Should authors’ unfinished works be completed?



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Claire Squires, University of Stirling

The scene: a field in southwest England. The sun is shining for a quintessentially British event, the Great Dorset Steam Fair. A six-and-a-half tonne steamroller takes centre stage. This, the Lord Jericho, goes head-to-head with a computer hard drive, and in a battle of old and new technologies, rolls over it several times. Then, just to be on the safe side, the hard drive is placed in a steam-powered stone crusher.

A scene from a fantasy novel? No. The hard drive was from the late author Sir Terry Pratchett’s computer, and it contained the files of, it is thought, 10 unfinished novels.

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Pratchett, author of the much-loved Discworld series, wrote more than 60 books in his lifetime. But it was his wish that any unfinished works remained unpublished, and so he instructed that the hard drive containing his remaining works be crushed by a steamroller.

Raising Steam

Commenting on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme, authors Patrick Ness and Samantha Norman asserted Pratchett’s absolute right to determine the future of his unfinished work. In recent years, though, both authors have completed unfinished novels by other writers. In Norman’s case, it was The Siege Winter, a book by her late mother, Ariana Franklin. For Ness, it was Siobhan Dowd’s A Monster Calls, now adapted into a hit film.

Unfinished work abounds in literary history, from Jane Austen’s Sanditon and Charles Dickens’ The Mystery of Edwin Drood to F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Love of the Last Tycoon.

For each of these canonical authors, their unfinished texts add to our accumulated knowledge of their writing, their rich imagination, and the development of their thinking. After completing Dorothy L Sayers’ last novel, Jill Paton Walsh went on to create warmly regarded new novels featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. J R R Tolkien’s son Christopher likewise has worked painstakingly on unfinished works by his father, including The Children of Hurin.

Unlike Pratchett, the strict instructions left by some authors about their legacy have been ignored, sometimes to the reader’s benefit. Max Brod’s decision to counter Franz Kafka’s wish for destruction is to literary history’s benefit, as it led to the publication of The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika. Emily Dickinson left no instructions on what to do with the approximately 1,800 unpublished poems she wrote before her death in 1886. Fortunately, her sister Lavinia took it on as her mission to see them made public.

When Swedish crime novelist Stieg Larsson died suddenly, unmarried and with no will, his estate came under the control of his father and brother. They commissioned ghostwriter David Largenrcrantz to create new works using Larsson’s characters, with the latest, The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye due in September 2017. Larsson’s bereaved long-term partner is in possession of the author’s laptop which is believed to hold Larsson’s last unfinished novel, but she has refused to turn it over to his family.

Reaper Man

The biographical figure of the author has, despite Roland Barthes’ critical articulation of “The death of the Author” in 1967, never been more present. Now, readers have unprecedented access to the names on the spines of their books, thanks to festivals, talks and social media.

While some authors may not want to show the struggle of their early drafts to the world, there is both an industry (famous author’ manuscripts can sell for high figures) and scholarship attached to them. Formal archives of Pratchett’s work exist in Senate House in London, for example – including some tantalising glimpses replete with coffee stains and notes to the publisher. Salman Rushdie has even given a desktop computer and several laptops to Emory University in the US.

There is no doubt that Pratchett was within his rights to deprive readers of these last rough-hewn gems, though understandably fans may be disappointed with his choice. However, the rumours swirling around the appearance of Go Set a Watchman – the original version of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird – suggest that elderly and infirm authors can potentially be preyed upon. Pratchett’s wish to control his literary legacy was consonant with his advocacy for assisted dying. He, more than anyone else, understood the power of letting things come to an end.

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The ConversationAs an author who had “Death” as one of his major recurring characters, Pratchett had thoroughly tested its presence in human life. But now, even knowing that Pratchett’s crushed hard drive will soon feature in an exhibition, we can’t but regret the loss of these early, unfinished drafts, which contained the very last doorway into the Discworld.

Claire Squires, Professor in Publishing Studies, University of Stirling

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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From My Armchair: 4 August 2012


I am into my last days of annual leave, so it is doubtful I’ll be able to read anywhere near as much as I have this last week. I’ll probably have the Kindle out at lunch for a bit, so I’ll still be getting some reading in even while I’m at work. The Kindle has certainly made it a lot easier to have good reading material available no matter where I am. Loving the Kindle.

