Traditional publishing houses, hurting with the advent of do-it-yourself publishing, have found a gimmick to stem the tide of Fifty Shades of Grey translating into fifty shades of greenbacks, and ”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’s money maker, What Pet Should I Get? (originally titled One Buck, Two Bucks) and augmented by the smash release of volume two of the Mocking Bird (not to be confused with Mocking Jay) saga, Go Set A Watchman by To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee. A spokesperson for Ms. Lee said that an undiscovered Harper Lee gem will continue to be cranked out once every 50 years. We can expect then a bestseller in 2067 entitled Go Find a Watch Repairman. Like the ebook, audio book and Chinese-pirated books, the Miraculously Found Books category has its own bestseller list.
Later in life, Julia Child–perhaps egged on by her gal pal Madonna–began to devour the Jewish mystical lore of the Kabbalah. Alternatively, some PBS scholars point to her OSS code cracker stint as the origin of her love affair with this cryptic book. At any rate, this Jewish esoteric volume led to Mdme. Child ‘s fascination with deli cuisine. “ 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 whitefish or just chop chop some liver, ha ha ha.” Thus, it’s no surprise that, in rifling illegally through her recipe boxes, gastronomic historians 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 meat of course). Rumor has it that in 1998, the Divine Ms. C proposed a kosher cooking show, but the penurious PBS network nixed it, with execs grousing that they didn’t have the funds to foot two sets of pots and dishes. Lucky then that we have The Goy of Cooking now at #9 on the Miraculously Found Books Bestseller 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 adults’ best-sellers. Now, thanks to an eagle-eyed cleaner dusting around in Fred’s walk-in sneaker closet circa 2003, we have one more good read from the true founder of the “Good Neighbor Policy.” Apparently around 1998, Fred killed a manuscript, interring it in a shoe box. This book was finally published last month after protracted negotiations with Mr. Roger’s executor, Miss Piggy. Of course, I’m referring to #8 on the Miraculously Found Books Bestseller list Mr. Rogers Nimbly Explains NIMBY To Kids. The popularity of this book has added new Mr. Roger-isms to the vernacular such as “Can you say ‘halfway house?’” and “Can you say ‘bands of deranged junkies?’” The heart of Mr. R’s valedictory effort is when he tells the boys and girls that it not always a beautiful day in the neighborhood . The origin of Mr. R’s “bad neighbor” policy was the inclusion of a Cleveland Browns fan in his solidly Pittsburgh Steelers neighborhood. Fred ripped the Browns decal right off the back of the traitor’s minivan.
The #7 book on our list is Tom Clancy’s posthumous entry Freddie The Flying Fortress. Clancy originally submitted this book to the Naval War College 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. As one editor said, “the only kid that would be interested in this book would be a young Tom Clancy.” Clancy supposedly protested, citing the popularity of Thomas The Tank Engine books and stating that just because the Fortress was 10,000 times more deadly–and based on kill ratio stats rather than a tank engine–why couldn’t kids enjoy the book? With Clancy’s passing, the book was reevaluated and has now found a niche in the adult market. A recent reviewer opined that Clancy’s weaponry in his body of work often has more dimensions than his human characters, so it is no surprise that an 800-page tome on a talking WWII bomber has been a popular success.
The publishing industry has recently applauded prolific author Joyce Carol Oates for remembering to send in 215 lost manuscripts. Oates’s excuse for forgetting was, “When you write eleven manuscripts simultaneously, a few get lost in the shuffle. For example,” she went on to say, “if it’s Tuesday, I might be doing Haiku. Or restaurant reviews. Or sci-fi. Or re-worked Aesop’s fables. Or Hindu Upanishads.” Fortunately one of this batch 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, is also riding high from the grave with the publication of a found book. Of course, Miller’s sexual explicit novels were banned in the US until the early ’60s, just in time to endear himself to millions of baby boomer boys as their first “dirty book” author. Several of Miller’s work were found and published after his death years ago, but recently a Miller scholar working in vain on a thesis titled “Symbols Other Than Phallic in Seven Selected Miller Novels” found another neglected work that has once again embroiled Miller’s name in controversy. It is ostensibly a children’s book, featuring Miller’s (also a respected artist) drawings. The book, D is For Dildo, has again returned Miller to no #1 in the YA market, just as he was unofficially in 1964, and #5 on the Miraculously Found Bestseller list.
J.D Salinger’s works are 4th on the Found Book Bestseller list. This lofty position is just based on the pre-orders to Emily Dickinson Press for any expected books from Salinger’s reclusive years. A recent documentary indicated that starting this year, five new Salinger works would be published. This has not come to fruition. 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 then his own personal sarcasm and rebellious nature. We don’t know what such a work would be called, but 100 Years of Solitude…Now This?, would be appropriate. We just hope that when the reclusive Salinger’s 40 years of manuscripts are revealed there is not just 10,000 pages of “All work and No Play Makes J.D. a dull boy,” as was the oeuvre of the reclusive Jack Nicholson character in The Shining.
It’s wonderful that the trustees of the Hemingway House in Key West have uncovered yet another posthumous Hemingway story, now #3 on the list. Perhaps Papa wanted to disregard this work, as it was apparently used as a very deadly fly swatter in the great writer’s Key West Studio. Luckily, editors were able to debug this bestseller. The formerly bedraggled 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 Michener checks in at #2 with his most un-seminal work Antarctica. Antarctica was found in a slush pile in a storage locker in Bora Bora, along with other works that Michener must have deemed failed geographical multi-generational sagas. It appears that the ever confident Michener believed he could use his exhaustive research about this obscure continent to generate one of his formula-laden bestsellers. To be sure, the book does have fascinating details about perma-frost, glaciers, lichen, mosses and mention of the continent’s Mesozoic era golden age. Yet Michener 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 reading. But with the penguin-chic movement of the last few years, this book has sold like cold cakes since 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 Book list. In this classic King tale a clairvoyant gets 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. Unfortunately King’s other found book just didn’t sell that well. The Girl Who Loved G. Gordon Liddy appears to be an earlier version of what was eventually The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. King was correct in assessing that no one could conceivably love G. Gordon, as the book has done poorly. As King says, The Girl Who Loved G. Gordon Liddy is also a first take of Firestarter, as the girl heroine lost in the woods holding her finger to a lighted match mirrors Liddy’s show of bravado and ends up starting a forest fire.
Next month we will discuss Bill O’Reilly’s Killing (fill in the luckless victim)” bestseller list featuring the slender volume Killing Humpty Dumpty and his epic 1200-page tome Killing and Killing and Killing Rasputin.
Bill Levine is currently a freelance humorist (as opposed to a humor writer), as it is easier to pretentious than funny. He works on his humorist pithy remarks from his home in Belmont, MA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.