When to kill a novel? Before it kills you.
By Celeste Ng
In the New York Times, Dan Kois takes a peek into the abandoned novels of famous writers. Evelyn Waugh, Nicolai Gogol, Harper Lee, Truman Capote, and many more all scrapped novels. So if there’s a novel slowly decaying under your bed, take heart. You’re in good company—and possibly wise:
“A book itself threatens to kill its author repeatedly during its composition,” Michael Chabon writes in the margins of his unfinished novel “Fountain City” — a novel, he adds, that he could feel “erasing me, breaking me down, burying me alive, drowning me, kicking me down the stairs.” And so Chabon fought back: he killed “Fountain City” in 1992.
And actually, sometimes those killed darlings can still be resurrected. Kois points out that Stephen King’s Under the Dome is a complete rewrite of a failed novel from 30 years ago. Thirty years! And Michael Chabon’s “Fountain City”? Last fall, McSweeney’s published the first four chapters in its Issue 36, in a box shaped like a head. Does this remind anyone else of zombie brains?