The Ransom Center is on a buying binge, but not with the long-dead titans of literature in mind. Instead, the library is pursuing the private papers of contemporary authors. This fall, the center locked down the papers of the living Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee—spending $1.5 million on more than 160 boxes containing drafts, notebooks, and letters, among other things. It’s also scooping up material belonging to authors like Denis Johnson, Jayne Anne Phillips, Julian Barnes, and Steve Martin (yes, that one). The congratulatory letters that Johnson received after writing Tree of Smoke, or the note he wrote to his family about playing guitar—these may seem mundane now, but the Ransom Center is betting that the novelist just might become the next Hawthorne or Hemingway (whose papers it already has), or maybe the next David Foster Wallace (whose papers it recently scored).