What does it say about contemporary American culture that two of the most celebrated novels of our time have never, in fact, seen print—namely, Truman Capote’s Answered Prayers and Harold Brodkey’s A Party of Animals? Think of it: for decades, while many a gifted but obscure novelist presented his work to the world only to emerge with his gifts and his obscurity intact, both Capote and Brodkey garnered an astonishing amount of media attention and critical acclaim simply by offering, in place of their respective long-awaited masterworks, the occasional newsy tidbit about how the works-in-progress were coming along and how magnificent they were going to be. Both writers demonstrated the peculiar truth that in this media-centered age, a book that actually exists between hard covers is news for only one day, while a book that remains little more than a gleam in its author’s eye can stay...


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