Deceased Before Released: Novels Published Posthumously

With all the talk these days about the late-in-her-life publication of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, I got to thinking about well-known novels that came out after the authors died. There are more of them than one might think.

Some posthumous books are released unfinished, while in some cases other writers are hired to complete the works. Then there are 100%-done novels that hadn’t yet reached the market when death came knocking for the authors.

Do posthumous books have anything in common? Not necessarily. Some are early-career efforts, with later author renown finally spurring the novels’ after-death publication. Other books are the last works of aging writers, and thus perhaps not the peak efforts of their careers. But most posthumous novels evoke a certain reader fascination, whether it involves lamenting that the authors aren’t around to enjoy the fruits of their labors or wondering if the books would have been better off staying in a desk drawer or computer file.

I’ll start with two authors who had summer births or deaths. The Aug. 1, 1819-born Herman Melville worked for years as an obscure customs inspector after his writing career foundered on meager sales of the critically blasted Moby-Dick and Pierre. The older Melville did write some (so-so) poetry in his spare time, and also penned much of a novella. That was Billy Budd — undiscovered and unpublished until the 1920s, more than three decades after Melville’s 1891 passing. The success of Billy Budd, along with a belated realization of Moby-Dick‘s masterpiece quality, retrospectively helped Melville join Mark Twain and Nathaniel Hawthorne in the top pantheon of 19th-century American authors.

Then there was England’s Jane Austen, who died on July 18, 1817. But it wasn’t until a number of months later that publication came for two of her six novels: Persuasion (my favorite Austen work) and Northanger Abbey (actually the novel Austen wrote first, from 1798 to 1803). Interestingly, a “Biographical Notice” written by Jane’s brother Henry for those two books was the first time the previously anonymous Austen’s name appeared with her novels.

In the 20th century, the most famous example of a posthumously released novel might be A Confederacy of Dunces. Its author, John Kennedy Toole, committed suicide in 1969 — at least partly out of despair over not being able to get his raucous, hilarious book published. Over the next few years, John’s mother Thelma resolutely tried to remedy that. Finally, with the help of author Walker Percy, A Confederacy of Dunces made it into print in 1980 — and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Even more recently, the page-turning Millennium Trilogy (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, etc.) was published after author Stieg Larsson’s death — and became a mega-seller. A fourth Millennium novel written by a different person is slated to come out later this summer, and the existence of that book just doesn’t seem right. Some Go Set a Watchman-like publisher greed? Yes, when very popular authors die, money grabs can ensue.

Among the most famous unfinished novels published after the authors’ deaths are Charles Dickens’ The Mystery of Edwin Drood, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Love of the Last Tycoon (aka The Last Tycoon), Robert Louis Stevenson’s Weir of Hermiston, and Ralph Ellison’s Juneteenth. The first two were good/not great Dickens and Fitzgerald works, while Weir of Hermiston was Stevenson’s deepest, most mature book. The book by Ellison — who saw only one novel, the classic Invisible Man, released during his lifetime — was a condensed version of a very long, unpublished manuscript.

Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa wrote only one novel, but the posthumously released The Leopard is exquisitely written. The book was finished when di Lampedusa died in 1957, before a publisher was found.

Sometimes, novels are published long after an author’s death. One example is Alexandre Dumas’ unfinished The Last Cavalier, which was discovered in serial form in a periodical more than 125 years after Dumas’ 1870 death. Parts of it are among The Count of Monte Cristo author’s best writing.

Also many years after the author’s death, Jack London’s The Assassination Bureau was completed by another author. London’s section of the book is of course better, but still doesn’t come close to matching his top efforts (The Call of the Wild, etc.) released when he was alive.

Then there’s Maurice, which wasn’t published until after E.M. Forster’s 1970 death because of that novel’s then-controversial focus on same-sex love.

Outside the novel realm, the most famous example of posthumous publication could very well be the stellar poems of Emily Dickinson.

What are your favorite works (ones I’ve mentioned or not mentioned) published after their writers’ deaths? Also, you’re welcome to discuss the pros and cons of posthumous publication.

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area โ€” unless youโ€™re replying to someone else.)

I’m writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

234 thoughts on “Deceased Before Released: Novels Published Posthumously

  1. It never ceases to amaze me that when I’m searching for a particular topic/subject on the internet, I find the most delightful websites. Such is the case here. The history of my arrival concerned a search re: posthumously-published works as in the great number of them that exist. I must confess that I can’t resist adding to the list. Consequently, I am going to throw the name of a particular author into the soup or rather hash as in re: hash, but before I do so, I must say that I have yet to read all the comments above, consequently, he may have already been mentioned. Yet, I must say it is with some degree of sorrow that I add his name since the discovery that several of his novels were posthumously published was heartbreaking. I believe they were published by some muckety muck who bought the rights to his material after his death. Needless to say I think of most posthumously-published works (as in this case) a very mean form of plagiarism. The author is Robert Howard, of Conan the Barbarian fame. Being a fellow Texan, as Mr. Howard, and having lived some miles close to Mr. Howard’s home, though many miles distant in age, I thought of him regionally as one native might think of another, muy simpatico re: nature of the territory, comprehensively, a kindred spirit. Perhaps it is a Texas thang, for Katherine Anne Porter is another author who engenders those same feelings in me as well. Enjoyed your website, Mr. Astor, hope to read more of your essays in the future. Respectfully submitted, S. Ross Walker

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    • Thanks, Susi, for your eloquent/terrific comment — and welcome to this blog! I appreciate your kind words about it. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Very glad you mentioned Robert Howard, who I’ve never read but have heard a lot about.

