2 Kill 2 Mockingbirds
February 3, 2015 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Harper Lee is publishing a second book this July. "Go Set a Watchman" is essentially a sequel to "To Kill a Mockingbird," although it was finished earlier.... The new book is set in Lee's famed Maycomb, Alabama, during the mid-1950s, 20 years after "To Kill a Mockingbird" and roughly contemporaneous with the time that Lee was writing the story. In the last few years Lee has been embroiled in legal disputes with her agent over the royalties to To Kill a Mockingbird (previously), as well as with journalist Marja Mills, who published an unauthorized biography of her (previously). Title borrowed from Matt Yglesias.
posted by Cash4Lead (152 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
 
I lack the words to convey how excited I am. I never thought we'd see the day. What a gift!!!!!
posted by sallybrown at 8:04 AM on February 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Holy crap!
posted by amarynth at 8:05 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow. Good for her!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:06 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Kind of excited, kind of panicked people will criticize it. Maybe she's built up sufficient cultural and literary capital to be immune, though?
posted by resurrexit at 8:06 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


As much as I like to read, I have somehow never read "To Kill a Mockingbird". Although in school I heard enough book reports on it from other students and it is so widely written about that I feel like I've read it. Anyhow, this news makes me want to read both novels now. My only question is: "in what order?"
posted by TedW at 8:07 AM on February 3, 2015


*facepalm*
posted by kmz at 8:08 AM on February 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Kind of panicked people will criticize it.
I don't see this as a problem? I mean, people criticize Nabokov. Nobody's immune. I'm excited that we'll get another novel from her!
posted by JoeBlubaugh at 8:11 AM on February 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


This isn't the last thing I'd thought I'd read when I woke up this morning, but it surely is the bottom half of all possible things.

I will absolutely read it, but it all feels very weird.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:11 AM on February 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


I thought this was an Onion story when I came across it in Feedly!
posted by something something at 8:13 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is it a novelization of How to Kill a Mockingbird?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:14 AM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm not afraid that other people won't like it (why should I care?). I'm afraid I won't like it. I'm not sure how I feel about a sequel. I'm not sure if I will read this. Hmmm.
posted by rtha at 8:14 AM on February 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


*jaw drop*
posted by kyrademon at 8:15 AM on February 3, 2015


Ugh. What a pathetic cash grab. I mean, honestly. I decry all you suckers who are being taken in by this. DECRY you, I say. I demand that you stay out of my damn way on the release date.
posted by Etrigan at 8:18 AM on February 3, 2015 [12 favorites]


All of a sudden, I'm reminded of that coming Fast and the Furious movie... It even has the same rhythm.
posted by halifix at 8:20 AM on February 3, 2015


If Harper Lee has 7 of these up her sleeve and they star the Rock and Vin Diesel eventually, I'm not going to get in anybody's way.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:22 AM on February 3, 2015 [30 favorites]


This is the absolute best thread title ever.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:22 AM on February 3, 2015 [11 favorites]


I was thinking this was nice but not a super big deal or anything, then I said the words out loud to a co-worker: "Did you hear Harper Lee has a new book coming out? It's a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird." And then in the back of my head a little voice said "Holy F*ck."

What next? The Beatles got together again in 1972 and made a totally great album, get it on iTunes tommorrow!
posted by marxchivist at 8:23 AM on February 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


To Kill A Mockingbird 2: Kill Harder
posted by Damienmce at 8:24 AM on February 3, 2015 [20 favorites]


Related: Harper Lee is also releasing "To Kill a Mockingbird: Special Edition," with new scenes and improved descriptions that just weren't possible with the technology of the time.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:24 AM on February 3, 2015 [21 favorites]


This is stunning. Like, bomb-going-off-immediately-behind-me shocking.

I know enough about literature to know that there are plenty of novels considered more accomplished than "To Kill a Mockingbird". But there aren't many that I love as much. I consider it the book that most precisely captures our national character. And not simply because of the central role that racism plays as the engine of the story, but also because of the clear, sharp depiction of our general ambiguity about how an individual ought to relate to society.

