2015 – The Year of Literary Discovery
By Oscar Williams
Some say this is the year of the phenomenon 50 Shades of Gray (so titled despite the fact humans can only perceive 30 shades of gray). But I’m not going to discuss 50 Shades. You’d have to beat me to write about 50 Shades. But I will argue that history will record this as The Year of Literary Discovery.
The Old Masters and the Dead keep on giving, which is quite welcome since the youthful and living are giving us the cinematic version of 50 Shades of Mediocrity. We’re only nearing March, in the grip of a frigid and blistering winter in the American northeast, but already the literary world has been rocked by amazing discoveries from old roll top desks, attics, and beyond the grave.
The home of our Dear Departed Dr. Seuss, the universally revered master of nonsense rhyme, has yielded a lost manuscript. It was lost in his house and now, twenty-four years after the good Dr.’s death, someone has gone into his house and found the lost manuscript. According to ABC News,
“a recently discovered manuscript with illustrations by Dr. Seuss called What Pet Should I Get? will be published on July 28. This is the first of at least three books Random House plans on publishing based on materials found in the beloved author’s home in 2013. What Pet Should I Get is thought to have been written between 1958 and 1962 and features the same brother and sister from the classic One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.”
I wonder if Ted Geisel knew he lost this manuscript in his house? But I’m glad it’s been found. 50 Year Old Seuss will enchant many more than 50 Shades, and with greater redeeming value I’m sure.
And then word comes of another lost treasure recovered: A.C. Doyle speaks to us from beyond the grave! Britain’s Telegraph trumpets the news:
Lost Sherlock Holmes story discovered in man’s attic
“An historian has unearthed the first unseen Sherlock Holmes story in more than 80 years that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote to help save a town bridge. Walter Elliot, 80, found the 1,300-word tale starring the famous detective in a collection of short stories written for a local bazaar.”
So, neither Robert Downey Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch, Jonny Lee Miller, nor Sir Ian McKellen can stop the REAL Holmes from reappearing from beyond the grave! This proves once again he didn’t drown in Reichenbach Falls! But seriously, how is this possible? Elementary, Watson. Discover a long lost manuscript! No one seemed to remember the short story Doyle penned to help the local community rebuild a washed out bridge. So Holmesian addicts get a few minutes of nirvana courtesy of Walter Elliot’s trip to the attic. And here’s a clue: It can be read on line if you search carefully enough!
But best of all comes the news that there is a prequel to the Great American Novel. We are told there is a companion volume – sequel or prequel depending on whose pushing it – to the literary treasure To Kill A Mockingbird. The “new” manuscript was believed to have been lost until Lee’s lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. Harper Lee said that she had written Go Set A Watchman before she wrote Mockingbird, but it was rejected by her editors. They persuaded her instead to write the book that became To Kill A Mockingbird.
To Kill A Mockingbird was published in 1960, more than a half century ago – and today the book is #17 on Amazon’s sales ranking . Since its publication, Harper Lee has not quite been a recluse, but she did not enjoy all the public attention the masterpiece brought her. She rarely interviewed and insisted she was not working on any new books.
It is common knowledge that Harper Lee is frail and that her sister, who has since passed away, once said, “she’ll sign anything put in front of her.” So if Harper Lee did not want this lost manuscript published, it would be hard for her to stop it. But good or bad, rejected or resurrected, every one of the millions of us who read and love To Kill A Mockingbird – and there are millions and millions – are looking forward to the literary discovery of the year. I’d hate to be disappointed, but it is hard to imagine anything crafted by Harper Lee would disappoint.