Monday, March 20, 2017

Lost Books Should Inspire New Ones

What happened to published books that no longer can be found?  What happened to unpublished or incomplete manuscripts? A book speculates on the literary world that could have been.

It is mind-boggling to think of all the ways completed works can get lost, not to mention how some incomplete works never got finished.  Look at what could do a book in:

·         Fire
·         Flood
·         War, Revolution
·         Rodents and parasites
·         Poor storage (acid, sun, near moisture or heat)
·         Insanity (leads to self-destruction of work)
·         Fear (insecurity forces a book away)
·         Anger (frustration or revenge drives one to destroy a book)
·         Prison (confiscation)
·         Religious persecution
·         Fear of arrest
·         Book burning and censorship
·         Storm ravaged it.
·         Accidentally thrown out.
·         Misplaced and lost.
·         Political unrest.

The Book of Lost Books:  An Incomplete History of All the Great Books You’ll Never Read by Stuart Kelly is a wonderful attempt to delve into the lost writings of famous writers.

Kelly notes in his introduction:  “From Shakespeare to Sylvia Plath, Homer to Hemmingway, Dante to Ezra Pound, great writers had written works I could not possess.  The entire history of literature was also their history of the lost literature.”

The book explores what could have been if all the writings of Homer, Sophocles, Ovid, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and others had survived the elements and circumstances that forever destroyed some of their creations.

All kinds of things could cause a manuscript to never get published, including:

The author believes it shouldn’t see the light of day.
A friend, family member, or lover suppresses it.
The writer dies and the work goes missing.
The author loses interest when it fails to get it published.
The author can’t, for personal, legal, or physical reasons allow the book to be published.
The author gets ill or dies before its completion.
It becomes politically, impossible to publish under the existing agreement.
Loss through accident, fire, water, theft, civil unrest.
The writer loses his mind – insanity, dementia or brain trauma.

How many books were published but no longer exist?  How many completed manuscripts never saw the light of day?  How many partial manuscripts never got completed?  These numbers are well into the millions and probably exceed the total of existing books in print.  There’s as much a history of the lost and unpublished as there is of the published and preserved.

How much different would the world be if we had access even to a fraction of these lost or incomplete works?  I guess that depends on how much of a difference you feel books and literature impact our lives.

On the other hand, to speculate on such things may be futile.  Besides, we still have the possibility to create all kinds of new works.  Our ability, theoretically, to write a book today that could have been written centuries ago exists in each of us.  Sure, language and the world around us has changed immensely, but the principle themes or concepts that could have been written about in the 14th century could very well be written today.  The human condition has not changed.  We still depend on food and water, we still fight each other, we still have governments, battle disease, seek purpose, have religion, love nature, and copulate like animals.

We should feel inspired to write the books that mean the most to us.  What was published or lost or never published is all in the rear view mirror of humanity.  Today’s writer starts with a clean slate to create, capture, and shape the times we live in and to help us find relevance, hope and passion for the world we navigate.

It’s tantalizing to think of what could have been but the more interesting thing to contemplate and ponder is what could be.  Can our writers of today shape a better world for tomorrow?  The past is irreversible and the present is a mere transition from what was to what will be.  It’s our chance to create anew and reinvent, to promulgate a world better than it would otherwise be.

Perhaps what’s lost permanently needs to remain there.  But what awaits us are unlimited possibilities when millions of writers offer their words, ideas, and creations.  The graveyard of books that no longer are or never came to be is large, but the universe of books-to-be and what they could do to shape our lives is unlimited.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby 

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