I just don't know how to process this news.
posted by Ipsifendus at 8:26 AM on February 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


But first she will write the tie-in novelization for Half-Life 3
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:26 AM on February 3, 2015 [11 favorites]


in the special edition the mockingbird shoots first
posted by a car full of lions at 8:27 AM on February 3, 2015 [27 favorites]


+ All New CGI Ham Costume
posted by almostmanda at 8:28 AM on February 3, 2015 [16 favorites]


First we get a new season of Twin Peaks, now this. Now if we can just get Willis Alan Ramsey to make a second record, the world will be complete.
posted by jbickers at 8:29 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


in soviet russia, mockingbird kills you
posted by entropicamericana at 8:29 AM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Harper Lee emerges from her burrow and sees her shadow. "Fuck it, I'll write another book."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:32 AM on February 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


I do wonder, though, exactly when she wrote this. Like JD Salinger, did she have several novels stuffed into desk drawers everywhere?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:33 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Time is a flat circle
posted by Damienmce at 8:33 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thank goodness they admit it was written in the 1950s so the Capote truth-ists can continue their campaign unabated.
posted by komara at 8:34 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


When I first saw this, I couldn't remember if Lee was still alive or not, and I was worried that they'd found some half finished manuscript in her papers and were releasing it as a cash grab. Realizing she's still alive and worked to get it published makes me really excited for this!
posted by skycrashesdown at 8:34 AM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


i was outside busting up a chifferobe. what did i miss?
posted by chasles at 8:35 AM on February 3, 2015 [42 favorites]


I do wonder, though, exactly when she wrote this. Like JD Salinger, did she have several novels stuffed into desk drawers everywhere?

The book was actually written prior to Mockingbird and recently rediscovered, according to one story I saw.
posted by ndfine at 8:36 AM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


ok, totally awesome topical joke aside, i am.... i guess breathless? inasmuch as this news has taken my breath.

i hope it's as amazing as I want it to be.
posted by chasles at 8:41 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm stoked about this. We were waiting so long, and the HBO series was about to catch up, and...
posted by kurumi at 8:42 AM on February 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


I wish it was called Revenge of the Chifferobe!

Anyway, the NYT is reporting that what's being published takes place later in time, but was written before To Kill a Mockingbird, which makes me feel a little differently about it. It seems it might be more like a collection of demos and b-sides than a new album.
posted by Rinku at 8:49 AM on February 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


The book was actually written prior to Mockingbird and recently rediscovered, according to one story I saw.

I seem to recall reading that too, but I can't think of where.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:50 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sorry Matt Yglesias, you got beaten to the punch.
posted by trunk muffins at 8:51 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Demos and B-sides though it might be, I'm still very excited.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:52 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is enormous news, for sure, but I do worry about Ms. Lee being taking advantage of. Her sister, Alice Lee, passed away a few months ago (at 103!) and she was Harper's advocate and lawyer. The timing makes me uncomfortable.
posted by ndfine at 8:53 AM on February 3, 2015 [29 favorites]


To Kill a Mockingbird 2: Electric Boogaloo
posted by stevis23 at 8:55 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is great news. I've been wondering all this time what to do with that damned mockingbird after I killed it following the instructions in her first book. I wonder if this second book is a cookbook or a taxidermy guide?
posted by yoink at 8:55 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fantastic news. It's been a long time since I have been excited about a book release...
posted by HuronBob at 8:55 AM on February 3, 2015


I seem to recall reading that too, but I can't think of where.

Judging by this thread, the new novel seems destined to be read rather more enthusiastically than well.
posted by RogerB at 8:56 AM on February 3, 2015


I always new that Jeanie next door would grow up to be a force for good. Yessir.
posted by boo_radley at 8:56 AM on February 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is enormous news, for sure, but I do worry about Ms. Lee being taking advantage of. Her sister, Alice Lee, passed away a few months ago (at 103!) and she was Harper's advocate and lawyer. The timing makes me uncomfortable.

Yeah, it seems rife for exploitation to me, especially given the fights she has had over the rights to TKAM.
posted by likeatoaster at 8:59 AM on February 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


According to this article, this is what she wrote before To Kill a Mockingbird, and her editor "was taken by the flashbacks to Scout's childhood, persuaded me to write a novel (what became 'To Kill a Mockingbird') from the point of view of the young Scout."
posted by dilettante at 9:00 AM on February 3, 2015


So this will make 55 years between the publication dates of two consecutive novels by a living author.