      Greed and other negative stuff can indeed be involved when posthumous works are published. The author isn’t around to assert her or his rights, and surviving family members may not have the energy, money, knowledge, etc., to fight the people benefiting from the late author’s popularity. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

      And, yes, one can feel a strong affinity for an author with whom we share a state!

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  2. Hi Dave, I’ve been especially quiet here this week, too many depressing stories about family and friends; however, I was struck by an article about Bruce Springsteen appearing with U2 at a recent concert. I don’t know how you feel about Bruce, but I’m a huge fan of his music (not so much as one of my best friends from childhood who went to most of his concerts, like a Deadhead fan, and even drove up from North Carolina with another fan to drive past Asbury Park on Valentine’s Day — before he married Patti Scialfa)! However, that being said, I’m a much bigger fan of Patti than Bruce. I love her distinctive voice and her song writing skills. So I follow her Instagram account and the latest photo was Bruce with Bono and Jessica Springsteen. I just wondered if you had any strong feelings about Bruce either way, as a New Jerseyan. I promise I won’t be upset if you’re not a fan — we all have our personal likes and dislikes, whether if be of music, books or films.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry it has not been the greatest of weeks for you, Kat Lib.

      I’m also a big fan of Bruce Springsteen, though I’m an even bigger fan of U2. Nice that they got together at a recent U2 concert! I wish that happened at the U2 concert I attended two weeks ago. ๐Ÿ™‚ But it was a fantastic concert even without Bruce.

      When I was in college, a pre-superstar Springsteen performed in a campus venue that could fit just a few hundred people. Wish I had gone!

      Patti Scialfa DOES have a wonderful voice.

      Thanks for your comment!

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    • I remember watching Chuck Berry with Bruce playing the band that Chuck used that weekend. Chuck said he doesn’t tell the band what songs he will sing, nor does he even tell the band what key he is in. He said he expects them to “just know my music.” That was SOME concert.

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      • Chuck Berry and Bruce Springsteen — wow, Eric! Didn’t realize they had ever paired up in concert. Sounds great! And Chuck Berry’s spontaneous/improvisational approach with his band is really interesting.

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        • It’s even stranger than all that (and I think most of what I know about this stuff comes from something Springsteen wrote describing his experience)– the Chuck Berry approach to live performance (at least in the old days when Bruce was a pup)– not only did he hire local bands and not rehearse them a note before the show, but their efforts at self-preparation were doomed to end in confusion and failure on the bandstand, because Chess Records production of Berry 45’s nearly always entailed speeding up the master recording when making a pressing master. That way, Chuck sounded more youthful (he was 27 when he had his first hit)– but at the cost of the 45 being in a different key than he had employed during the recording session. In other words, a song recorded in C could become a song in C# or D when the single was pressed. So if you, the members of a band that saw this opportunity to back Berry a big break, took upon yourselves to learn every Chuck Berry hit not for note– you learned everything i different keys than those you had rehearsed. And you never knew it till you were on stage.

          Berry also would not play at all unless the show’s promoter paid him in advance in cash. If the cash wasn’t in his hand upon request, he’d drive off, his guitar and amp in his backseat. There was no show if there was no cash– for this business practice, I am an admirer. He may have learned this practice from Albert King, another East St. Louis music-maker, or it may have been the other way around…

          Fun fact: Hairdresser and part-time musician Chuck Berry recorded “Wee Wee Hours”, a slow blues, and “Ida Red”, a country jump number, and got Muddy Waters to listen when he traveled to Chicago to see if he could land a record deal. Muddy was impressed, therefore making him a pretty smart A&R guy without title, as were the Chess brothers when he took Berry’s music to them. Wisely, the Chess brothers saw the hit potential of the jump number, though Berry thought the blues was the hit side. Allan Freed, Cleveland dee-jay and inventor of the phrase “rock and roll” prevailed upon Chess to change the title of “Ida Red” to “Maybelline”– a sponsor of his radio show. The rest, like they say, is history.

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          • WOW! Frank Sinatra was the same way. No rehearsal, no preparation after deciding the songs he will sing for the concert WITHOUT telling the band conductor.

            In a way, Gleason was similar in that he never rehearsed any of his lines.

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            • Great information, Eric! I didn’t know that about Sinatra and Jackie Gleason. I guess some filmmakers are improvisational as well; for instance, I’ve heard that Jim Jarmusch has his cast ad lib lines.

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              • Buster Keaton often worked without a script, shooting as the spirit moved him. When he ran out of ideas, he and the cast played a bit of sandlot baseball. Then, sometimes mid-inning, inspiration would strike, and they’d resume shooting.

                I believe nowadays it’s common practice among many directors to shoot actors ad-libbing around a scripted dialog, using whatever works best. There’s confrontation scripted, say, and the actors confront each other with a general idea of what must be said to move plot forward, but have some leeway as to just how they get there. Heard the line “You can’t handle the truth!” was a spontaneous Jack Nicholson utterance made during filming of “A Few Good Men”, for example.

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                • Interesting, jhNY! I’ve also heard that when Bert Lahr as The Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz” was in the poppy field as the witch-induced snow started, he was ad-libbing when he said: “Unusual weather we’re having, ain’t it?”

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                  • A Hollywood in-joke of sorts?– as ‘snow’ used to refer to cocaine, which is a stimulant, and thus suited to cancel the effects of a narcotic. That Bert Lahr cannot be over-praised for his CL portrayal. A show-stealer by way of sheer talent.

