September 19, 2016
Extremely dedicated novelist runs into burning house to save manuscripts
by Liam O’Brien
Existing outside the history of literature is the shadow history of lost books. Whether stolen, destroyed, or simply surrendered to obscurity, these works live on only as a promise of what they could have been — and a reminder of the fragility of art produced in a chaotic world. (I think I’ve actually read a book about this very topic. It was pretty great, if I recall…)
But in the modern era, when digital media allows for endless reproduction at little to no cost, it’s harder to lose all extant copies of a given book. That is, unless your book is a manuscript, and it’s not saved anywhere but your laptop, and your house just happens to catch on fire.
Which is exactly what happened to writer Gideon Hodge of New Orleans — whose quick reaction led to the kind of brave/wildly reckless behavior that makes headlines. Matt Sledge of the New Orleans Advocate reports:
Gideon Hodge, 35, describes himself as a playwright, novelist and actor. When his fiancée told him that their apartment was on fire, he left work in Mid-City and rushed to the scene. That’s when he realized that his only copies of two completed novels were on a laptop inside.
Clad in a T-shirt that said #photobomb next to an illustration of the Joker photobombing Batman and Robin, Hodge dashed into the building. He ran past the smoke and the firefighters yelling at him to stop and managed to grab the precious laptop.
“Anybody that’s ever created art, there’s no replacing that,” Hodge said. “It’s got pretty much my life’s work.”
Hodge said he did not hesitate before running in. “Despite my better sense, I just ran inside and grabbed it,” he said. “I didn’t think to be scared.”
The incident was captured on film. In the clip Hodge slips past firefighters to retrieve the laptop, which was shielded from water damage by a table, and emerges moments later. Unfortunately, the rest of the house and its contents were destroyed.
Hodge’s friends have set up a GoFundMe page for him and his fiancee. In the meantime, he appears to have finally seen the advantages of backing up your work.
Inspired by the near loss of his archives, Hodge said he planned to save everything on his computer on multiple drives and store them away from his home, should, say, that home catch on fire.
Liam O’Brien is the Senior Sales & Marketing Manager at Melville House, and a former bookseller.