Apparently that's not a record. Henry Roth published Call it Sleep in 1934, and his next novel, Mercy of a Rude Stream Vol. 1: A Star Shines Over Mt. Morris Park, in 1994, 60 years later (with an small autobiographical memoir in 1979 and a book of essays in 1987 coming between the two).
posted by beagle at 9:01 AM on February 3, 2015


REJECTED HARPER LEE TITLES:

- Mockingbird's Revenge
- Birds, Boo, & Bae
- Dill's Amazing Pickle Adventure
- Atticus In the Attic

- Go Set A Watchman
posted by Fizz at 9:02 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh man I feel like Calpurnia would make a sweet cyborg
posted by Rinku at 9:05 AM on February 3, 2015


And next week, Thomas Pynchon hosts Saturday Night Live.
posted by mykescipark at 9:05 AM on February 3, 2015 [12 favorites]


To Kill a Mockingbird 2: Electric Boogaloo

Drunken Mockingbird II
posted by kliuless at 9:06 AM on February 3, 2015


Isaiah 21: 1-10 (Standard King James Version):

The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass through; so it cometh from the desert, from a terrible land. A grievous vision is declared unto me; the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, and the spoiler spoileth. Go up, O Elam: besiege, O Media; all the sighing thereof have I made to cease. Therefore are my loins filled with pain: pangs have taken hold upon me, as the pangs of a woman that travaileth: I was bowed down at the hearing of it; I was dismayed at the seeing of it. My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me. Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield. For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth. And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently with much heed: And he cried, A lion: My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime, and I am set in my ward whole nights: And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground. O my threshing, and the corn of my floor: that which I have heard of the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared unto you.
posted by sallybrown at 9:09 AM on February 3, 2015 [19 favorites]


Oooh, here come the rabies antivaxxers...
posted by cookie-k at 9:10 AM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


And it's a SEQUEL?! Hot damn.
posted by Melismata at 9:11 AM on February 3, 2015


*facepalm*

What did that say? It's been deleted.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:12 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


besiege, O Media

Presumably the title for Lee's memoir about her unwanted celebrity in the intervening decades.
posted by RogerB at 9:13 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


2015 has been a pretty crappy for me so far, but this is a delightful surprise, looking forward to it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:15 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is like Beyonce dropping a new album outta the blue. Just WOW!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:15 AM on February 3, 2015


What did that say? It's been deleted.

Some BBC guy: 'Just announced Harper Lee will publish second novel 55 years after "to Kill a Mockingbird" - glad his writers block got sorted #norush'
posted by kmz at 9:17 AM on February 3, 2015


kmz: “What did that say? It's been deleted.

Some BBC guy: 'Just announced Harper Lee will publish second novel 55 years after "to Kill a Mockingbird" - glad his writers block got sorted #norush'”
That's okay, the 2 Kill 2 Mockingbirds joke goes back to 2009.

Also, I am unreasonably excited about this news.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:21 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


John Carpenter is still alive. There's some synergy here.

Boo Radley...................is all out of bubblegum.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:22 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth. And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels

"Go, Set A Watchmen" is pretty catchy but "A Chariot of Asses" would sell like hotcakes.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:23 AM on February 3, 2015 [16 favorites]


The choice of that phrase from Isaiah 21 is very interesting: a direction to Isaiah to get someone inside Babylon to narrate the anticipated fall of the city, which would free the Jews held captive and enslaved there. (Someone with more Biblical knowledge please correct if wrong, but that's my take.) Lee's book is narrated by a 20-something Scout who returns to Alabama in the mid-1950s.

Man, I can't wait.
posted by sallybrown at 9:26 AM on February 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


To Kill a Mockingbird is one of very few books that I've reread multiple times--in my 6th grade annotated-in-many-colors copy (spoiler alert: I was a much cleverer reader then)--so I am looking forward to this!
posted by ferret branca at 9:33 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is enormous news, for sure, but I do worry about Ms. Lee being taking advantage of. Her sister, Alice Lee, passed away a few months ago (at 103!) and she was Harper's advocate and lawyer. The timing makes me uncomfortable.

According to the Telegraph UK article on this, Lee says that it was her "friend and lawyer Tonja Carter" who encouraged her to do this. It's something she actually wrote around the time of Mockingbird at the behest of her editor, but then she stuck it in a drawer and it wasn't until recently that Carter found it and Lee read it again and started thinking "you know, on second thought...."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:34 AM on February 3, 2015


> "So this will make 55 years between the publication dates of two consecutive novels by a living author. Apparently that's not a record."

