Sometimes your best stuff winds up on the cutting-room floor. Back when I wrote Twenty-five Books that Shaped America, Moby-Dick came in at twenty-six. Instead, I included a children’s book about a lost girl and her dog. Okay, and some odd friends and a number of witches and a corrupt leader. I knew I was being naughty, but this book undoubtedly reached many more readers and perhaps has a longer cultural reach. But when I submitted the manuscript and (after a couple of weeks) got an email with the subject line, The Wizard or the Whale, I knew I was busted. I also knew that every review would take me to task for omitting a universally acclaimed (even by those who haven’t read it) masterpiece. So I reread the book for the first time in many, many years and wrote the chapter all in under two weeks. More than one reviewer singled it out for particular praise, demonstrating once more that I don’t know what I’m doing.
Maybe I just haven’t been working fast enough.
I’ve always grieved a little over deleting this chapter. I had a great time writing it, in part because like many of you, for a long time I only knew the movie, and if you only know the movie, you don’t know the half of it. Over the intervening years, I have semi-promised (or threatened) a number of folks that I might one day make the chapter available. It is now on my website; here is the link: The Lost Wizard Chapter.