May 23, 2011

Hypothetical Crichton

So I just read this nifty piece in GalleyCat about Micro, Michael Crichton's unfinished novel, and it got me thinking. I'm not a huge fan of Michael Crichton, but you have to wonder what he thinks about all this. One third of his novel was drafted, and someone else was called in to complete the book using Crichton's notes and outlines, etc.

(Sort of) the same thing just happened at my work, actually -- one of our authors passed away, leaving what some would have called his magnum opus unfinished. We'll be publishing it, but it certainly won't be the product that our author (or Michael Crichton, for that matter) would have completed.

You have to wonder, when this happens, why? In this case money is clearly a big factor. Michael Crichton sells many books. Oodles of them, to be precise. But would the man himself have wanted this work to be completed by someone else? Would he have wanted someone else to write the majority of the words of this book?

If it were me, I would say...no. I think. Writing is a tricky business. On the personal side, every book is someone's baby. Would I want someone messing with my book-baby? Um, no. The end-product might have my name on it, but it wouldn't be mine. You also have to wonder about what stuff Crichton was carrying around in his head that he just hadn't gotten around to putting down on paper. There could have been twists! Turns! Jumps off cliffs that no one will ever know.

So from an author's perspective: do I think that unfinished works should be published posthumously? If it were up to me, no. It wouldn't be perfect, it wouldn't be done. As a reader, however, reading an unfinished manuscript exactly as is would be a fascinating experience in the creative mind of another person.

So which is it? If you were an author, would you want your last work to be published, if it's not complete? (Or even if it's completed by someone else?) And how do you feel about these works as a reader?

2 comments:

  1. I have read quite a few of his book although I wouldn't call myself a fan. I don't usually like his endings. Publishing unfinished works? That depends. I read some of Hawthorne's unfinished works and loved them.

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  2. @Plain Jane

    I think unfinished works are very hit or miss. But at their best, it would be an incredible view into the creative process.

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