The Lost and Unfinished

Why are we so fascinated by the lost novel? And so intrigued by the unfinished novel?
My theory: Posthumous novels enable us to see vulnerability in the author, as work published after an author has passed ensures us to see the author as is. How did Kerouac write at age 21, before he found success in the 50s? What was David Foster Wallace writing on before he decided to kill himself?

Jack Kerouac's The Sea is my Brother, written in 1943 after his first tour as a Merchant Marine, is raw and his signature fluid style (see: intoxicated) isn't quite there yet. But we can still see origins of the Kerouac we know today, with themes like "the search of spiritual meaning in a materialistic world, spontaneous travel as the true road of freedom, late nights in bars and apartments engaged in intense conversation, the desperate urge to escape from society, and the strange, terrible beauty of loneliness." (Da Capo Press)

The Pale King, the only other novel David Foster worked on after the much acclaimed Infinite Jest, is now out in paperback. On the topic of the IRS and those who work within the IRS, I have long wondered what drew Wallace into the world of taxes, i.e. WHY TAXES? But perhaps this quote from chapter nine of the books offers us a bit of insight: “The tax code, once you get to know it, embodies all the essence of [human] life: greed, politics, power, goodness, charity.”

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