Literary reputations

Somewhat on the way down:







Overall, in other searches also, I see a golden age for "high fiction" in the 1950-1970 period.

Holding steady:

Jane Austen


Joseph Conrad

Norman Mailer

Up, but down since 2000

Ayn Rand

On the way up:



Other than very recent authors, these are harder to find than you might think.

Falling off a cliff:

Robertson Davies

Typing in "Arnold Bennett" is like shooting fish in a barrel.


Way, way up: the Hungarian writer Sándor Márai (1900-1989)

Paris Hilton is THE GREATEST LITERARY GENIUS OF THE PRESENT EPOCH according to this methodology. Meh.

Interesting post, thanks.

My favorite authors <A HREF="">Ernest Hemingway and <a href="">Vladimir Nabokov are heading steady since the 70's. My other favorite author <a href="">Jack Vance, seems to have been popular only in the 1980's, when I also started reading him.

There is a huge difference in search results if you leave the first name out. No time to look into why.

Cormac McCarthy

Those ngrams just show mentions, as far as I can tell. Now, I like Tolkein, but maybe all the mentions are to say "Tolkein sucks," in which case his reputation is crashing.

Coetzee really started improving once he was born.


The pre-WWI drop for Kipling isn't odd at all, he was an ardent Imperialist. This had two affects. The first was that it turned off potential readers on the other side of that debate when it was still current events. Second, during those years it sometimes warped his fiction by a tendency to slant the story to show what idiots the Anti-Imperialists were.

It was noticed at the time.

Melville isn't capitalized in your search field. Its interesting to see his revival in the 1930s and 1950s.

There is a huge difference in search results if you leave the first name out.

If the last name is at all common, then it will pop up for every mention of anyone with that last name.

"It was Virginia Woolf who undertook to destroy Arnold Bennett; she wrote her hit piece in 1923, but their lines don't cross until 1940. She is of course still way ahead abut her reputation also seems to have fallen off a cliff lately."

I suspect Woolf's reputation would be hard to untangle from Albee's using this method.

Roissy's reputation was pretty up and down throughout the 19th century, rose strongly throughout most of the latter 20th century, but peaked in the mid 90's.

more fun with engrams: the past vs. the present vs. the future, the history of crisis, is something happening to the obesity epidemic?

There's also discussion of changes in spelling-- in particular, the long s (looks like an f) went out around 1800, so you get weird results if you only search on "present" and don't also search on "prefent".

So, granted that transliteration from Cyrillic is a little dicey, but I believe the "right" or most common spelling is Dostoevsky. At least, that is the most common version in the Ngram viewer. That usage is slightly up from a low around 2000.


"Bonds" got replaced with "Relationships.""

You are correct. Fascinating!

I tend to think that bonds were stronger.

Change Robertson Davies to British English (he was Canadian) and he does just fine.

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