Yesterday the bookternet exploded with the news that Harper Lee is going to publish a new book. Yes, that Harper Lee. The new book, Go Set A Watchman, is reputedly a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird. Everyone, it seems, is jubilant with the news. I’m a little more circumspect, shall we say.
Like just about everyone else in the free world, I loved To Kill A Mockingbird. It was brilliant, sensitive, and so, so important. It is just one of THOSE books. And yes, I have always wished that Lee had written more. But not like this.
Lee has lived a quite life, avoiding the spotlight. She is now an old woman, who is reported to be quite deaf, nearly blind, confined to a wheelchair most of the time and suffering from memory loss. And yet, her name has entered the headlines numerous times over the past two years with a hint of scandal attached to it.
First, in 2013 Lee launched a complaint against the son-in-law of her former agent, accusing him of trying to ‘dupe’ her into signing over the copyright of To Kill A Mockingbird to him. The alleged events took place after she suffered a stroke in 2007.
Then in 2014 she was once again involved in legal proceedings – this time with the local museum, accused of using the name of her book for profit and publicity. They settled for an undisclosed amount.
And now this. It all seems like a lot of commotion for a woman who wanted to live a quite life, outside of the spotlight. It almost seems as though someone in the background is orchestrating all of this. Moreover, Lee could have published Watchman anytime in the past 54 years, as it was written before Mockingbird. So why didn’t she?
All this leads to the inevitable question – am I going to read Watchman? Maybe. If I do I will go into it knowing that it won’t be as good as Mockingbird. It just can’t be. Also, the publisher is putting it out ‘as is’. Never a good idea in my mind. Mockingbird underwent several drafts and that is part of what made it so great.
But the publication of Watchman will be the publishing event of the summer, so I can hardly sit back and not read it. It’s just not in me.
What are you going to do? What are your feelings on this issue?