Monday, September 18, 2017

Collaborating With the Dead

Early this month, The New Yorker published an article entitled, “The Complicated Backstory To a New Children’s Book by Mark Twain.” The book in question has the rather unwieldy—but very 19th century—title, The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine (c.1879). Now before you get too excited, expecting something along the lines of Tom Sawyer or The Prince and the Pauper, here are the facts: sixteen pages of notes were unearthed by a scholar at the Bancroft Library in Berkeley, notes which were not a finished story but a mere outline of a tale Twain used to entertain his daughters. Worse yet, the outline was unfinished. The scholar who uncovered it, John Bird, stood face-to-face with the find of a career. But what should he do with it? Publish it as is, perhaps in a journal article with contextual notes about the circumstances of its composition, its relation to other stories in his canon, etc.? Or actually complete and flesh out the sketch, so that everyone could enjoy a forgotten piece of the Twain puzzle—incomplete and insubstantial though it is? 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Download Two Kindle Books for the Price of None!

My two novels, The Dark Backward and The Winged Turban are free to download today (Friday) for all Kindles or with a free Kindle app. The links and blurbs for each book follow...

The Dark Backward: "A cynical thief has to apprentice herself to a sly magician, but the thief doesn't believe in magic...and the magician is already dead."

The Winged Turban: "The young Countess of Cinquefoil is haunted by a painting of a strange woman in a turban: the former mistress of the house? Or her own self-portrait lost for two hundred years?"

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Myth of Posterity

In 1945, the great Finnish composer Jean Sibelius prepared a major bonfire of several of his unpublished works, including his still-incomplete Eighth Symphony (which he had promised to a variety of American orchestras for well over a decade). It was a major loss for music, since Sibelius remains one of the most innovative 20th century composers and symphonists. However, some sketches and possibly even a complete score of the Eighth remained—glimpsed by some—on his bookshelf. But he consigned this to secrecy and made his family promise never to release it to the public. He died in 1957, and no mention of the symphony or any subsequent material appeared, despite repeated requests to his estate. Some rumored that at the turn of the 21st century new works would materialize, but other than some found sketches among his published papers and notes, no discovery was forthcoming. Today we only have 3 minutes of music that may have been intended for the Eighth Symphony.