Should Unfinished Works by Deceased Artists be Completed?

In the wake of the passing of the legendary writer Jim Harrison I ask: Should his unfinished works be completed by another writer? Or be released unfinished?

Jim Harrison in February 2008.  Jim Harrison

I lost a fellow writer in my circle who’d left several unfinished works behind. Family members made mention of finishing them and seeking publication. To my knowledge, nothing came of this. And I wasn’t sure how I would have felt about seeing his work altered or added to by someone else. Would it still be his?

I saw a television piece on Unfinished Works by authors Charles Dickens, Ian Fleming, and Jane Austen. When passersby were polled, they responded that they’d rather have the unfinished piece of work than seeing it completed by someone other than the original artist. And I agree.

 

   Charles Dickens

 

Ian Fleming

Jane Austen

This is not to be confused with the co-writing of mainstream authors with others such as James Patterson and Janet Evanovich. Those authors are hands-on, with final say over the finished works. That is also not the same as when a copyright expires and the work becomes public domain. Ian Fleming’s James Bond continues to live through the pens of other authors, but they must meet the strict requirements of the agent of Fleming’s estate to maintain the integrity of the character.

Did you know that the face of George Washington on U.S. One Dollar note was an unfinished work?

But I think the important portion was already completed by the artist. It wouldn’t matter if someone else filled in the coat and backdrop.

I think unfinished work should remain that way if the artist has left the building. I wouldn’t want anyone finishing mine.

Thoughts?

For more on Jim Harrison: http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/27/entertainment/author-jim-harrison-obit-legends-fall-feat/index.html

 

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