Also not a record for a sequel (by the same author) coming out -- there was a 59 year gap between Upton Sinclair's "King Coal" and the publication of "The Coal War".

However, Sinclair wasn't alive when "The Coal War" came out, so this may, however, be the longest time between sequels by a single author in their own lifetime. (30 years between Levin's "Rosemary's Baby" and "Son of Rosemary", 33 years between Heller's "Catch-22" and "Closing Time", and 49 years between Bradbury's "Dandelion Wine" and "Farewell Summer" are the longest I can immediately find.)
posted by kyrademon at 9:36 AM on February 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


(sallybrown, I think your understanding of Isaiah 21 is exactly right.)
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:42 AM on February 3, 2015


Okay, To Kill a Mockingbird was a good book and a good movie. But has it ever occurred to anyone that the movie provided the template for so many other Hollywood films that essentially use the African American experience in the US as a way to make white people feel good about themselves? Is that the whole story? Everything came about because benevolent white people like Atticus Finch took a stand? Where are the stories seen through the eyes of the Tom Robinsons? I suppose there have been a few. Not enough though.
posted by Pararrayos at 9:44 AM on February 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm not going to lie, there's a part of me that hopes that Go, Set a Watchman will end up being both one-dimensional and wildly reactionary, with Boo and Scout teamed up, driving through Alabama in a gorgeous Ford Fairlane, rounding up Beatnicks and givin' 'em what for. Nothing is learned, except for perhaps how to use brass knuckles more effectively. At no point is the absolute patriotic rightness of their actions ever in doubt.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:44 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


If only Thomas Friedman maintained this publication pace.
posted by Killick at 9:45 AM on February 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


According to the Telegraph UK article on this, Lee says that it was her "friend and lawyer Tonja Carter" who encouraged her to do this.

Elderly rich people often get a lot of "friends" who are no such thing, and given Harper Lee already was taken advantage of by people who were able to temporarily steal the rights to Mockingbird, and that she has recently lost the sister who formerly watched out for her interests, I share the concern that this is another such incident. Mind you, even if it's relative juvenalia, it will probably be interesting from a scholarly point of view.
posted by tavella at 9:45 AM on February 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is stunning news. I'm so glad she's publishing.
posted by zarq at 9:45 AM on February 3, 2015




Next thing you know, they're going to make a decent TV series based on the movie Fargo.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:49 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


The relationship between Harper Lee, Alice Lee, and Tonja Carter is more complex than Alice protecting Harper against Tonja (which would mean Harper is now vulnerable to Tonja without Alice being around). This New York Magazine article goes into the details, which suggest that Alice and Tonja may have had adverse interests in getting Harper to do one thing versus another, and/or that Harper may have used Tonja to sort of evade Alice's wishes.
posted by sallybrown at 9:50 AM on February 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Who here has read To Kill A Mockingbird in their adult years? I some how missed reading this book while growing up. I think I was in the other classroom which was assigned A Separate Peace by John Knowles.

I know that some might disagree but I think that some books are right for people at a certain age. I missed out on reading J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and while I appreciate the short stories, I could not tolerate all that youthful angst. I feel like I might have missed that window of reading.

*edit*

Btw, I did not enjoy A Separate Peace.
posted by Fizz at 9:52 AM on February 3, 2015


Yeah, the part that's not clear to me is -- why now? It's not like this wouldn't have been a huge deal at any other time in the past 55 years. Why didn't the editor who acquired TKAM encourage her to go back and publish this one? Or her agent? Or anyone else who knew about it? If they did, why weren't they persuasive?

It seems highly unlikely that it will be as good as TKAM, which I hope that doesn't add fuel to the "Truman Capote as TKAM author" fire.
posted by pocketfullofrye at 9:55 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


To Kill a Mockingbird 2: Electric Boogaloo

guess what
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:58 AM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


But has it ever occurred to anyone that the movie provided the template for so many other Hollywood films that essentially use the African American experience in the US as a way to make white people feel good about themselves?

It sure has. I suspect a reader would have to go to some lengths to be able to avoid that having that thought occur. See for example, Roger Ebert's review of the movie, written when Chicgago selected the book for a city-wide reading program.

