I am reading a British Twitter writer’s book called Fraud written by Peter Davey. The author’s website called Goodreads often asks us what we are ‘currently reading.’ I am not that far into the book but it centers on the compromise of a writer’s manuscript. In this age of advanced technology, we hear stories, almost every day, about valued documents or financial accounts being stolen, hacked or attacked by outsiders. Feelings of intrusion and vulnerability are prevalent in an era when precious documents can be defrauded and our assets or identities are at stake.
I was reminded of a story that I had heard earlier about a famous author losing his writings. At first I thought it was Flaubert, but after further research, I found the story I had in mind. During the summer of 2011, I did an author study of Hemingway. I often study one author at a time and focus on all or some of those works along with a biography. I started that enterprise after reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, which was a hot item at that time. It focused on Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley and their times in Paris.
That led me to further study him and his works at an adult age where I could fully appreciate his messages. I drove to Oak Park, where he was born, visited the Hemingway Museum and went on a tour of his boyhood home which is right down the street from the museum. I went on to read: The Sun Also Rises; A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls. I also read his last wife, Mary Hemingway’s account of their lives together in How it Was.
All of this leads back to the main point. I found the story that I was looking for about a lost manuscript. His first wife, Hadley put down a piece of luggage at the train station Gare de Lyon in Paris. She was going to meet him in Switzerland. She went to get a bottle of water (Evian) and when she returned, the luggage was gone. It had all of his manuscripts in it along with their carbon copies. What a horror? He later wrote Ezra Pound about the incident and he said, “Good, etc. But don’t say it to me. I ain’t yet reached that mood.”
Well, today, many writers’ works are being digitized and scanned to make sure that these types of things occur less often. Even though this lost work of Hemingway’s was not published, libraries are now taking extra precautions to make sure that published works are safeguarded.
E-books and in my case self-published books help get rid of those little pockets of handwritten manuscripts and notes that may be seen as junk and thrown away. In the article about Hemingway’s lost works, someone mused and wondered whether his writings were thrown away when they did not see jewels or what they perceived as valuables. Or, they continued to wonder if the writing would turn up in some attic years later once someone saw that it is the writing of a Nobel Prize winning author.
But, as I was searching for this story, I came across a recent undertaking that did involve Flaubert’s works. Now, the University and the Municipal Library of the city of Rouen in France have scanned the entire manuscript of Madame Bovary. “One hundred thirty volunteers from a dozen countries, of all ages and professions were recruited for the transcription which took two and a half years, between 2003-2005. Each page represents the equivalent of half a day to a full day of study, Flaubert’s handwriting being difficult to read and sown with barred text.” (Madame Bovary original manuscripts available online). They have even scanned his handwritten notes written in the margin and because they now see the pricelessness of his personal annotations.
Thank goodness for digital literacy and the new way to safeguard our works. That was one of my reasons for self-publishing. My first reason centered on the fact that I hoped that my writing could help or guide others. The second reason was a way to bind those snippets of paper lying around. This is how my book Traveling Streams came into existence. Now, writers have a better chance of protecting their manuscripts through the digitized media and saving it in multiple places, knowing that we can access it from different points.
Lynn September 9, 2014