 

Social Networks, Web Applications & Other Tools

Not a lot has happened with the social networks in the book/reading niche over this last week, except that I have been updating Goodreads on a regular basis as to what I am reading, progress and cataloguing the books as I go.

I did do a quick addition to Quotista, which has a lot of potential but doesn’t appear to be being developed any further, which is quite disappointing. It could really be something good if it was improved from time to time. It looks so good. So, I have also been using a personal WordPress.com blog for filing quotes. This will be able to be searched and catalogued as I go and will make a very good tool down the track, curating my reading over the years, while still being able to use my books as valuable tools for further research and study. I think it works OK.

 

Currently Reading:

Currently, I am reading two books – well one actually, but about to start another. These are listed below:

Killing Calvinism– Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside, by Greg Dutcher

I have started reading this twice – it is an excellent read and I wanted to absorb what I had read, so I thought why not start again. Highly recommend this one.

See also:
https://atthebookshelf.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/book-review-killing-calvinism-how-to-destroy-a-perfectly-good-theology-from-the-inside-by-greg-dutcher/

 

– Phantoms on the Bookshelves, by Jacques Bonnet

I haven’t really started this book as I finish this post, but it will be one I’ll be starting some time today.

 

Finished Reading:

Treasure IslandI have managed to get a couple of books read this week (and even reviewed).

– One of these book was ‘Treasure Island,’ by Robert Louis Stevenson. I read this on the Kindle and it was a very quick read, finishing it in two days. My book review is linked to below.

For more visit:
https://atthebookshelf.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/book-review-treasure-island-by-robert-louis-stevenson/

 

The Bourne Identity– I also managed to complete ‘The Bourne Identity,’ by Robert Ludlum. This is the first of 10 books in the Jason Bourne series.

I haven’t yet completed a book review on this one, it will be coming soon.

 

The Hunger Games– I both purchased and read the first book in The Hunger Games trilogy, ‘The Hunger Games,’ by Suzzane Collins this week.

I haven’t yet completed a book review on this one either, but it will come this week sometime hopefully.

 

Purchased & Added to Library:

I again grabbed a heap of free ebooks from Amazon. These are all of the books I’ve posted on my Blog ‘The Book Stand,’ so all posted there I also downloaded for myself. I’ll certainly have more books than I can ever read that’s for sure, but certainly never wanting for choice. No harm in grabbing them while there free and in digital format – if I don’t read them all, what does it matter? At least I’ll have them if I want to read them.

Among the books I actually purchased this week:

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Phantoms on the Bookshelves, by Jacques Bonnet

 

Article: How to Finish Reading a Book


The link below is to an article that offers some suggestions on how to complete books that you start to read. I think it is probably a fairly common problem, having a book (or many) lying about that you haven’t been able to finish. I seem to have this problem increasingly these days, so perhaps there are some tips here to help.

For more visit:
http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2012/04/how-to-actually-finish-the-books-you-want-to-read/

Site Libraries and At the BookShelf


I have been working on the two book libraries (of sorts) that I have on two of my websites. These libraries are being redeveloped and there is quite a bit of work to be done on both of these sites. Let’s look at the two libraries in a little more detail.

 

Tracing our History – History

The first library is hosted at Tracing our History and this library is part of the History section of the site. This library is the smallest of the two libraries, though it will continue to grow in size over time.

History is the main page of the History section of the Tracing our History site and doubles as the main directory to the History library. At the moment the library is a library of links to works on Australian history in particular and other areas of history that I am interested in. Works that were previously hosted at Tracing our History are currently unavailable until they have been reviewed and made available in pdf format. There are however a number of books available via links that are of a high quality and in my opinion, very important and/or valuable works.

Visit the History page at:
http://tracingourhistory.com/history.html

 

The Book Room

The second library is hosted at particularbaptist.com and is called simply ‘The Book Room,’ where old books are not forgotten. It is also known as The Particular Baptist Library, with an emphasis on Particular Baptist and good, solid, Reformed works. The Book Room features a directory to the various sections of the library in the right column of each page. This makes navigation of the site a relatively simply exercise.

As with the previous library at Tracing our History, there are a large number of books available via links to other sites. Most of these links should now be in working order, having recently been checked. As with the previous library, works hosted at particularbaptist.com are being reviewed and being replaced by PDF versions. This will take time to complete and currently those works are still available in HTML format.