In a weird way, I think the fact that (until this morning) Lee had only ever written the one book, and that it was perceived as strongly autobiographical, is what enabled me to love the book despite that discomfort. I gave Lee a pass for choosing the story that she did, because she was relating how her community, and her father, appeared to her as a child.

It's a horrific problem that our publishers haven't managed to find and publish more of the stories lived by "the Tom Robinsons" of that era, but I don't believe those stories were Harper Lee's to tell.

The more I think about this news, the more ambivalent I feel. I wish I felt more confidence that the quotes from Lee about the decsion to publish this work were actually quotes, and not just a PR person's statment that they asked her to sign.
posted by Ipsifendus at 9:58 AM on February 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


You know, just because someone's old doesn't mean that they can't make their own decisions.
posted by waitingtoderail at 10:01 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


You guys are all excited, but just wait till you reach the part where a distraught Jar Jar Robinson cries out "Yousa be wantin' meesa to be breakin' up yousa chiffarobe?"
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:06 AM on February 3, 2015 [15 favorites]


Indeed, waitingtoderail. However, when someone is sufficiently debilitated that the "friend" in question has a durable power of attorney over them, as Tonja Carter has over Harper Lee, it becomes very questionable.
posted by tavella at 10:09 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Heeeeyyyyy Boo!
posted by Happy Dave at 10:38 AM on February 3, 2015


they're finally expanding the mockingverse
posted by Legomancer at 10:52 AM on February 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't know that "sequel" is the right word, because in genre fiction it tends to have some fairly strong connotations of interdependence where it's not clear that this novel does.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:06 AM on February 3, 2015


To Kill a Mockingbird 2: The Re-Mockening.
posted by dry white toast at 11:12 AM on February 3, 2015


"Scout (Jean Louise Finch) has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father, Atticus," the publisher's announcement reads. "She is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father's attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood."

As someone pointed out on Twitter, this is basically the plot of The Veronica Mars movie.
posted by dry white toast at 11:14 AM on February 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


Scott Eric Kaufman: About that new Harper Lee novel…
In an interview with NPR last year the author of The Mockingbird Next Door, Marja Mills, noted that the blind and deaf Lee — who recently suffered a stroke — often signs any document put in front of her by Carter.
I know everyone is very excited to read this sequel/prequel of To Kill a Mockingbird, but I have a feeling that something very sad precipitated this novel’s publication, and that it involves taking advantage of an elderly woman.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:15 AM on February 3, 2015 [15 favorites]


The gulf between my feelings when I saw the headline that she was releasing a sequel and my feelings when I read that it was actually something she wrote back around the same time as TKaM is enormous.

It's always been remarkable that Harper Lee wrote such a great book and then never wrote anything else. Was she afraid she'd be unable to match that first achievement? Did she simply only have one story she wanted to tell? And now here she's had another book in her drawer this whole time.

I hope it's good. It will be interesting trying to imagine how it would have been received and regarded through the years if she'd published it shortly after TKaM.
posted by straight at 11:21 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


> spoiler alert

As the Bible saith:

> Isaiah 21: 1-10 (Standard King James Version):

The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass through; so it cometh from the desert, from a terrible land. A grievous vision is declared unto me; the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, and the spoiler spoileth.

posted by languagehat at 11:23 AM on February 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


Who here has read To Kill A Mockingbird in their adult years? I some how missed reading this book while growing up. I think I was in the other classroom which was assigned A Separate Peace by John Knowles.

I know that some might disagree but I think that some books are right for people at a certain age. I missed out on reading J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and while I appreciate the short stories, I could not tolerate all that youthful angst. I feel like I might have missed that window of reading.


I reread it a couple months ago and enjoyed it a lot, I thought it was as good as I remembered. I did read it when I was younger though so that may have biased me.
posted by DynamiteToast at 11:35 AM on February 3, 2015


I've re-read it as an adult. It mostly makes me wish I knew more Atticus Finches.
posted by DigDoug at 11:40 AM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Who here has read To Kill A Mockingbird in their adult years?

*raises hand*

It's not a set-curriculum part of the cultural landscape in the UK, so I didn't read it at school; read it in my 20s I think and liked it a lot.

I suspect part of what gives it such lasting appeal is that it has a broad range of characters to identify with. Kids can identify with Jem and Scout in a loss-of-innocence / the-world-is-a-hard place way; teens can identify with Boo, who really is proto-emo; adults can identify with Atticus and Tom, both noble in different ways.