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                    • Hmm…it’s possible it was an in-joke. And, yes, an amazing performance by Lahr. I saw “The Wizard of Oz” in a movie theater last fall, and watching his performance on a big screen was a real treat.

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              • Yep– as was Bing Crosby, though in his later most-famous years, he was so relaxed that you might miss just how great his chops really were. But try to find him (young) with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra singing Ain’t No Sweet Man (Worth the Salt of My Tears)– he’s got it all!

                Those early recording stars were incredible– complete takes only, no overdubbing, no punch-ins, no pitch correction— just singing. The best (Crosby, Sinatra, Armstrong)– often finished their work in one take!

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                • So it was true….and thanks to PBS they still show Frank Sinatra live…amazing easy singing. I just listened to ” Sweet man”….and then there was Nat King Cole….absolutely breathtaking.
                  I wonder of Sinatra and Armstrong ever played together.

                  On another note..when very young I had a 45 of Armstrong ” House of bamboo” it is not in my dream not of Andy Williams. That record walked away.
                  Never was able to find it in utube ..why not ?
                  I know for sure i am not imagining it…
                  I thought you might know of it.

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  3. Howdy, Dave!

    โ€” What are your favorite works (ones Iโ€™ve mentioned or not mentioned) published after their writersโ€™ deaths? โ€”

    Because I did not learn of the rising of F. Scott Fitzgeraldโ€™s โ€œTemperatureโ€ until today (via our droogies at The Associated Press: http://apne.ws/1I7TtZG), I do not know yet whether this short story will be a favorite or an unfavorite. However, its author considered it a finished piece, which, of course, was not the case with โ€œThe Last Tycoon.โ€ Therefore, I have a good feeling about this . . .

    J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

    P.S.: Congratulations on the โ€œDAOLiteratureโ€ anniversary-related milestones!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve read through all the comments, and unless I’ve missed them, no one has written in about these two, so:

    1. Stendahl: He wrote “Lucien Leuwen”, what we have of it, after “The Red and the Black”, but never finished it, very possibly due to consideration of current politics and the likelihood the book would cost him his government job, were it published.. New Directions put out a version in two volumes– The Green Huntsman and The Telegraph. I have read the first book, and will, next order to A Libris, acquire the second and read it.

    Stendahl’s voice in print is, for me, nearly always a delight, even if the story he tells remains incomplete. Perversely, I suppose, I found his own favorite work, “On Love”, in which he freewheelingly muses on the nature of love and lovers, to be surprisingly tedious in places, though his notion of crystallization therein is evergreen….

    “Lucien Leuwen” was published in the 1890’s, long after its author’s demise. (Stendahl also wrote the beginnings of a biography, though it ends in his early youth, which I have also read and enjoyed: “Henry Brulard”, again unpublished in the author’s lifetime.)

    2. Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky: “Autobiography of a Corpse”- a collection of short fiction pieces, and so a bit of a fudge to be included here under the category of posthumously-published novels…

    Krzhizhanovsky labored in near-anonymous obscurity and abject poverty in Moscow under Stalin, remembered by a very few for having been a theater critic in his early days, and as such a member of the Writer’s Union. His philosophical fiction, modernist, even surrealist,yet unique, was never printed during his lifetime, and lay “stored by his lifelong companion, Anna Bovshek, in her apartment,: in her clothes chest, under some brocade” for a quarter-century following his death, until its discovery by Vadim Perlmutter in 1976. Krzhizhanovsky’s fiction was finally published in Russian in 1988. The translation I have read was issued by NYRB Classics, copyright 2013.

    “One of the greatest Russian writers of the last century”, wrote Robert Chandler in the Financial Times. And to think, had somebody tossed out that chest of old cloth….

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    • jhNY, those were VERY informative and fascinating descriptions of those two books!

      It’s always painful (as with Krzhizhanovsky) to hear about an author who got little or no appreciation/recognition in his or her lifetime. Glad that his work wasn’t ultimately lost to the world, when, as you say, it so easily could have been.

      As for Stendhal, at least he got some recognition while alive and remains a somewhat well-known name to literature lovers. To be honest, I had never heard of Krzhizhanovsky before. Thank you for correcting that.

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      • Had no inkling Mr. K existed till I found the book on the outdoor table of one of my local suppliers 2 months ago. The title intrigued me enough to spring for it… Very happy to have made his acquaintance.

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  5. Good Morning Dave…well said “the page-turning Millennium Trilogy (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, etc.) was published after author Stieg Larssonโ€™s death โ€” and became a mega-seller.” he died at 50 and could have written several best sellers. The originals was in Swedish but the translation was done brilliantly !

    The forth book by a different author does not seem right but if money to be made there is no stopping. Unfortunately Mr. Larsson not having any children nor being married to his long time girl friend spoiled it all.
    His father and Brother are the ones tried to milk his name as long as they could.

    “We Are What We Pretend to Be”, contains two previously unpublished stories by Kurt Vonnegut. The first, Basic Training, was his first novella was written in 1950 when he was in his 20`s and struggling to make it as a writer and never published.
    His daughter Nannette published the book with two previously unpublished novellas and as she she points out Both stories contain autobiographical elements, The first recalls a youthful love while the second reveals an aging, depressive life.

    The Basic Training the first novella written by then 20 year old Kurt Vonnegut was his first step toward a brilliant writer.
    On the other hand DSAW had controversial appearance in the literary field..but there is money to be had.

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  6. Favourite author #2.