Future plans for The Book Room include having dedicated pages for each work hosted at particularbaptist.com, including sections on each book page for book reviews, a Scribd widget for reading and downloading PDF versions of the book, additional resources on the book, links to other versions of the book and purchasing options for the book via online bookshops like Amazon. An example of this approach is ‘The Sermons of Hugh Latimer,’ which can be found at:

http://particularbaptist.com/library/latimer_sermons_contents.html

The Book Room can be found at:
http://particularbaptist.com/library/libraryindex.html

 

At the BookShelf

This Blog, ‘At the BookShelf,’ will be linked to both of these libraries, being the vehicle whereby news of added content, book reviews, and so on, will be broadcast. Of course At the BookShelf will remain a place for reviewing books and sharing my experience of them, but I do plan for At the BookShelf being a way of sharing what I read in a more valuable way also – by actually making available what I read to those who are entering into my reading experience, be that by way of an ebook hosted on one of my sites, an ebook hosted elsewhere or by links to places where the book may be purchased.

At the BookShelf and the two libraries already mentioned will also interact with my other book reading and sharing activities on the World Wide Web at such places as Goodreads, Shelfari and Book Crossing, as well as at other sites that I may become involved in over time. There will also be interaction with Quotista (a site for sharing quotes) and possibly another Blog I maintain for the purposes of quotes from books (which currently I use for private purposes).

With all of my involvement in book sharing social networks, web applications, web sites and the like, At the BookShelf will be a rich meeting place for all things to do with books and should be the better for it. I hope it will be a place of interest and usefulness for others. It will also be a place for sharing my personal experiences with books, which may or may not be of interest to visitors of this Blog. I guess time will tell.

 

Visitor Interaction

I welcome visitor interaction on all of my sites, including this Blog. On all of my sites I try to make available the means for interacting with visitors for sharing information, making comments, etc. Please make use of the means for doing so, though I do reserve the right for removing content that I don’t approve of (such as Spam, offensive comments, etc).

 

 

‘Reformers and Their Stepchildren,’ by Leonard Verduin – An Update


 

As visitors to ‘At the BookShelf’ would know, I have been reading ‘Reformers and Their Stepchildren,’ by Leonard Verduin. I have now started chapter four and progress through the book may appear slow and you may think this is a reflection on the quality of the book. That would be a mistaken assumption however.

In reality I am finding the book a brilliant treatment of the differences between the ‘partial reformers’ (such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, etc) and the more ‘radical reformer’ who sought a complete transformation of the church to that which more accurately reflected the New Testament model.

The ‘slowness’ of my reading is more a reflection of my reading half a dozen or so books at the same time. Reading so many books at any given time is fairly normal for me – in fact, I would call normal (for me) reading far more books at any given time, but I am trying to reign myself in a little here. I just love reading – I am a bibliophile and bookworm remember 🙂

The third chapter of Verduin’s work has to do with the lack of true church discipline in the churches of the Reformers and their indifference (generally speaking) to ungodliness in the church (remembering that their churches basically included all in a given location or region).

The third chapter presents a very clear case of the real time contradiction of the Reformers and the reform they were bringing to bear on such places as Geneva, Zurich, etc. To a large extent their work of reform didn’t go anywhere near far enough to satisfy their ‘stepchildren,’ who when they tried to go further were branded as heretics, with their efforts at a more thorough reform being identified by the reformers as evidence of their heresy.

It is a very engaging chapter I believe and one that is helpful for shedding light on Christianity even to this day.

‘The Reformers and Their Stepchildren,’ by Leonard Verduin


I have been reading ‘The Reformers and Their Stepchildren,’ by Leonard Verduin, in the last week or so. It is not the first time that I have read this book, having read it some time ago – probably 10 years ago now I would say.

This is a book that I would recommend to any believer, but particularly to a Reformed believer, whether he be Paedobaptist or Baptist. Verduin seeks to analyse the Reformation and the relationship between the Reformers and their ‘stepchildren’ from a Biblical standpoint, rather than any particular denominational standpoint. Though he does defend the stepchildren, he does so only when they are in line with Scriptural teaching on the point being discussed within that particular chapter.

Who are the stepchildren? The stepchildren or the ‘second front,’ as Verduin also describes them, are those believers who sought a complete reforming of the church. In fact, it may be fair to say that these believers sought a complete break from the Romish church, and a new church built on the teachings of Scripture and modelled on the New Testament church alone.