(I also came to Steinbeck mostly as an adult, although I think we did read Of Mice and Men at school.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:41 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing the people who like this will do so with almost religious fervour.

Ditto the people who decide to hate it.

I shall take this as a good prompt for me to finally read To kill A Mocking Bird. It's been on my reading list for a looooooooong time.
posted by Faintdreams at 12:08 PM on February 3, 2015


Fact checkers at UK Channel 4 News are casting doubt on the veracity of this. Oh man, I want to believe in a new Harper Lee novel.
posted by kariebookish at 12:21 PM on February 3, 2015


I can't believe I've never read it either. Other Canadians - have you? Is/was it on our curriculum?
posted by kitcat at 12:22 PM on February 3, 2015


Fact checkers at UK Channel 4 News are casting doubt on the veracity of this.

I would find it easier to believe this was a hoax if we were just going by Carter's word. But at least two people at Harper Collins are saying they've read it - from the NYT:
The book’s publisher, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins, plans to print two million copies of the new book, which is set for a July 14 release. The deal was negotiated by Michael Morrison, president and publisher of HarperCollins U.S. General Books Group and Canada, and Ms. Carter.

“I, along with millions of others around the world, always wished that Harper Lee had written another book,” Mr. Morrison said in a statement. “And what a brilliant book this is. I love ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ and know that this masterpiece will be revered for generations to come.”

In a statement, Jonathan Burnham, Harper’s publisher, called the new novel “a compelling and ultimately moving narrative about a father and a daughter’s relationship, and the life of a small Alabama town living through the racial tensions of the 1950s.”
So either they're lying about having read it, they read it and failed to pick up on anything fishy, or they're willing to look the other way. Not impossible but it seems unlikely to me. Of course, it also seemed unlikely that this book existed in the first place, so who knows.
posted by sallybrown at 12:31 PM on February 3, 2015


I think what the tweet is suggesting is not that no "Go, Set A Watchman" manuscript exists now, it is suggesting that the tale of it being written in the 50s and just now 'rediscovered' is false. I.e., Tonja Carter hired a ghostwriter to fake a manuscript. Which would be a much worse sin -- while the idea of a debilitated Harper Lee being pressured to release juvenalia she didn't previous think was good enough for publication is distressing, it at least would have academic interest and reveal the roots of her masterwork. If someone is creating entirely fake work that may damage her reputation, that's genuinely horrible.
posted by tavella at 12:38 PM on February 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


I didn't really know how to process my mixed emotions about this book, so I decided to write about its history. I really hope that Nelle is okay.
posted by mynameisluka at 12:38 PM on February 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


As per that Vulture article and this Gawker piece, Lee suffered a stroke in 2007 and is no longer able to see or hear. Lee's attorney Tonja Carter, who has full control of Lee's affairs now, apparently is very restrictive about who has access to Lee. All of the quotes in various papers are culled from the press release, which could have been written by the Harper PR team or Carter herself. Alice's recent death makes the timing of all this even more concerning.

Until Lee speaks with a neutral third party who does not stand to benefit financially from the publishing of the book, I am deeply concerned that this book is being published without her knowledge.
posted by incessant at 12:39 PM on February 3, 2015 [16 favorites]


I also fear that this may be going on without her consent. I hate this reflexive Internet culture of thinking everything is a hoax, but something here just gives me a bad feeling. I know that's not a real reason, but there it is.
posted by thelonius at 12:44 PM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


To be fair, you can certainly construct a narrative where Alice Lee was as much overbearing older sibling as protector, who discouraged publication when Harper Lee rather wanted to. But given her poor physical condition, the fact the person promoting this has a durable power of attorney over her, and the fact that Lee has already been badly exploited once by 'protectors' turned predators when the son and successor of her longtime agent stole her copyright of TKAM... it's hard to be optimistic.
posted by tavella at 12:58 PM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


mynameisluka: “I didn't really know how to process my mixed emotions about this book, so I decided to write about its history. I really hope that Nelle is okay.”
This was excellent. Thank you.

I've gone from unreasonable excitement, to mild worry that something untoward is happening. I'm hoping that my fears are as unfounded as my excitement.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:58 PM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Lee suffered a stroke in 2007 and is no longer able to see or hear. Lee's attorney Tonja Carter, who has full control of Lee's affairs now, apparently is very restrictive about who has access to Lee.

