Collecting New Authors
A book that requires the reader's participation
By Bruce McKinney
I recently discovered an author whose work I admire: Katharine Weber. She teaches at Yale and writes fiction through the eyes and voices of women. The novels I read are Objects in Mirror Are Closer than they Appear , The Music Lesson  and The Little Women . In these books women are complete people, the equal of men, capable of creating and surviving life's sturm und drang. Her first book was Objects, which involved her imagination but not mine. Her second book, The Music Lesson is, I think, her best. It is a very spare story, the tale of an independent, clear-minded woman gone to Ireland for infatuation and a purpose. Her most recent book, The Little Women, is a 21st century rewrite of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, an entertaining construction set in New York and New Haven: an amusing story.
None of these books will change your life but they are all very well done and you may find in Ms. Weber someone to grow old with. Just as writers need their readers so to do readers need their writers and I suggest she may be an enduring interest. At 50 she should be writing interesting books for years to come.
Because I liked her material I asked two contemporary fiction dealers whether they knew her work and how one would go about collecting a new author. Neither had read her material and both expressed some interest in looking at her books. As to how to collect her work or, for that matter, any other new writer a reader discovers this is what I learned.
Success and recognition as an author does not, of itself, make an author collectable. Objects was a New York Times Notable Book as was the Music Lesson. In fact, in almost a dozen ways her work has been recognized although perhaps not quite to the point of being recognizable. Collecting's judgment seems to come some ten to fifteen years later when a variety of factors have had a chance to lodge themselves in the dealer's and collector's cumulative psyches. In the early years, the author's place in the field lies unattended and often unrecognized while history considers to anoint. Until that day the strong minded and opinionated can buy for a song what an opera will not procure in a few years if the cognoscenti have then chosen Ms. Weber for a permanent star in the literary firmaments.
Until that day you can parse Ms. Weber's books for sale on-line in all the shades of condition and form beginning at $1.00 plus handling. At this end of the for-sale lists there is little if any really collectible material. Reversing the order to read from highest price down confirms that Ms. Weber's material may be loaded in cannons for their flight into space but, as of today, the gunpowder has not yet been lit. We know this because while there are 238 of Katherine Weber items [searched with the date range 1990 to 2005] on ABE today, the most expensive is $65.00, a modest sum for a signed first in pristine condition. I suggest it's a bargain.
Collecting New Authors
Ms. Weber's acclaimed first book.
For those interested to know more Google provides an effective way to collect Katharine Weber material. For starters there is the Katharine Weber website: www.katharineweber.com which provides news about her, her career and her books. There is a mention that The Music Lesson has been selected by Martha Stewart as one of "Martha's Favorite Books." The segment aired February 11, 2003. No mention is made whether Martha had a chance recently to re-read this title or other Weber titles while vacationing, as a guest of the government, in West Virginia.
Scrolling down the Google list of matches there is Fantasticfiction.com which says it provides a complete bibliography but lists only books. She certainly has written pieces shorter than novels and I suspect, if I set my mind to it, I can figure out what they are. What I'm looking for is a "catalogue raisone" in progress: a full list of all the ways to collect her work. It's a logical addition to her site but I don't find it. There is however a New & Current section that contains information that would be part of it. It's a start.
In total there are 772 Google matches for "Katharine Weber" [in quotes] so there is plenty of material for her fans to sift through.
As for myself, I'll be reading her books as they are released and I'll be hoping for another along the lines of The Music Lesson, a great example of impressionist writing, by which I mean, a story suggested rather than told. She left enough unsaid for me to complete the story with my own impressions, memories and ideas.
Whether she becomes a collectible author in the years ahead I can not say. But for reading today she's a great talent with an interesting style of expression.