    Eight Men by Richard Wright was published in 1961, less than a year after his death. This is a collection of eight short stories. All have the same social justice and philosophical themes. On a scale of 1 – 10, I would give Eight Men a solid 5. Some of the stories are pretty good, some…not so much. I wouldn’t put Eight Men in the same category as Uncle Tom’s Children, which was his first collection of short stories published in ’38. Every single story in Uncle Tom’s Children was soul-stirring and unforgettable.

    Eight Men does not have many memorable characters or events. The overall quality of the short stories is ok. The majority of the novels and short stories Richard Wright created during and after his existentialism period in the 1950s were lacking, and that’s probably why Eight Men, The Outsider, Pagan Spain, and Lawd Today! are not as popular as his earlier books.

    Richard Wright was one of those writers who was allowed to have some low points in his career. He was a phenomenal author, and even if I come across something that I’m not particularly fond of (such as Eight Men), I’ll still accept it.

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    • Ana, Richard Wright was definitely one of those terrific authors who deserved posthumous publication — even if that short-story collection you mention was more good than great. Thanks for eloquently discussing the collection and Wright!

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      • His older daughter Julia Wright was responsible for some of Richard’s posthumous releases. The Long Dream was republished in 1986; Rites of Passage in either 1993 or 1994.

        Richard Wright could do no wrong, give or take a couple of questionable short stories. His only blemish was appearing in the role of Bigger Thomas in the 1951 film version of Native Son. Hands down, one of the worst movies ever made.

        Give me a minute to remove the image of Wright as Bigger Thomas out of my head……………………………….
        ok it’s gone.

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        • Ha ha! Loved your last paragraph! There’s a reason authors are authors and performers are performers — though a few authors have credibly done both writing and acting (Fannie Flagg, Thomas Tryon, etc.).

          Sounds like Julia Wright was a great custodian of her father’s work.

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              • Dave Grohl is an incredible artist. He writes lyrics, plays multiple instruments, and really knows how to work a crowd. I’ve been a major fan since his Nirvana days.

                Speaking of Nirvana, I believe they were finally inducted into the RRHOF last year, 20 years after Kurt Cobain’s death. Musicians who received posthumous awards and honours could be a sub-topic on this thread.

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                • Yes, a number of musicians have entered the Hall posthumously (some of whom, of course, died before the Hall was formed but a number who died afterward).

                  As for Nirvana not getting in until relatively recently, I guess bands and solo artists can’t make it until 25 years after their first recording.

                  I haven’t followed Dave Grohl much since his Nirvana days, but, from what you said, he sounds great! I wonder what Krist Novoselic is doing these days?

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                  • Krist is mainly known for his political work now, but there’s still some buzz about him on the Seattle music scene. He wrote a weekly column in on of our local newspapers for about 3 years. I think he’s more focused on the social and political side of music. I remember he rejected the offer to play bass in Foo Fighters because he thought fans would see them as a Nirvana-lite band who only wanted to capitalize on Cobain’s fame/popularity (Foo Fighters had, what, 2-3 ex-members of Nirvana in their early days??)

                    Dave, I never took you as someone who appreciates grunge and alternative music. That would earn you considerable street cred in the Pacific Northwest.

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                    • Thanks, Ana, for that info about Krist Novoselic! Sounds like he’s living an eclectic, interesting, committed life outside the major spotlight. Good for him.

                      I’m a big fan of lots of alt-rock. A little less of a fan of grunge, although I liked some of the songs by Nirvana, early Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, etc. Your part of the country was the epicenter of grunge!

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                    • All solid bands. Nice selection, Dave. Grunge started as an underground genre. This guy (I can’t recall his name) operated a fan magazine called Subterranean Pop when he was a college student. He was looking for a particular sound unique to the Seattle area. Cassette tapes featuring demos and songs of local/underground bands were distributed along with the magazine, so of course the popularity of that sound and the bands grew as the tapes circulated.

                      Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, etc represented the first generation of grunge artists. We now have the second generation of grunge with a new style through Beach House, Fleet Foxes, etc.

                      Back in college, I got together with three other ladies from my sorority to participate in a fundraiser talent show. We did a dance performance to this song by The Smashing Pumpkins (the Pumpkins had a rage/alternative/grunge thing going on). This is an incredible song, from the lyrics to the string arrangement.

                      BTW, please thank bebe for mentioning that John Grisham title below. I do have that particular one in my container and will read it once I’m done with King of Torts.

                      I’m getting ready to go fishing, sooooo…have a good weekend:)

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                    • Thanks, Ana, for that info on grunge’s history! I didn’t realize a magazine was so influential in bringing attention to that music.

                      I haven’t kept up much with the second generation of grunge.

                      I loved some of the Smashing Pumpkins’ work — “Tonight, Tonight,” “1979,” etc. “Disarm” is also a terrific song. That sounds like quite a dance performance you were part of. ๐Ÿ™‚

                      Have a great weekend, too!

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  7. Two of my favourite authors I mention frequently on here had material published after their deaths. The Acts of King Arthur & His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck was published eight years after he died. This is a very fun and light-hearted book with creative interpretations of the Camelot tales. Think “Steinbeck meets King Arthur.”

    Aside from the tales, the letters that Steinbeck wrote to a friend who assisted him in the research and to his agent provided deep insights into his thought processes. He was a borderline perfectionist while writing this book. Most of the letters were filled with historical facts and information, writing advice, things of that nature. Some letters were a little dark/moody/disturbing. There was obviously something else going on in Steinbeck’s world (personally, emotionally, physically, creatively, socially…who knows) that made him detour off his writing path. And based on some of the statements in his letters, it was challenging trying to translate 12th century folklore into modern times (the 1950s). This book is incomplete, but what Steinbeck did manage to complete was/is incredible. He really made the King Arthur stories come alive.

