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The unfinished book business

IT might seem odd citing Vladimir Nabokov and Stephen Gately in the same sentence, but just as I received my copy of the former's The Original of Laura -- the author's 'unfinished masterpiece'-- I also saw the news item that the book that Gately had been working on before his death has been snapped up by British publisher Hodder & Stoughton, with Hachette Ireland securing the rights to the book here.

The Tree of Seasons is a children's fantasy about a group of friends who encounter a magical world in a nearby forest where nobody had ever dared to go. In this world there are four kingdoms, each stuck in an individual season.

The manuscript, however, was unfinished at the time of Gately's death, and it is left to the other members of Boyzone to complete it. Yes, you have to wonder. Presumably the remaining four members represent a season each and there is something symbolic in it all. The book is already flagged on Amazon, with a release date scheduled for April.

Ironically, the book that Nabokov had been working on before his death in 1977 was originally called Dying is Fun. And unlike the rush job that Gately's tome is experiencing, Nabokov's somewhat poorly received book was debated over for more than 30 years before his son decided to complete it, fearing the world was missing out on a literary marvel.

Nabokov had left instructions for the manuscript to be destroyed. The 'manuscript' actually being a scatter of index cards, which have been printed individually in the book above the actual text. It's certainly a wonderful package, but the story itself is difficult to navigate, clumsy for the most part, yet it has that air of mystery that can only come from being an 'unfinished masterpiece'.

William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Hemingway, Kafka and many other classic writers have left behind unfinished books. Michael Crichton had a book published posthumously last month, Pirate Latitudes. No, me neither. Though Spielberg is apparently keen on adapting it. You have to wonder that if the gods were meant to bless a book it would be finished in an author's lifetime. Many hands have certainly made fast and light work of Gately's book; Elton John has even written the foreword.

Well, let's wait and see.


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