one of the century's greatest novelists ...
Literary leaks and legacies
Should we read unfinished works over the objection of their authors?
Friday, September 26, 2008
Stephenie Meyer and Vladimir Nabokov might not seem to have much in common.
The former is a 34-year-old Mormon housewife-turned-author who (at a rather rapid rate) writes best-selling vampire romances for young adults. The latter died in 1977 at the age of 78 as one of the century's greatest novelists, a master stylist whose carefully written books are known for their elaborate wordplay.
Events that had the literary world buzzing the past few months have made strange bedfellows out of these two: In both cases, their wishes about their work have been disregarded, raising thorny questions about the ethics of publishing unfinished manuscripts.
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The radical decision, which probably cost the author millions, disappointed many fans who were looking forward to the book.
We'll never know just what Mr. Nabokov would have said about his unfinished work being published. It's unlikely his reaction would have been any less severe.
He was working on "The Original of Laura" during his final months; he said the novel was "completed in my mind," but he didn't live to get it all out on paper. He composed on small index cards and had handwritten 138 of them - about 30 manuscript pages. The perfectionist with exacting standards told his family to burn the cards on his death.
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