Hello, faithful readers! This month, I am pleased to announce the results of an investigation I started several months ago. At the beginning of the school year, I formulated a hunch on the hidden history of literature. Surely, there are some books, plays, and the like that haven’t seen the light of day, right? Launching off this thought, which I built with absolutely no factual evidence to back me up, I asked clay Magazine’s on-call team of student detectives to find the greatest forgotten literary works of all time. Finally, on April 1st, they were ready to show me what they found. But were these masterpieces forgotten, or did the authors hide them intentionally?
We all know and love Edgar Allan Poe. The dark, mysterious poetry and short stories for which he is most know have left many readers on the edges of their seats. But could you picture him as a stand-up comedian? His foray into humor goes beyond his handful of published comedic stories; the detectives have uncovered several photographs and a written transcript of a stand-up show that took place in 1848. It is difficult to know what was said word-for-word, as the written notes had a disclaimer saying, “Warning: This transcript was written by a deaf man who does not know how to read lips.” According to this man’s account, though, Poe said many jokes about then-current events, including the Seneca Falls Convention and Wisconsin’s admission into the United States.
This is not a picture of Edgar Allan Poe.
F. Scott Fitzgerald is celebrated for his depictions of the 1920s, especially in his novel The Great Gatsby. At one point, though, Fitzgerald decided he was tired of the Roaring 20s, and he wanted to be known for something else. His hidden work, entitled January of 1930, details life immediately after the Jazz Age. He describes how many things completely changed on New Year’s Day as that iconic decade came to an end, detailing things such as the calendar and not much else. That is to say, he wrote approximately 90,000 words about one insignificant change that did not have any meaningful effect on those who experienced it. The chapters are ordered chronologically, with one chapter per four-and-one-third minutes after midnight. At the time, I’m sure this one dissimilarity in the date made a world of difference, and it is entirely possible Fitzgerald refrained from publishing it to keep from disrupting the status quo with what he saw as an entirely unique and profound work. While the subject matter may not be the best, January of 1930 is still a treasure because all of us can learn from it. We can look back on the unnecessarily long word count and obvious lack of direction and mimic these things in our own writing.
The final and most important discovery of them all comes in the form of an eyewitness account. Following the creation of Richard III, Shakespeare spoke with his friend Eraepsekahs, saying “My one true goal in writing this play is that someday, one particular line will become so iconic that a group of students will create a parody of it. I hope they vote to use it for a bizarre work via some sort of survey form, possibly online, though someone would need to invent that first. I sincerely hope they decide to turn this parody line into a title for something, preferably a collaborative story in their school newspaper.” Eraepsekahs wrote every word of this quote into one of his journals, amazed at the specificity of Shakespeare’s dream. This was uncovered after the publication of “My Kingdom For a Purple Cow,” the Round Robin entry from Team Corrie Anna, which was declared by the student body of The Potter’s School to be the better of two short story competitors. It truly warmed my heart to know that we fulfilled Shakespeare’s wish all these years later.
What should we do with all of this information? We may never know. Perhaps it would be good to endlessly call and email the College Board until they update the AP English Literature Exam to include some of these discoveries. Or we could all rally to secure a Broadway theater to rip off an author and adapt one of these works into a musical. All of that may have to wait for a while, though, as I’m off to accept a Nobel Prize for Literature. I’ll be back next month with an equally fascinating, equally factual article. See you then!
Trust me, I know what I’m talking about here.