Skip to main content

An incomplete list of the incomplete novel???

Even within the most exclusive of canons, there are novels that were considered incomplete by their authors. Others were attacked by critics for "not being novels"; that is they were accused of lacking character development, proper trajectory, conflict, or a proper ending. A third group were left as unpublished manuscripts for diligent relatives, literary executors, or next generations to decipher and define. In no particular order then, I offer a list of favorites with brief notes:

Franz Kafka, Amerika, The Trial, and The Castle. The trifecta as far as brilliant but imperfect manuscripts go. You know the details, death by burning rudely interrupted by good Uncle Max, who manages to make Kafka one of the most powerful authors, images, and ideas of the twentieth century. From words coined in his honor to bars in South Korea to novel and movie titles far and wide, part of our Kafkaesque existence includes our inability to escape the writer's influence.

Herman Melville, Billy Budd. Tell me this forgotten manuscript is not a novel. I dare you!

Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49. Does Oedipa's character properly develop? Is he allowed to end it that way? Is it legal to include a long, tangential "play within the play" as early as chapter 3? Could the rumors be true he is rapping as the artist Tommy Pi? "This is America, you live in it, you let it happen. Let it unfurl."

I have a few others in mind, but I encourage you to add to this list.

Comments

Dan said…
Here's a few more...
F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon
Edith Wharton's The Buccaneers
Ralph Ellison's Juneteenth
Henry Roth's six-volume Mercy of a Rude Stream
Tolkien's Silmarillion
Hemingway's A Moveable Feast and Islands in the Stream
Faulkner's Sartoris was completely re-edited by his friend in order to get published
Austen's Sanditon was unfinished at her death, while Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were finished but posthumously published
...
and just about all of Thomas Wolfe
Alex Kudera said…
Excellent, Dan. Thanks. I'm living in Thomas Wolfe country here... we have an auditorium named in his honor. I'm sure you know he made the long journey back from Harvard University. I hope I CAN go home again one day...
Dan said…
I was just reading Bernard Knox's introduction to the Fagles translation of The Aeneid and apparently there is an ancient story that Virgil pulled a Kafka 1900 years before Franz -- he hadn't finished polishing the epic and asked his friends to destroy the epic "imperfection" when he died.

Now, without Virgil we wouldn't have had Dante, and without Dante... The absence of The Aeneid in the history of the development of western literature could have been the proverbial "For the want of a nail the war was lost."

Once I'm done Virgil I am, by coincidence, going to start on Look Homeward, Angel.

Popular posts from this blog

Top Ten Russian Novels!

L.U.S.K. is excited to feature a guest post from Aisha O'Connor-Fratus, writer, editor, parent, and blogger at Hell's Domestic Backside. Enjoy this list of Aisha's ten favorite Russian novels:
1. Anna Karenina (Lev Tolstoy, 1873 to 1877). Anna is rich and bored. Anna hates the way her husband chews his food. Count Vronsky—played by Christopher Reeve, so handsome) sweeps Anna off her feet! But things do not end well for Anna.
2. The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1880). Not about a traveling circus acrobatic troupe. Its sweeping explorations of God, free agency, and morality are timeless and haunting. My favorite part is Ivan’s reciting of the poem “The Grand Inquisitor” in which Christ is resurrected during the Spanish Inquisition.
3. Crime and Punishment (Dostoevsky, 1866). Life-long graduate student Rodion Raskolnikov tries to justify an unspeakably immoral act with eugenics and hey—a guy needs to eat.
4. Rudin (Ivan Turgenev, 1856). Dmitry Rudin talks the talk, but…

The Writing Life Starring Iain Levison

Iain Levison's Dog Eats Dog was published in October, 2008 by Bitter Lemon Press and his even newer novel How to Rob an Armored Car will be published by Soho Press in October, 2009. Back in '00 or so, L.U.S.K. first discovered Levison's A Working Stiff's Manifesto in hardcover with its original subtitle, "Confessions of a Wage Slave." That memoir established Levison's scalding wit and ability to hold the attention of an ever-tweeting audience. It was later released as a trade paperback with a supercharged second subtitle, and Levison has managed to survive, publish, and publish again. With long-terms roots in Scotland and Philadelphia, Levison currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina where he commits literature and carpentry as much as he can.

USK: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer and when did you first identify as a writer?
IL: Writing is the only thing I've ever been any good at. Well, the only legal thing. Early on, I realized t…

Auggie's Revenge: Reviews, Interviews, and Excerpts