Saturday, July 25, 2015

On Beyond Atticus

In light of the revelation that Atticus Fitch was really a racist as portrayed in the recently published "Go Tell a Watchman," what other literary revisionist histories are waiting to be discovered? 

"A Dutiful Son." In this never published prequel that foreshadows the events in the "The Great Gatsby," F. Scott. Fitzgerald imagines a young boy named Jackard who gives a first person account of growing up at the turn of the century on the desolate Northern Plains. In the book, Jackard (whom his father calls Jay) takes over the family farm in North Dakota after his parents are killed in by a tornado. A note scribbled under the title says "Scott: Thanks for letting me take a look. Pretty bleak stuff. What if he grew up and became rich instead? Love, Mummy."  

"The Odyssey of Leopold Bloom." Just discovered in a basement in Dublin in a cardboard box along with a bottle of Old Bushmills, this seemingly early effort by Joyce chronicles the story of a sexual repressed Irish accountant. Spanning six decades, it begins with his coming of age encounters with girls in his village and school, on through his flirtations at university, then his 2 marriages and 3 affairs, ending with him reminiscing about the indignities of old age in a rest home. A piece of paper tucked inside the flyleaf bears the masthead "O'Malley & Sons, Purveyors of Fine Books," and says in a measured hand, "Good story, but seems to drag. Perhaps you might compress the time frame a bit? Not to a single day, but somewhat tighter? That said, love the Odysseus framework! Can't wait to see the next draft!"  

"I, The Flower." Found inside a copy of "Mein Kampf" at a sidewalk sale in Prague, and bearing the initials "FK" under the title, this handwritten short story tells of a shoe salesman who goes to sleep next to his wife and wakes up as a potted geranium on the windowsill of their bedroom. While despondent at his disappearance, she assumes the flower was left by him as a parting gift, and nurtures it in hopes it will bring his return. In the same hand but a different ink on the back page is scribbled, "Rubbish! Too cute! What if he turned into a dog? Cat? Maybe something darker?"  

"La Grande Princesse." A French fable about a pilot stranded in the desert who meets a princess who falls from a star. Discovered in an old trunk at the flea market at Les Puces in Paris, it works both as a children's book and as an allegorical tale about the world of adults. A note scrawled on the back says "Antonine: Peut-ĂȘtre un prince? Un petit un? Claude." (Translation: "Perhaps a prince? A small one?").  

"The Rhett Chronicles." A series of notebooks unearthed during the remodeling of the Southern Ladies Society Building in the Buckhead section of Atlanta, this sweeping portrait of the South set during the Civil War follows the exploits of Raymond "Rhett" Butler from Mobile, Alabama, the eldest son of a family of peanut farmers who joins the Confederate Army. The notebooks were tied together with a ribbon, and included a piece of lined notepaper which said in part, "As to this, feels long. Might work better if told from the point of view of one of the women. Melanie? Scarlett? Happy to read another draft. Worry about it tomorrow. Dance tonight! With love, Cousin Ashley."  

"The Wise Old Bear." A ragged hand-stitched children's book complete with illustrations found inside an old trunk at an antiques sale at Covent Garden, it's about a bear who goes into hibernation and sleeps through ten winters to emerge as the oldest and wisest animal in the forest. All the other animals come to ask his advice, which he dispenses as cryptic aphorisms in a gruff voice. Attached by a paper clip to the inside front cover is a note: "AA, thanks for giving me a look. Great stuff! But if you want the kiddies, maybe same stuff as an origin story? Fuzzy the Teddy or some other rubbish, eh? Give ‘em what they want! That's what you told me to do with my Flying Peter! See you at cricket practice. Barrie."


Marc Wollin of Bedford NY wonders "what if?" His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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