    The second posthumously-published piece that I’m aware of is With Your Wings. This one is very recent…I think it was published in 2013, maybe 2014. Steinbeck never intended to develop this short story into a full novel. With Your Wings is set in WWII, and it tells the tale of an American soldier returning home. I love the brilliant way Steinbeck wrote this piece. While reading, you get the sense that the narrator is a proud father of a young serviceman who loves his country. He realises that war is unfortunate, but he is hopeful that peace will be restored. The young serviceman was also given an award and lots of praise from people in his community. He’s optimistic about his future and that of his family. So it has a pro-America, pro-military, patriotic theme.

    But at the end of the story, Steinbeck revealed the race of that soldier. He is black. Now think about this for a minute: segregationist policies were commonly practised and accepted in the military during WWII. Black soldiers faced two battles (1) military conflict in Europe (2) racism and Jim Crow in America.

    The reader will automatically assume that the narrator was white based on the good treatment that his son received upon returning to America, and, most importantly, the optimism he expressed. You wouldn’t expect a returning black WWII vet to have the same patriotic feelings as a white soldier, and I think that was the point Steinbeck was trying to make. Black soldiers faced the same dangers as white soldiers, engaged in the same battles, had the same hopes and dreams, yet they were treated differently based on race. I interpreted his message as “there is no black and white between men when they are fighting for the red, white, and blue.” Black soldiers, white soldiers…they were the same.

    With Your Wings was originally written as a radio program for Orson Welles. Somewhere on one of my many flashdrives, I have digital versions of about thirty of his broadcasts. I enjoy listening to radio and comedy shows from the 30s, 40s, and 50s. I unfortunately do not have the Welles broadcast where he recited With Your Wings. Orson Welles was so dramatic and an excellent storyteller; I am positive he did a great job with the Steinbeck piece.

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    • So glad you mentioned John Steinbeck, Ana! “The Acts of King Arthur & His Noble Knights” is one of the few Steinbeck works I’ve never read. It does sound fun and, as we’ve discussed, Steinbeck’s writing could be quite fun on occasion.

      “With Your Wings” sounds stunningly good, too, as was your description of it and your thoughts about it. And, yes, I’m sure Orson Welles nailed that broadcast.

      Thanks for the VERY informative comment!

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    • Oh I have not read “The Acts of King Arthur & His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck “..he is one of my favorite author. Now I am going to my search engine….later….

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      • I think you’ll enjoy it.

        Another title to put on your list is The Short Reign of Pippin IV. Steinbeck’s take on French politics is too funny. Pippin started out as a regular guy, somehow was handpicked as King, then became a regular guy again.

        Humourous little gems are sprinkled throughout this book. I think you’ll like this one too.

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  8. Hey Dave hope you’ve fully recuperated from the U -2 extravaganza ya Rock& Roll animal ๐Ÿ™‚ First name that comes to mind is Franz Kafka . Not only did the famous bug author have many of his major works published after he passed on it was done so against his firmly expressed and clearly written instructions. His best friend and executer Max Brod completely ignored his wishes that everything, letters and literature, be burned. Had he not the world would have been bereft of The Trial, Amerika , and The Castle among other foundational gems of modernism. The question than is while we owe old Max a debt of gratitude did he really do the right thing?

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    • Thanks, Donny! I need to “recuperate” by going to another U2 show. ๐Ÿ™‚ It may have been the best concert I’ve ever seen — the music, the innovative video setup, Bono’s storytelling stuff, etc. Rock & Roll animal? Perhaps Rock& Roll biped…

      Franz Kafka is a GREAT addition to this discussion! As you say, much of his work appeared posthumously, and it’s fascinating that he didn’t want that to happen. Do you know why he didn’t destroy everything himself? Maybe he secretly wanted his unique work published?

      I think Max Brod did the right thing. Do you?

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  9. When I was in high school, I started reading a series by VC Andrews starting with “Flowers in the Attic.” The books were very creepy and sinister. I was told,though not completely sure,that later books in series such as “If There Be Thorns” were written posthumously. If so,this added even more to the allure and darkness,these books were scary but hard to put down.

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  10. Hi Dave, I’m glad that you mentioned the two Jane Austen novels that were published after her death. I believe it was two of her brothers that got them published. For whatever reason, they changed the names of the novels; “Persuasion” was known by Jane as “The Elliots;” and Northanger Abbey was known by her as “Catherine.” I’m not sure if she or her brother changed the name of the heroine of the latter to Catherine from Susan. There was an unfinished novel,”Sanditon,” which another writer finished many years later. I did read it, but after that decided not to go with any more of those books, no matter how true to the author they seemed to be. The same is true of a series of books written by someone who followed Lord Peter and Harriet after their marriage. So I agree that I’m not interested in a fourth Stieg Larrson novel. I’m still reserving judgment on whether to read Harper Lee’s first novel. I was discussing it with my sister who loved “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and was interested in Lee’s friendship with Truman Capote; her decision was to buy “Go Set a Watchman” and treat it as a rough draft. I couldn’t believe how many copies of that book were stocked at Barnes & Noble the last time I was there. I’ve never seen so many of a new release of any kind. One good thing is that the controversy seems to have piqued the interest of those who now want to read “Mockingbird.” My neighbor called me the other day and asked me if I had a copy of it to lend to her — which of course I did (actually a fancy, leather-bound edition of it).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kat Lib, I didn’t know about the different titles of those two Jane Austen novels! I like the names “Persuasion” and “Northanger Abbey” better — perhaps partly because I’m used to them. Which do you prefer on those two books?

