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A race against time

Michael Chabon’s 1995 novel Wonder Boys immortalized the fictional Grady Tripp, an author who keeps plugging away at his overlong and long-overdue magnum opus. Now author Jonathan Mahler looks at some real-life wonder boys (and girls) in an essay for the New York Times. He writes: “Industry people agree that the endless extension has gone the way of the lavish book party, that it is now a luxury available only to the most bankable authors.”

Among the long, long-awaited projects he mentions are books by Fran Lebowitz, Diane McWhorter, and biographers Richard Parker and Megan Marshall. Especially chilling, perhaps, is the example of author Marguerite Young. According to Mahler, Young decided to follow up Miss MacIntosh, My Darling (a 1,200-page stream-of-consciousness novel) with “a short, palate-cleansing book about the Socialist labor leader, Eugene V. Debs.” Young worked on that project for 30 years, until her death in 1995; when the book was published posthumously, it covered less than half of Debs’ life.

Related links:
New York Times story about long-awaited projects