This famous line by F. Scott Fitzgerald is often applied to American literature, a thought that crossed my mind when the news came in of the passing of Harper Lee. One thinks as well of Ralph Ellison, J. D. Salinger, Joseph Heller. Why is it that so many truly gifted American writers produce one great early work and then seem not to be able to follow it up with a lifetime of first rate novels? There are of course many who do: Melville, Twain, Cooper, Wharton, Mailer, et al.
In my admittedly scanty knowledge of European literature, this seems not to be true of the English, the French, or the Germans. Am I correct?