      I agree about being wary of reading novels finished by another person or novel series continued by another person. Even if the writer is excellent, the same “voice” can’t be completely captured. And it almost always has a money-grab feeling.

      Treating “Go Set a Watchman” as a rough draft seems like the sensible view. And as you say, I guess a silver lining in the problematic publication of “GSAW” is even more interest in the wonderful “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

      Thanks for the great comment!

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  11. With a new James Bond movie coming out, I think Ian Fleming didn’t finish one or two novels, or they were finished after his death then published, possibly The Man With The Golden Gun. Now that is going back a ways. And since I did own the complete series, I wonder if I remembered correctly.

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    • Thanks for that information, Eric! I’ve never read a James Bond book, though I saw a couple of Bond movies way back when. With so many different actors playing Bond (a half dozen or so?) over the years, it makes different writers possibly finishing an Ian Fleming book or two seem normal!

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    • Regarding Ian Fleming’s posthumous works, ‘You Only Live Twice’ just missed being posthumous as it was published in March of 1964 and he died in August. Therefore, ‘The Man With the Golden Gun’ and ‘Octopussy’ were both posthumous James Bond releases.

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        • It was a great title as well as one of the best books from the series, in my opinion, although it’s been almost 50 years since I read it. ‘On Her Majesties’ Secret Service,’ ‘You Only Live Twice’ and ‘The Man With the Golden Gun’ could be seen as a trilogy windng up the Bond series. I don’t know if he intended that although if he knew that his lung cancer would more than likely kill him it could have crossed his mind. The first two of those are fantastic (in my distant memory), the third is pretty good. All of them are better than the films although the film of ‘OHMSS’ was surprisingly faithful to the book, including the downbeat ending.

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            • Regarding the sequence of the James Bond books, for the most part they could be read in any order. Many of them alluded to events from the previous books. However, at the end of ‘From Russia With Love’, Bond is poisoned by SMERSH agent Rosa Klebb’s poison-tipped boot. He recovers, of course, and in the following novel, ‘Dr. No’ (the sequence of the films was reversed) M gives him an easy assignment in Jamaica, which of course is anything but as he runs into the monomaniacal Dr. No. The last three books that I mentioned before do pick up right where the predecessor left off and must be read in sequence to get the maximum effect.

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    • Eric, I was a huge fan of all of the James Bond films, although I did not see the last one. They were my go-to movies when I was recovering from frequent bouts of asthmatic bronchitis; although some may be seen as sexist or racist today, I loved them for the wonderful locations and the action — something I couldn’t do at the time. I think I only read “The Spy Who Loved Me,” but as I recall it was vastly different from the movie.

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  12. A great book that I thoroughly enjoyed was a novel published posthumously written by James Agee titled โ€œA Death in the Familyโ€. This was a very poignant novel about a young family in rural Kentucky, where the father dies in an automobile accident. The novel, although written in the 1950โ€™s, take place in the early part of the century โ€“ dying in a car accident was an anomalous way to go in the 1910โ€™s. I believe that the story was somewhat autobiographical, in that Ageeโ€™s father died this way at a young age. Itโ€™s been awhile since Iโ€™ve read this, but I recall that it was primarily through the eyes of the young son. It was very touching.
    As you point out, posthumous novels can certainly be hit or miss. Often it is either unpublished because the author didnโ€™t deem it worthy to be published, or was uncompleted or unedited at the time of death. With regard to โ€œDeath in the Familyโ€, my understanding is that if was written, but unedited, and that Ageeโ€™s widow had it edited and published because she really needed the money. This book, however, was a success in my opinion. It won Agee a posthumous Pulitzer Prize, although that doesnโ€™t necessarily mean it was a great novel. In this circumstance, however, I believe it was warranted.

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    • Thank you, drb, for the interesting comment and the mention/excellent description of James Agee’s novel! The book sounds poignant and well worthy of a Pulitzer. And it’s wonderful that, among other things, “A Death in the Family” financially helped Agee’s widow. Now on my to-read list!

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      • Definitely a good piece of writing, and a good period piece all around. The POV shifts among a few characters as I recall. The little children are drawn with empathy and tenderness.

        Never knew its publishing history; glad Agee’s widow needed the money, as otherwise, who knows when it might have seen light of day, if ever?

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Dave,

    There are a number of authors I’ve read that have books published posthumously. Starting with the most recent death, Terry Pratchett, has two (so far, there may be others.) “The Long Utopia,” written with Steven Baxter, is the fourth last in a series Pratchett also gave over most of the writing to Baxter in the end as his Alzheimer’s began to take its toll. He did finish one last “Discworld” novel “The Shepherd’s Crown.” His estate has stated no one will be allowed to finish any “Discworld” novels though there is no mention of any other books that were near completion.

    Tom Clancy, had his last novel published just months after his death in 2013. Though there are two more books in his universe that have been written by his co-author Mark Greaney

    Robert Jordan, the author of “The Wheel of Time” series and several Conan books didn’t finish his series before he died in 2007. He left so many notes and details though that fan and author Brandon Sanderson was able to complete the series, three books from 2009-13.