Jesus. It sounds like Misery.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:59 PM on February 3, 2015


Tonja Carter hired a ghostwriter to fake a manuscript […] If someone is creating entirely fake work that may damage her reputation, that's genuinely horrible.

What? Lee's mental state and the genuineness of her consent are certainly worth some skepticism here, but this ghostwritten-hoax story is just pure paranoid fantasy, unsupported by anything at all.
posted by RogerB at 12:59 PM on February 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


Oh hells yeah! Cannot wait. It's a weird bit of fortuitous timing for me - this book is coming out the month before our production of To Kill a Mockingbird opens!
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:03 PM on February 3, 2015


*reads back over the comments about possible nefariousness in the publishing of this book*

Damn it.
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:05 PM on February 3, 2015


Who here has read To Kill A Mockingbird in their adult years?
I have seen the film multiple times since its release in 1962 and it has always been one of my personal favorites. I had never read the book, not through being averse to doing so, simply because I didn't own a copy and every time I visited the library or went to the bookstore it never crossed my mind to search it out. Two years ago I saw a very old paperback for sale at my library's used book stall (50 Cents!) and picked it up. So at the age of 57 I first read the novel. I can honestly say I was enchanted and deeply touched by Ms. Lee's tale. I have re-read it twice now and will continue to revisit it until the book (or I) disintegrate.
posted by TDavis at 1:05 PM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


In defense of To Kill a Mockingbird, my memory is that the story is quite deliberately anti-climatic. Atticus fails. Robinson dies (arguably commits suicide) rather than face an appeal. The Ewells are shamed, but they were a notch above the black community anyway and couldn't get any lower. Boo remains the madman isolated by an angry and possibly abusive parent. The novel and the movie are not perfect, but Lee does a fair job of examining both the explicit law that Atticus defends, and the tacit laws that ultimately determined who gets justice (both in the courtroom and neighborhood), which puts it a step beyond many imitators.

I had a chance to see the film on the big screen recently, and Peck puts in a brilliant performance allowing just enough anger, fear, frustration, contempt, and even rage leak through the character's super-human reserve.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:09 PM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


RogerB: A) I was explaining the BBC tweet, not my own opinion and B) I don't think it is exactly paranoid to be suspicious when you have a mostly incapacitated famous writer and just months after the last member of their family dies a 'lost' manuscript is produced by the person with total control over said writer and their estate.
posted by tavella at 1:21 PM on February 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Who here has read To Kill A Mockingbird in their adult years?

I read it for the first time earlier this year to prepare for the play this summer and I loved it. Adored it, really. Atticus said things to Jem and Scout that I needed to hear from my own father, but didn't. Lee vividly recreates what it's like to have a little kid's brain and how the world looks from that perspective. And the injustice central to the story is sadly all too relevant today. I plan to reread it after our show closes.

(I also love that it's been established in DC comics continuity that this is Superman's favorite novel and movie. Maybe they've retconned that out but it's forever true on Earth-ETW)
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:23 PM on February 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


In defense of To Kill a Mockingbird, my memory is that the story is quite deliberately anti-climatic. Atticus fails. Robinson dies (arguably commits suicide) rather than face an appeal

Yeah, this is another respect in which I think the book can reasonably be set outside of the category of "A Heroic White Man Will Fix Everything!" narratives. Atticus Finch is heroic, certainly, but the system he's functioning in is not capable of producing any outcome other than a guilty verdict.

And the thing is, the book makes it pretty clear that he's not even winning the consolation prize of making the white population of Maycomb County see the guilty verdict for the travesty that it is, because he makes a terrible tactical error. He manages to unintentionally elicit from Tom a confession that he felt sorry for Luella, and thereby turns the entire white audience against him.

Like, it's tempting to interpret the trial as a pyrrhic victory for the forces of racism in Maycomb, since everyone knows that Tom is innocent, but that understanding is passed over because nobody can overlook the crime of Tom rising above his station. No progress is made at all.
posted by Ipsifendus at 1:27 PM on February 3, 2015 [11 favorites]


Jezebel: Be Suspicious of the New Harper Lee Novel
posted by zarq at 1:59 PM on February 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


My excitement for this cannot be overstated. Both my joy at a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird OH MY GOD, and my sadistic literary glee about the arguments between lit critics and Internet nerds over to classify the book. Allegedly Go Set a Watchmen was written first, but set after To Kill a Mockingbird, and will be published after. So TKOM was the prequel? Or GSAW is its own pre-sequel? Make up a new word, Internet nerds!
posted by nicebookrack at 2:34 PM on February 3, 2015


"Who here has read To Kill A Mockingbird in their adult years?"

