Recently, the author of the beloved To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, announced that she will be publishing a new book, Go Set a Watchman which was the book that ended up being To Kill a Mockingbird. Technically, that means that the book is actually a spiritual prequel to her seminal and singular novel. The book was awarded a Pulitzer price and was made into an Oscar-winning movie. Harper was even awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom because of its influence on American culture.
Synopsis but no spoilers
Read this freely if you haven’t read the book or if you want to re-read and refresh; I will not reveal any primary plots (other than Bruce Willis is actually a ghost. M. Night Shyamalaned!) To Kill a Mockingbird revolves around Atticus Finch, a white lawyer defending a black man called Tom Robinson who is being accused of rape. The entire story is narrated by Scout Finch, the tomboyish eight-year-old daughter of Atticus. The narrative takes place during a Depression Era South that was also racially segregated at the time.
There is a bit of controversy surrounding the publication
The manuscript that was found amongst the author’s belongings is actually older than To Kill a Mockingbird. When Harper took the novel to her editor, he suggested that she should write a new novel from the perspective of Scout, the young child. The thing is, though, it was found by Harper’s lawyer, Tonja Carter, and there is speculation that the author might have been coerced into releasing it, due to her age. Some naysayers actually say Harper is so old she would probably sign anything you put in front of her.
A double-edged sword
The thing is, Harper had only released that one novel and her legacy lies in that single work. But she is actually venerated for it. Most people admire the fact that she said all she had to say with To Kill. This novel could completely change that perception. On the other hand, the author might feel a certain obligation to her 40 million readers to publish Go Set a Watchman, as a fan service, if you will.
What can we learn from Harper?
I think anyone in a creative profession could extrapolate a lesson from Harper’s recent announcement and her career. First, she always said that those who write are very different from writers. Those who write look to get rewards and recognition for their work, and ultimately don’t know what they’re doing. Furthermore, ‘creatives’ are cripplingly self-critical, yet people find value even if the creator didn’t deem the work worthy of sharing. Harper had recently shared her manuscript with a small circle of people and she was told that it was definitely worthy of publishing.
Whatever the circumstances, we should embrace the new novel
Harper is in the fall of her life. It would be unfair to squander the jubilation of the author’s new novel on controversy, intrigue and hearsay. This is a historical moment all bibliophiles should respect as a unique opportunity to enjoy and consume something that would otherwise be lost.
Are you looking forward to reading the prequel/sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird? What do think will happen? Are there any other classic novels that you would like to see followed up? Let me know in the comment section below.