It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird | Thomas M. Doran | CWR blog
News that Harper Lee, at 88, is publishing a newly discovered manuscript raises a number of difficult and troubling questions
Full disclosure: I'm a lifelong admirer of Harper Lee. My book, Terrapin, was inspired, in part, by her storytelling in To Kill A Mockingbird. We corresponded in the 1990s. None of this makes me an expert on Harper Lee or her forthcoming book (a story about an adult Scout returning to Maycomb), nor is my personal respect an argument for canonization. Like all of us, she surely has her flaws and weaknesses, but what I am reading leads me to believe that, in the evening of her life, she is being treated as a sensation and a commodity.
Is Harper Lee, at 88, truly making decisions about this newly discovered manuscript, Go Set A Watchman? If not, are the people making these decisions doing so with her previously expressed wishes and best interests front and center? We aren’t supposed to judge hearts, and I certainly don’t know the motives of the people who are driving this project, but we know there are people who will do anything for money, power, and notoriety.
To Kill A Mockingbird was published in 1962. Millions of copies were sold in the first year, and many millions more since. Harper Lee’s publisher wanted her to write more stories, but no new books appeared in 1970, 1980, 1990, or 2000. If she had an almost-ready book on the shelf, why didn’t she, her editor, and publisher turn it into another bestseller? Isn’t this decision to publish a sequel to Mockingbird—though Watchman is said to have been written before Mockingbird—inconsistent with what Harper Lee has said for decades? Why has all of this happened after her beloved sister and advocate died? To what extent can the ostensible author of Go Set A Watchman be involved in the editorial process for this book?