The Exploitation of Lost Manuscripts and Stagnation of Art
Something has irritated me for some time now. It happens every year. It’s time to call out the practice of dragging out “lost manuscripts” that magically appear about the time someone can make a pile of money. Yes, I mean the recent and controversial release of Harper Lee’s new book, Go Set a Watchman. We need to retire the nostalgia that pushes us to devour unfinished or deliberately shelved manuscripts and move on.
We love to get lost in our past and sometimes that holds us back. Not just in a personal sense, but universally as well. Clinging onto the past is a sign of regression and chokes creativity. The reboots of iconic films, the posthumous releases from artists such as Kurt Cobain, lost manuscripts from great American novelists — their legacies are set in stone. Often there is no reason to expand their body of work except to expand their estate.
The axiom, “Follow the money,” rings in my ears when I hear about these “treasures”. Money, money, money. Delving into the past isn’t a terrible thing and turning a profit is okay. When these “discoveries” are not about the body of work nor advance the craft, then the payoff is disappointment. Books, music, art and everything in between suffer from this trend.
As news outlets have informed us, Go Set a Watchman is taking the literary world by storm despite the great disappointment in the character of Atticus and the suspicion that Watchman is a rough draft of Mockingbird. Meanwhile, other authors, musicians and artists are at their peak of creativity and productivity. They deserve attention. They will change the world and we don’t even know it yet.
I fear stagnation when it comes to the world of art. We become comfortable in the banality and mediocrity of a certain individual’s work and don’t experiment with something new and fresh. Apathy toward the unknown will ruin the culture surrounding the art, music and literary worlds.
As a book buyer, I try to find titles outside the same, old, cookie-cutter crap that I’ve seen a thousand times. You’d be surprised what people will pass on because it isn’t something they have experienced before. I try to expose new artists to the general public. That’s what I love about my job. People forget that rich worlds exist outside their experience. Don’t be a robot, zombie or sheep. Think for yourself and enjoy the progression of art.
If you just can’t help yourself from geeking out over Harper Lee, pick up The Mockingbird Next Door. It’ll give you a peek into Lee’s life and help you understand why I’m going on this rant. It’s better to be informed than to live in the bliss of ignorance.
* Bookmans is your store to explore. Our orange shelves are perfect for browsing, but if you’re looking for a particular title, feel free to give us a call before hand.
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