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Miraculously Found Books

by Bill Levine

Bill is a  retired IT professional and an active free lance writer residing in Belmont MA. Bill's hobby is combing beaches for lost manuscripts.

Traditional publishing houses, hurting with the advent of DIY publishing, have found a gimmick to stem the tide of the “Fifty Shades of Gray translating into 50 shades of greenbacks”, or to-do list blogs transforming into best-selling critiques of Mideast politics. The gimmick is to rely on their reservoir of dead and near-dead venerated authors to produce miraculously found books. This trend was started with the discovery of Dr. Seuss’ money maker “What Pet Should I Get” (originally titled “One Buck Two Bucks). Like the e-book, audio book and Chinese pirated books, the Miraculously Found Books category has its best-seller list.

Later in life, Julia Child, “kvelled” over delis. “Why not delis,” the famed octogenarian was heard to say. “After all, I get tired of deboning duck, when I can just decapitate a dozen or so white fish, or just chop-chop some liver, ha ha ha,”  Thus, it’s no surprise that gastronomic historians in rifling, illegally, through her recipe boxes cobbled together her final cookbook, “The Goy of Cooking: French-Jewish fusion”. In this gastronomic gem there are some classic dishes detailed like “Coq-Oy-Vin,” “Chicken a La Larry King,” and “Lobster Goldberg” (with imitation lobster of course).  Luckily, the “Goy of Cooking,” is now at #9 on the Miraculously Found Book Best-Seller List. 

The late Fred Rogers was mostly known as a children’s TV personality, but he was also a prolific author of both kids and adult best-sellers. Now, thanks to an eagle-eyed cleaner dusting in Fred’s walk-in sneaker closet circa 2003, we have one more good read from the creator of “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood”. Apparently around 1998, Fred killed a manuscript, interring it in a shoe box. This book was finally published last month after protracted negotiations. Of course I’m referring to #8 on the Miraculously Found book best-seller list: “Mr. Rogers Nimbly Explains NIMBY to Kids.” The popularity of this book has added new Mr. Roger-isms to the vernacular, such as “half-way house” and “bands of deranged Junkies”.   

Number 7 on our list is Tom Clancy’s posthumous entry “Freddie, The Flying Fortress”.  Clancy originally submitted this book to the Naval War College’s children’s publication division. With schematics of fuselages, gun turrets and bombing bays, the War College’s editorial board nixed Clancy’s request to market the book to kids. With Clancy’s passing, the book was re-evaluated and has now found a niche in the adult market. A recent reviewer opined that Clancy’s weaponry often has more dimension than his human characters, so it is no surprise that an 800-page tome on a talking WW II bomber has been a popular success.

The publishing industry has recently applauded prolific author Joyce Carol Oates for finding 215 lost manuscripts. Oates’ excuse for forgetting was “When you write 11 manuscripts simultaneously, a few get lost in the shuffle. She went on to say, “For example, if it’s Tuesday I must be doing Haiku or restaurant reviews or sci-fi or re-working Aesop’s fables or Hindu Upanishads, etc.”  Fortunately, one manuscript was a great read in the genre that Oates has invented: the real gothic romance historical novel. Yes, her Miraculously Found novel “Rome 476 AD”, the moving story of a Goth warrior and a Vandal princess who fall into the sack during the sacking of Rome, is #6 on the list.

Henry Miller, the late avant-garde author of “Tropic of Cancer”, “Nexus”, “Plexus”, and the little-known workout book “Solar Plexus” also is riding high from the grave with the publication of a found book. Miller’s sexually explicit novels were banned in the US until the early ‘60s, just in time to endear him to millions of baby boomer boys as their first dirty-book author. Recently a Miller scholar found another neglected work that has once again embroiled Miller in controversy. Ostensibly a children’s book, “D is For Dildo” has again returned Miller to #1 in the YA market, just as he was unofficially in 1964, and #5 on the Miraculously Found best-seller list.

J.D Salinger works are 4th on the found book best-seller list. This lofty position is based on pre-orders to the Emily Dickinson Press for found books from Salinger’s reclusive years. There is speculation that Salinger wrote a book on an updated Holden, who is still railing against dumb jocks, but who now has more ammo with steroids and HGH abounding.  We don’t know what such a work would be called, but “50 Years of Solitude, Now This?” would be appropriate.

It’s wonderful that the trustees of the Hemingway House in Key West uncovered yet another posthumous Hemingway story, now #3 on the list. The manuscript tells in Hemingway-esque fashion, the story of a journeyman juggler who entertains gatherers at Key West’s famous Mallory wharf at dusk. Indeed, in “The Sun Also Sets” the juggler struggles to work up to his most daring and manly trick, rotating four blazing swords in the air, by fortifying himself with absinthe as darkness falls. Being a Hemingway work, the ending is, as expected, a downer. Some scholars are surprised that the title of this miraculously found work is not “Farewell to Arms.” 

The late James Michner checks in at #2 with his most un-seminal work “Antarctica.” It appears that the ever-confident Michner believed he could use his exhaustive research about this obscure continent to generate one of his formula-laden best-sellers. Yet Michner discounted the fact that a three-generational saga will not support a population of zero. Therefore, he honed in on three generations of penguins whose monogamy tends toward boring. But with the penguin chic movement of the last few years, this book has sold like cold cakes when it was released.

The found book sleuths did have to gumshoe it up to extract a few forgotten Steven King books from the horror master’s “Steven King writing as Joyce Carol Oates” slush pile. Thus a book that King deemed too unrealistic for public consumption, entitled “Dead Zone 2”, is now #1 on the Miraculously Found best-seller list. In this classic King tale a clairvoyant gets a bad vibe while watching a TV reality star’s show. He sees the reality star as a man who will someday become President of The United States and will fill all the cabinet posts with his children instead of the “current crop of losers.”  The clairvoyant realizes that his only way to stop his horrible future from unfolding is to prove that the reality star’s trademark hair is not real.  

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