Sunday, February 8

Harper Lee and her not new novel

Go Set a Watchman is the soon-to-be published not-new novel. The press has been having a field day speculating about the manuscript, positing conspiracy theories, suggesting that Lee's lawyer is claiming to have uncovered a manuscript that was not really written by Harper Lee, and offering up theories that there are many who are trying to take advantage of Harper Lee.

We could ask why. Why go after Harper Lee? Sure, To Kill a Mockingbird is and has been a hugely popular book. Sure, people have long wondered why Lee never wrote another novel. Sure, people have often talked about Lee's unwillingness to be a celebrity and public figure, calling her reclusive. So it stands to reason the controversy would get a bit out of hand, with some asserting that Lee isn't capable of knowing and acknowledging the history of Go Set a Watchman while others state she remains "sharp as a tack."

Several, including The New York Times, have reported that Go Set a Watchman was actually Harper Lee's first novel, but her editor rejected it and that Lee was told to write a "version from Scout's perspective as a young girl."

Harper Lee is not alone in being a hugely successful writer who chose to publish no other novels. Others include Margaret Mitchell, Ralph Ellison, Boris Pasternak, Syliva Plath, and Emily Bronte. While J.D. Salinger wrote several short stories, his only novel was Catcher in the Rye.

I appreciated Mary Schmich's column stating that this may be a mystery that doesn't need solving.

Let's assume she is well enough and being taken care of, that she has enough of her sensibilities to respond the way her caretakers, family, and lawyer suggest. And let's assume that it's really up to her, then, and them to make the decision about whether or not to publish the thing. And let's assume it really is a manuscript believed lost. Which makes the find that much more exciting.

I'm content to leave the conspiracy speculation to others. I'm not sure I'm going to add my name to the pre-order list as I'm not sure I want to read about Scout as a grown-up though it might be interesting to read the story that might have been intended to be first, and think about what Lee needed to do to construct the story that preceded and informed Go Set a Watchman.

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