The Help Desk: Is there publishing after death?

Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to

Dear Cienna,

What do you think about posthumously releasing books that authors didn’t want us to see? On the one hand, you get unnecessary books like Nabokov’s The Original of Laura, and on the other, there’s Kafka’s entire oeuvre. I’m torn.

Shelton, Winslow

Dear Shelton,

Speaking as a living human being (I DARE YOU TO PROVE OTHERWISE), I enjoy writing because of its control – my mouth often doesn't convey meaning nearly as well as my human fingers do. I believe many writers feel this way about their work; at it's best, it's the truest expression of their ideas and intentions. Anything less than its best is a work in progress.

So yes, I find it problematic that someone else would take that control away and publish a writer's work without consent – or worse, against their express wishes, as was the case with much of Kafka's work and Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, which I refuse to read because in addition to resentful uterus syndrome and arachnofealty, I've been diagnosed with a deferential corpse complex.

That said, I don't believe in any afterlife, so the part of me that's dead inside doesn't really give a fuck whether they're published or not, and I don't believe Lee or Kafka care at this point either.