Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New light on the neglected.

An unexpected sidelight to the Authors Guild's lawsuit against HathiTrust is the attention it has garnered for authors and works that may have been neglected in recent years (although I was stunned that J. R. Salamanca's The Lost Country [1958] initially was included in HathiTrust's orphan works list. Prof. Salamanca was a major presence at University of Maryland––College Park when I was a student there and has just signed an ebook deal for one of his works).

James Gould Cozzens,
from the cover of the
Jan. 4, 1936, Saturday
Review of Literature
One work initially on HathiTrust's orphaned list (pulled when the heir of the estate, Harvard, was revealed) was Pulitzer Prize winner James Gould Cozzens's first novel, Confusion (1924), which he published at age 21 and is deemed by Daniel S. Burt in The Chronology of American Literature (2004) to be "pretentiously overwritten" (371). Cozzens himself ended up not thinking much of the novel, which focuses on the search by a young Frenchwoman to realize her ambitions.

Cozzens is on the Haycraft-Queen Cornerstone list for his fine novel The Just and the Unjust (1942; about the effects of a murder on a small town, especially its implications for the ambitious assistant DA. A 1942 issue of Esquire chose The Just and the Unjust as a good Christmas present for an "average reader," along with Maugham's The Hour before the Dawn).

Cozzens also wrote "Foot in It" (Redbook 1935; repr. as "Clerical Error," EQMM June 1950 and Muller & Pronzini, eds., Chapter & Hearse; adapted for Tales of the Unexpected, 1983). Raymond Chandler thought highly of Cozzens's Guard of Honor (1948). Gordon Van Ness has written an interesting essay about Cozzens's work in honor of Cozzens biographer Matthew J. Bruccoli, including Cozzens's criticism of Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, and Capote as well as his own work: "To learn to write and to write decently is simply a much longer and harder thing than is generally admitted" (203).

I also found that full text of Leslie Ford's The Girl from the Mimosa Club (1957, selected by Mystery Loves Company bookstore as one of the best mysteries of the 20th century) is in the HathiTrust library. After consulting with author Marcia Talley (who knows a lot about Ford's oeuvre and personal background), checking copyright records, and reviewing copyright law, I think it probably did go out of copyright.

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