There is an awkward period in the lives of clothes, furniture and writers, when they become something more than dated but something less than a piece of history. We call things that have reached this state ‘unfashionable’, and usually throw such stuff away without thinking any more about it ...writes Colin Burrow in the London Review of Books, describing novelist Anthony Burgess as:
.... a 1960s sideboard of a writer ...Tastes change. Authors fall horribly out of fashion. Never noticed it when I was younger, but I've realised that many of the writers I read back then are no longer talked about on literary pages, no longer to be found in the bookshops, not read by posers on the tube, not studied on courses. Burgess, John Fowles, William Golding and perhaps D.H. Lawrence don't seem to be enjoying too much popularity at the moment, although all are held in great respect. (Who would you say is missing from the list?)
An obituary creates a brief flurry of attention. A controversial biography revives interest for a while among the literatti if not the general public.
The Hollywoodisation of your life works best, though it seems you have to be as loopy as a carousel (ala Iris or Sylvia) if you want to achieve big-screen immortality.
But books which still have something to say to future generations will eventually be rediscovered. And that in the end is the acid-test of a classic.