Monday’s (July 1, 2013) Houston Chronicle stunned me with the news that a lost manuscript of one of my all-time favorite authors has surfaced. Then I got to thinking that since Buck was such a prodigious writer, there just might be more!
The title, The Eternal Wonder, was written in Vermont and turned up – of all places – in a storage locker in Texas. Buck’s son, Edgar Walsh, has no idea how it ended up there, but is now able to confirm that it was indeed her last novel, written in her late 70s when she knew she was dying of lung cancer. The disease eventually took her on March 6, 1973, in Danby, Vermont.
Most folks around my age got to know her from The Good Earth, required reading in high school Lit classes at the time. Then there was some flap in the late 60s about it being “licentious” (huh?) and it was probably pulled from school reading lists. But it was a profound, memorable read that’s stayed with me over the years. The great novels tend to do that. A couple of years ago I happened onto a 1945 first edition Portrait of a Marriage, a work I hadn’t even heard of, at an indie book store where I was doing a signing. It’s now one of my special treasures.Pearl S. Buck was born on June 26, 1892, in Hillsboro, West Virginia. Her parents, Southern Presbyterian missionaries, moved to China when she was 3 months old. She lived there most her life, until 1934. In 1930, she published her first novel, East Wind, West Wind. Her next novel, The Good Earth, earned her a Pulitzer Prize in 1932. In 1938, Buck became the first American female Nobel laureate.
As well as a writing career, she launched the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, which focused on women’s and minority’s rights in both America and China, and the adoption of mixed-race children.Being the preeminent American writer of Chinese village life did not wear well with The Cultural Revolution. The new Communist leadership denounced her as an "American cultural imperialist" and forbid her from returning to China as planned with the Richard Nixon visit in 1972. Buck was heartbroken.
But I for one will be eagerly awaiting The Eternal Wonder which will be published by Open Road Media in both digital and hard copy versions. The only blurb in the Chronicle reads: “(The story) follows a brilliant young man named Randolph Colfax through his adolescence and education to a romance with a beautiful Chinese girl and Paris and New York.”Good enough. I’ll buy it!