 1891 letter to a friend. 


“And I hate all of that so intensely that sometimes I almost wish I had never written any books at all.” 


5. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess 



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A Clockwork Orange is a classic novel which can be found on many lists of the best novels of all time…it’s also often banned. Nevertheless, the novel is widely-known for its portrayal of sex, violence, and young rebels. As with any subject, readers interpreted the novel in varying ways, leading to some regret on Burgess’ end. These interpretations appeared to stem at least partially from Stanley Kubrick’s Academy Award-nominated adaptation.


“The book I am best known for, or only known for, is a novel I am prepared to repudiate,” Burgess wrote in a 1985 biography about D. H. Lawrence. “It became known as the raw material for a film which seemed to glorify sex and violence.”


“The film made it easy for readers of the book to misunderstand what it was about,” he said, “and the misunderstanding will pursue me till I die. I should not have written the book because of this danger of misinterpretation, and the same may be said of Lawrence and Lady Chatterley’s Lover.”



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