It’s been two years since Mississippi writer Larry Brown died, and his unpublished works are starting to trickle out.
Field & Stream has picked up the first nonfiction story he ever wrote, about an albino coon. And his last novel, A Miracle of Catfish, will appear next March in its unfinished form. Here’s an excerpt from editor Shannon Ravenel’s explanation (which appears in the galley proof) of how she approached editing Brown’s 710-page draft:
Never having edited a manuscript for posthumous publication, I consulted other novelists and critics about the kind of editing I might do and should do under such circumstances. Our conversations led to a consensus that makingn any changes — substantive or minor — to the plot, the structure, the characterizations, would be inappropriate. No word changes, no syntax changes, and certainly no effort at “ending” this novel should be made. (The author’s notes of his plans for the final chapters, typed in at the end of a rough table of contents, were found amount his papers. They follow the last pages of the novel as written.
But what about cuts? The towering 710 page manuscript on my desk reminded me of the first draft manuscripts of two of Larry Brown’s earlier books, Joe and Fay, and I felt strongly that some cutting — to streamline the narrative and lighten some sections that went on past the point — was in order. But I also felt that cuts to the manuscript would be permissible only if the printed book were designed so that the reader would know where these had been made; by the same token, scholars could easily compare the book with the original archived manuscript.
Image taken from Ole Miss.