To Con A Mockingbird

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By Dee Donavanik, Publicity Director

 

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is perhaps my favorite book of all time. The Pulitzer Prize winning novel has become a modern classic, and rightfully so. Most of us are familiar with the adventures of Scout Finch, her brother Jem and friend Dill, and the wisdom imparted upon them their father Atticus. The book does a brilliant job of bringing attention to difficult issues such as rape, race, and inequality while telling the tale through the eyes of an innocent child. Many readers saw themselves in Scout and idolized Atticus as a hero.

So when news broke that Lee would be publishing a sequel of sorts, legions of the book’s fans, including myself, were brimming with anticipation for the opportunity to revisit our beloved characters.

According to The New York Times, “The narrative of Go Set a Watchman unfolds in the 1950s, 20 years after To Kill a Mockingbird, as Scout travels to Maycomb to visit her aging father Atticus Finch.”

Not set to publish until mid-July, the book is already in high-demand. The book has earned so many pre-orders pouring in it has already achieved best-selling status.

Once the excitement died down a bit, fans started raising questions and something didn’t quite add up.

For decades, Mockingbird was Lee’s only published novel. A notorious recluse, the author publicly stated that she would never write another book.

She was even quoted as saying there were two reasons why it would never happen:

One, I wouldn’t go through the pressure and publicity I went through with To Kill a Mockingbird for any amount of money. Second, I have said what I wanted to say and I will not say it again.

Fans of Lee quickly turned from thrilled to concerned.

Given these bold statements from the author in the past, did it make sense that she would all of a sudden change her tune now? Friends questioned whether, with her poor eyesight and hearing, she unknowingly signed papers allowing the book’s release. Some even questioned her mental state – though the Alabama Securities Commisson closed the investigation on elder abuse claiming she was of sound mind and there was no reason to intervene. Given the recent death of her sister, Alice, who handled her affairs, many believe that Lee is being exploited by someone else. Statements released by her “dear friend and lawyer” Tonja Carter, who allegedly discovered the manuscript, just don’t seem like something that would come from Lee herself.

So while I can’t help but be excited at the chance to see what may have happened to Scout and Atticus in this fictional world, I also can’t help but wonder if it’s a world Lee would have wanted us to visit at all.

Why has the manuscript been hidden for so long? If it wasn’t fit for publication when it was written, what makes it fit now? Why discount all previous claims to never release another book? Who is really behind it all? There are just too many questions, and the answers that we’ve been receiving don’t make sense.

Perhaps The Telegraph’s Frances Wilson put it best:

The publication of Watchman seems, from where I’m sitting, to be a sorry and a cynical affair. Writers are only as good as their last book. Why not let Harper Lee remain a mystery?

I think curiosity will get the best of most of us, and if the book is available, we can’t help but want to read it. Unfortunately, the mystery of Harper Lee and her stories may just prove to be too great to resist!

 

Related: 10 “Spring Cleaning” Must-reads

 

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