The frustration for these nonconformist believers was that the reform movement only went so far and did not result in the complete renewal that they desired and that the situation required.

Thus far I have read only the first two chapters of the book and once again I am finding it a very worthwhile read. I find myself in substantial agreement with the position of many of the stepchildren and with Verduin. With as much respect as I have for the Reformers, such as John Calvin, Martin Luther and John Knox, I too would have found myself frustrated at the level of reform achieved by them (though they were better men than I). A complete break and renewal would have been the way forward I believe.

The first two chapters deal with the joint secular-religious church-state that was set up at both the time of Constantine and then at the Reformation in the various Protestant nations that embraced the Reformation. They deal with the all-embracing religion that was constructed in such centres as Geneva and the ‘unified’ approach to it, as well as the reaction of the stepchildren and their withdrawal from it.

This book is as close to a must read for believers as there is I think – especially of the Reformed persuasion.

My copy of the book (paperback) is by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. and was printed in 1964.

LIFE AT THE BOOKSHELF: A Life Around Books


I have spent a lot of my time around books. I love books. I can’t have enough books – at least it certainly seems that way. I’m always on the lookout for books. I don’t buy a lot of new books these days, however, if there is a good one – well, I just have to buy it.

I’ve always read a lot. Early in life I probably read more out of necessity in order to pass subjects and exams. It wasn’t until I left school that I really got a passion for books. What spurred my passion for books was my growing interest in Christianity and my subsequent embrace of it. I just wanted to learn and to learn as much as I could. So I started to buy books

Somewhere along the track I became interested in reading books of other subjects as well, especially books to do with history. I also read novels, but for me to read a novel it has to have a great plot. One of my favourite authors is Tom Clancy, which probably gives you some idea of the type of novels I read.

Of course I collected books on horticulture (I trained as a horticulturist), cooking, computers, travel, wilderness and other areas that I was interested in. However my real passion in books has always been theological and historical.

At the moment my life is in a ‘treading water-like’ situation. I’m probably still another 6 months away from moving into another home to rent (I currently live in a caravan park in a cabin), so the vast majority of my books are in storage and I can’t get at them because they are quite some distance away and I don’t have a car. There probably isn’t a day that goes by that I wish I had access to some book or another. I am longing for the day when I’ll be able to make use of all my books again.

I’ve probably managed to collect another couple of boxes of books in the time I have been away from them and I am slowly accumulating a collection of them in the cabin. They are enough to get me by at this stage, but my various interests are crying out for the books to assist me in them.

I have begun to place a listing of the books I own on my web site at particularbaptist.com and will eventually add them to my Shelfari presence as well. A look at the list (which is nowhere near complete) soon gives an idea of the number of books I have.

See the list at:

http://www.particularbaptist.com/kevins/kevinslibrary.html

See my Shelfari Profile at:

http://www.shelfari.com/particularkev

I have also started accumulating books online at both the particularbaptist.com website and the Kevin’s Family – History Site. These two virtual libraries encapsulate the two main areas of my passion for books – theology and history.

It is for these two libraries (other than my own interest of course) that I am buying out of copyright theological and historical books. Gradually I am building up my collection of online books in these libraries, sharing my passion for books and the wealth in books with a much wider audience.

Visit the libraries at:

http://particularbaptist.com/library/libraryindex.html

http://particularbaptist.com/matthewshistory/library/articles.html

Not only do these libraries contain the works that I have collected and put online, they also have many links to others works that others have placed online. In short, these two virtual libraries have an enormous amount of resources in them – enough to keep the most avid reader going for a life time.

I have now started the ‘At The BookShelf’ Blog and the ‘Reformed Reading Group’ at Shelfari to provide another aspect to sharing my passion for books, especially in the two areas I have mentioned – theology and history. With these two latest sites I will be able to interact with visitors and discuss various books, what we have learnt, questions and issues raised, enjoy fellowship, etc. So I am really hoping that my visitors will join the Reformed Reading Group (I am thinking especially of Reformed Christians here obviously – though others are most welcome) and get involved in the discussion, as well as having visitors interacting via the comments provision here at ‘At The BookShelf.’

Visit the Reformed Reading Group at:

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/36946/about

What I intend to post here in the Blog are reviews of the books I have read and possibly some quotes from some of the books also. I will probably also be posting URLs for new books (old books) I post in the two virtual libraries also.

What else is left to say but please get involved at some of the sites I have mentioned? You won’t regret it.