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Like daytime television (on PBS)

Often, the stories behind books are almost as interesting as the books themselves. In the case of lost manuscripts, speculation abounds concerning the contents of books – in the words of Stuart Kelly, “The lost book, like the person you never dared ask to the dance, becomes infinitely more alluring simply because it can be perfect only in the imagination” – while the stories behind books, often all we have left of them, take on greater significance.

An adapted excerpt of Kelly’s new book, an exploration of the histories of could-have-been famous books that never were called The Book of Lost Books, appears on this week’s online edition of the Weekend Australian. Telling the stories of lost works by Gogol, Plath, Hemingway, Aeschylus, Shakespeare, and others, his fascinating account connects books to the vagaries of their writers and historical contexts. In plots reminiscent of daytime TV dramas, writers are stricken with pious desires to burn their manuscripts, boxes of letters are buried in gardens in the anticipation of war, suitcases containing important manuscripts are left at the train station, and scandalous memoirs are destroyed to protect reputations. Oh, the intrigue!

Related links:
Click here for the adapted excerpt of The Book of Lost Books