Dug through many storage lockers lately? Found any Pearl Buck masterpieces?
June 7, 2013
My wife is not particularly enamored with my television viewing habits.
She thinks my tastes should be a little more sophisticated. After all, I am married to her, and she is fashionable any day of the week.
She thinks my tastes should be a little more learned. After all, I do have a degree from The University of Texas, which is suspect as more of a football school than a college.
She thinks my tastes should be a little more learned. After all, I am a writer, for God’s sakes.
But I know what I like.
And I watch what I like.
I watch Storage Wars.
I am fascinated with those little gems that trash prospectors uncover when they buy storage lockers whose owners are way behind on their rent.
The great unknown intrigues me. What’s lurking behind the big door? That’s the mystery. That’s what is grabbing my attention and keeping it locked in a death grip.
I am, however, feeling somewhat vindicated this morning.
Tucked away in a Fort Worth, Texas, storage unit, purchased by a little lady who buys the contents of abandoned lockers for a living, were two manuscripts – one handwritten and one typed – not much more than a loosely stacked pile of papers that could have easily been overlooked and thrown away.
Thank God the little lady was learned.
We are eternally grateful because she was literary.
We’re delighted she finished the ninth grade.
She had heard the name of Pearl Buck before.
Within the dark confines of the unit, she had found the long, lost manuscript of Pearl S. Buck, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, winner of the Nobel Prize, the author of more than a hundred books and forty-three novels, regarded as one of the world’s most influential authors of all time.
She had grown up as the daughter of missionaries to China. Her novel, The Good Earth, in fact, was credited with playing a major role in shaping Western thinking about China. It has been described as “a rich and truly epic description of peasant life” in the country. Many, such as the Nobel Prize committee, referred to it as a biographical masterpiece.
More than three decades later, however, Pearl Buck had written one final book just before cancer claimed her in 1971. She called the novel, The Eternal Wonder, and it has been authenticated and viewed as the coming of age tale of a young man who ends up on patrol in the Korean demilitarized zone. In his travels, he finds love and romance. The story, says the estate’s literary agent Michael Carlisle, possesses some of Pearl Buck’s common themes, in literature: intercultural relationships, travel, and China – Asia in General.”
For more than forty years, the manuscript remained lost.
But no one was looking for it.
No one knew it existed.
Then someone happened to buy a storage unit in Fort Worth.
And the literary world was given a new masterpiece. At least the literati had a new book written by a literary giant and in her own handwriting.
No one knows who owned the manuscript.
No one knows how or when or why the manuscript was taken from Pearl Buck’s custody.
No one knows how, of all places, it wound up in Fort Worth.
No one has any idea of why it was tucked in a back corner of a storage locker.
But a Texan found it.
A Texan turned it over to the Pearl Buck Estate.
And all she took was a small finder’s fee.
The manuscript may well be worth a fortune.
So how did the Fort Worth area react to the discovery?
The owner of an auction house said: “That’s cool.”
And a librarian said, “I’ll be durned.”
The literary agent pointed out, “This a very, very exciting moment for anybody who loves the oeuvre of Pearl Buck.”
I doubt if anybody in Fort Worth knew what “oeuvre” meant.
I doubt if anybody in Fort Worth cared.
But the estate, the agent, and a publisher are frantically working to release the Pearl Buck novel in October.
It will be distributed as an eBook.
If you feel the ground rumbling beneath your feet, it’s Pearl Buck turning over in her grave.
I no longer watch Storage Wars.
It’s a waste of time.
I’m saving my money.
I want to buy a locker.
Maybe the next one will hold a Hemingway.