    Coming off of a Conan author I’ll mention that famed character’s creator. Robert E Howard was so prolific that after he died in 1936 at age 30, his literary estate manager kept publishing short stories and poems for decades. Fragmentary stories being completed by hired hands. His most famous character keeps getting new stories from different authors, even his lesser known characters, like Solomon Kane, have lived on in other stories and works.

    I’ll go forward a bit to mention Tolkien, whose son has published numerous books; note collections, translations, and stories finished by Christopher, for quite some time. Last year along “Beowulf” was published with notes.

    I’ll leave it there or this could get longer than the original blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. That might bring us back to posthumous novels, somewhat. I tend to think without knowing a backstory to a posthumous novel, It may take the air out of it somewhat if we find out it was maybe a first draft when we think of it as a later draft, a stand-alone work instead of it originally being in a series, or written in an early period of the person’s life and finding out it was written much later. I love a great backstory, which Go Set a Watchman gives us. Perhaps with many novels published without the consent of the author, we may never know the true story behind the work.

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  15. I have been so busy with summer camp here, and now that I have some free time, I am not sure where I really want to start, but I will start with the last column. With harper leeโ€™s Go Set a Watchman, probably the back story to the book will be much more exciting than the book itself, probably because we know it might have been To Kill a Mockingbird before TKAM became TKAM. It appears that the book was what TKAM was going to be except rejected by whoever was in charge, Scout became a child, Atticus became more righteous and heroic, and people became models for other people. Go Set a Watchman just blurred the lines between good and evil and blurred them so much that it is even hard to feel sympathy toward and unsympathetic or caring older Scout. I read the novel and the geography of the town changed, the outcome of the trial was somewhat different as also Tomโ€™s injury, and Scout also mentions a love interest who does not actually appear in TKAM. Not revisionist, but a changed precursor.

    As for Dumasโ€™ The Last Cavalier, it might be hard to know exactly when he wrote t, like so many others, but as one of the most prolific writers, it would be high praise indeed, if it were one of his best. I think it is definitely up there near the top of his game. Bit, with so many novels of his pushing 1000 pages, it is simply a great story of a man who loses everything, but by the end, has everything restored and more, a la Count of Monte Cristo.

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    • Great to hear from you, Eric! I hope summer camp has been busy in a good, or mostly good, way.

      “…probably the back story to the book will be much more exciting than the book itself” — you may be right about that! All the greed, intrigue, uncertainty about whether Harper Lee approved the “Go Set a Watchman” publishing, etc., would make for quite a novel in itself!

      As you know, “The Last Cavalier” — whenever it was written — was not as consistently good as some of what Dumas published in his 1840s prime. But some parts were darn good. Great human drama, and exciting/action-packed scenes — including the Battle of Trafalgar stuff. And some lighter, warm, “human” moments, too, as when the protagonist made friends with that elephant.

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  16. Actually, the posthumous ‘Islands in the Stream’ and ‘The Garden of Eden” are both novels of Hemingway’s. Twain’s ‘Mysterious Stranger’ is a novella and ‘Letters from the Earth’ is, like so many of his satirical pieces, not really non-fiction but falls in that gray area of much of his writing. Even huge portions of the ‘non-fiction’ works such as ‘Innocents Abroad,’ ‘Roughing It’, ‘Life on the Mississippi’ and ‘A Tramp Abroad’ are flights of his hilarious imagination. None of his non-fiction could ever avoid being strained through the Twainian filter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, bobess48! Well said! Definitely more fiction and part-fiction in the posthumous mix for Twain and Hemingway than I had remembered at first thought. And you’re totally right about Twain — his nonfiction contained a healthy dose of (often-hilarious) fiction.

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  17. Wonderful blog, Dave! I am woefully ignorant about the personal lives of most authors so everything you said is news to me! I did Google the Bronte sisters and found that Charlotte had a novel published posthumously. It was called “The Professor,” and I’ve never heard of it.

    As we have discussed before, Margaret Mitchell was supposed to be working on a sequel to “Gone With The Wind” at the time of her death, but I’m convinced that that’s not the case. The novel “Scarlett” was pure invention by the author and didn’t have anything to do with an unfinished manuscript written by Margaret Mitchell.

    I can’t wait for your assessment of “Go Set A Watchman”. I WILL read it and I hope I’m not disappointed.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, lulabelle, for the kind words and excellent comment — including your thoughts on a supposed “Gone With the Wind” sequel by Margaret Mitchell and an actual “sequel” by another author.

        I just looked up “The Professor” online, and it was apparently Charlotte Bronte’s first novel (before her “Jane Eyre” blockbuster). An example of how fame can lead to the publishing of a lesser novel years later, whether the author is deceased or not. A somewhat similar situation to “Go Set a Watchman,” which I’m STILL deciding whether to read. I’d be very curious to hear what you think after you read it!

        Well, Jane Austen was anonymous, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 2 people

        • Hi Dave..great topic..on non-topic..I just looked up my library holds..John Grisham`s latest…Rogue Lawyer I am on 2790 of 2803 holds. Compared to GSAW 643 of 786 holds…interesting.. ๐Ÿ™‚

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            • Hallooooooooooooooooooo Ana…oh I did not even know the book is not published as yet. I could even purchase it. I regret donating all my Grisham Books to the library.

              Dave remember i was fretting about “The Racketeer ” that I was going to buy from the book sale and that man with bushy eyebrows wanted it badly so I gave it to him ?

