Page Advice

500 Words

Hollands writes in …

What do you do when a favorite living author dies? Do you read posthumous publications? Do you read novels that take place in that universe written by other authors?  Do you feel guilty when you miss literary news about the author years after they die?

Brea: As far as I know, Hollands, you are not the celebrity-writer-funeral director, so don’t feel guilty for not noticing someone whose work you love has died. (By the way, if you are the celebrity-writer-funeral director, I am excited to read your autobiography.) Just because you weren’t on Twitter the day your favorite writer died doesn’t make you a bad person. Feel bad if you forgot to feed your hamster and it died. Not if you aren’t keeping up with strangers on the Internet.

Mallory: Not to be too depressing, but, um, they’re dead. They don’t care either way. They aren’t floating like a ghost above you, judging your reading choices. Well, they might. Let’s not count that out. But they have specialists for that. When an author you love dies, it’s totally up to you how you honor their death. Some authors are staunchly against posthumous publications of their work, like Terry Pratchett, who wanted all his unfinished work destroyed by a steamroller. But some authors didn’t say either way and their publishers released cool collections of their unfinished or unpublished work, like the recent Shirley Jackson collection Let Me Tell You. If you’re not sure either way, why don’t you reread your favorite work by them, or pick up that one thing by them that you have been meaning to read for years?

Brea: I recently read Michelle McNamara’s true crime book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, which was published posthumously. Michelle was very passionate about the Golden State Killer case and I think getting it out there to the world was important to her. Publishing the book was a great way to celebrate her life, and in the end, helped to catch the killer. How many authors can say that? Celebrating someone’s work is a great way to celebrate what they were passionate about, and therefore, their lives.

Mallory: If other writers start to write stories in the universe your favorite author created, check it out if you want! If you have read everything that author wrote but miss spending time in the world they created, it can be a great way to get back there and discover new writers at the same time.

Brea: I am also very pro reading-in-that-author’s-universe. It’s hard to imagine anyone saying, “No! This world is just for me.” Writers write because they want to share their world with others. I love the idea of taking something you love and working within the framework set up by the author. I’m super fascinated by Kindle Worlds right now, which is doing exactly that. There are other ways to celebrate that author’s passing, too. Maybe this year, everyone gets your favorite author’s book for their birthday? Maybe give five stars to every one of their pieces of literature on Goodreads? Maybe it’s as simple as going to revisit the ones you already have on your shelf.

© Brea Grant and Mallory O’Meara

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1 Comment

  1. Vincent H. O'Neil

    Tremendous advice as always! Entertaining, informative, and sage.

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