              Now that ended up having a lovely tough..one gentleman a library volunteer involved in used book sale made a trip to our branch and handed me a brand new book and would not accept any payment from me. : )

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                  • bebe, I swearz….if I see that book title one more time, I will be forced to buy it. Everytime you mention The Lowland, I WANT TO READ IT.

                    This blog is such a bad influence on me. I’m sitting here minding my own business, innocent as always, and you guys just keep tempting me with interesting book titles and authors. SMH.

                    …and I just logged into my thriftbooks.com account, and ordered a copy of The Lowland. See…while riding my high-horse and talking about how this blog was a bad influence on me, I was also purchasing this book at the same time. LOL.

                    Liked by 2 people

                  • Thanks, bebe. I’ve read about that awful killing of Cecil the lion and watched this great segment about it. I hope the disgusting man who did the killing gets prosecuted in some way, and loses his dental practice. He deserves all the social-media anger he’s gotten. What a lowlife.

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                    • Poachers and game hunters disgust me. I’ve been to Africa, lived in Africa, and I know how the wildlife and natural resources are treasured.

                      The population of the beautiful loggerhead turtles in Cape Verde is rapidly declining due to poachers killing them for their eggs, shells, and meat. People who engage in this violence don’t care about the natural history and environment. What type of depraved individual takes pleasure in hunting down and killing animals in the name of sport? SMH.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • You’re right, Eric — nowadays, a number of species are unfortunately losing their numbers more than in Hewingway’s day.

                      As much as I like some of what Hemingway wrote, the whole hunting, fishing, run-with-the-bulls mentality in some of his work partly hinders my enjoyment of that work.

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                    • I think looking at it from a modern perspective, it does. Especially reading about the “splendor” of the “colonial,” days of Empire forging, not 18th century America, I don’t know how many novels I have read about the colonial times of India, Africa, and even Europe, and coming away with different feelings than when I read them over 20-30 years ago.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Excellent observation, Eric! Viewing Hemingway’s work, colonialism, and other things from a 2015 perspective is very different than the view from years, decades, or centuries ago.

                      Like

              • The Goodwill store where I purchase about 40% of my used books occasionally has a buy-one-get-one-free type of sale. Last year, I bought two paper bags filled with John Grisham and Lisa Jackson books. I don’t have any space on the bookshelf to put them, so they are in a big plastic container in the garage.

                The last Grisham title I read was Street Lawyer. Maybe it’s time to pull another out to get me in the mood for Rogue Lawyer.

                Liked by 1 person

                  • The Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity ReStores are neat places to shop for books and small household items. The money made from sales is used for low-income housing programs. So it’s win-win…you have a nice selection of items at deeply discounted prices, and you’re helping out worthwhile organisations.

                    Props for liking The Firm. As a former Memphian, I can appreciate all shout-outs to my old city.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • That is definitely a win-win, Ana.

                      As for the great novel “The Firm” and its Memphis setting, I’m sure most of that city’s residents are nicer than the villains who run The Firm in that book. ๐Ÿ™‚

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                    • I already donated..not long ago The Firm, Rainmaker, Client…now starting all over with The racketeer..did i mention that Ana ?
                      You would love that !

                      Liked by 1 person

                  • When I’m introduced to a new author, I usually check out 1-2 books just to give him/her a trial run. If I like what I read, then I’ll purchase more titles. But sometimes I will bypass that approach and buy the books anyway. I do that when I sense I’m going to enjoy a particular author (like Jhumpa Lahiri, in this case). And I like adding books to our home library (we both do), so…I don’t mind buying.

                    I went out to the garage and pulled The King of Torts from my John Grisham container. This should satisfy my Grisham fix until Rogue Lawyer is released.

                    Have a good evening, bebe:)

                    Liked by 1 person

      • lulabelle, I just finished “The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion” after you recommended I read more Fannie Flagg (in addition to her fantastic “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe”). “Last Reunion” is a warm and wonderful novel! As you might know, it’s set both in the 21st century and during World War II (when some characters serve as pioneering women military pilots). Have you read it?

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  18. In the case of Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway, there has been an almost second-career level number of posthumous releases, including the latest, Mark Twain’s ‘complete’ autobiography. The third volume hasn’t been released but, per his instructions, the first volume was published within months of the 100th anniversary of his death, April 21, 2010. Within five years of the death of Mark Twain’s literary descendant, Kurt Vonnegut, at least three collections have been released, mostly late career essays. The posthumous fiction to my knowledge consists of earlier works. He notably said that he had given up fiction, saying all he had to say, after ‘Hocus Pocus’ (1990) and then seven years later wrote a mess of a novel, ‘Timequake’ (1997) which, nonetheless, contains moments of brilliance. Then there’s the posthumous literary pygmy, ‘Answered Prayers’ by Truman Capote. I heard him boast on talk shows in the 70’s that ‘Answered Prayers’ would have the depth and scope of Proust’s magnum opus, ‘In Search of Lost Time’ and that he had written literally thousands of pages. While he did publish a pretty good collection, ‘Music for Chameleons’ When ‘Answered Prayers’ finally appeared in 1986, two years after his death, it was only a 181 page fragment. If he had, in fact, written those thousands of pages, he must have destroyed them. So ‘Answered Prayers’ was probably a casualty of the self-destructive spiral that was the last 20 years or so of his life.

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    • Very true, Brian, about the many after-death releases of works by Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway! I think of their posthumously published books as more nonfiction than fiction. Would that be correct?

      Thanks, also, for the mentions of Vonnegut and Capote! Thinking of Capote writing anything remotely like Proust’s opus does defy belief.

      I appreciate the very interesting and informative comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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