I did. I also want to name my first born Scout. Or Atticus. Or Atticus Scout.

It had a strong impact on me.
posted by Time To Sharpen Our Knives at 2:49 PM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I can't believe I've never read it either. Other Canadians - have you? Is/was it on our curriculum?

To answer my own question, it seems like it was and maybe still is..but teachers have some discretion and I guess my class opted for something else.
posted by kitcat at 3:13 PM on February 3, 2015


Atticus Finch is heroic, certainly, but the system he's functioning in is not capable of producing any outcome other than a guilty verdict.

Oh yes. And Atticus knows the trial is a lost cause from the start and expects a guilty verdict with a slim hope of appeal.

IMNSHO, the best performances of the film version come immediately after the famous "closing arguments" monologue, as hope is frustrated, destroyed, and finally threatened and insulted. Peck's performance of growing fury barely restrained by self-control and a refusal to break in front of others is astounding.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:15 PM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I always thought Tom was "Shot while trying to escape." In other words, he wasn't, the bad guys just killed him.
posted by merelyglib at 3:37 PM on February 3, 2015


"And then Tom was shot while trying to escape. He tried to escape ten times."
posted by nicebookrack at 3:57 PM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Or they said "we can shoot you wher you stand, Tom, or you can run for it. We'll give you a ten-second head start. Couldn't ask for fairer than that. Now run."
posted by merelyglib at 3:58 PM on February 3, 2015


Next thing you know, they're going to make a decent TV series based on the movie Fargo.

Sure, and my friend Alison will be in it - it's not like she's totally unknown, she was in a Target commercial.
posted by wotsac at 5:40 PM on February 3, 2015


If you read the numbers, Harper Lee has made a huge fortune on TKAM, and it is good. She said that she had good, able friends read Watchman, and it is a good work.

Ms. Lee's book was a silent miracle in my life, living in Arkansas, just before desegregation. The new book is a gift to us all, from a very rich woman, who lived the life she chose to. Hooray!

This book
posted by Oyéah at 5:54 PM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


This Vulture interview with her editor is raising so many red flags I can't even process them all.
posted by acidic at 6:08 PM on February 3, 2015 [11 favorites]


I had a cynical thought; I wonder what Harper Lee's will looks like these days.
posted by tavella at 6:31 PM on February 3, 2015


Holy moly, acidic, as a former editor, I agree.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:45 PM on February 3, 2015


I don't know that "sequel" is the right word, because in genre fiction it tends to have some fairly strong connotations of interdependence where it's not clear that this novel does.

Is there even a word for this? A book that takes place after the original, was written before the original, and was published after the original? A sepresequel?

In any case, I do hope this book is what it purports to be. It would be like discovering a second John Kennedy Toole book where an elderly Ignatius T. Reilly picks through the wreckage of a hurricane-battered New Orleans while reminiscing about the 1960s. Oh, my valve!
posted by evil otto at 6:48 PM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don’t hear from her. There’s no reason why I should, because we don’t need to do anything. I write her notes now and then, but I haven’t heard anything back and I wouldn’t expect to.

ha geez spider-sense tingling.
posted by EatTheWeak at 6:51 PM on February 3, 2015


I read the book again as an adult, and saw the film again. Peck's performance completely reset for me what men could be, and what a father could be. I had never seen a character like his.

I could swear Boo Radly was played by a young Richard Dreyfus. Also great was listening to mockingbirds sing as an adult.
posted by Oyéah at 8:53 PM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


CBrachyrhynchos: "In defense of To Kill a Mockingbird, my memory is that the story is quite deliberately anti-climatic. Atticus fails."

It's inaccurate to say that Atticus fails. He loses the case, sure, but he knew he would lose when he took it on. He took it on anyway, because the Sheriff (and Atticus himself) knew that he was the only man in town who would actually put up a defense of this innocent man, even knowing the inevitable outcome. Knowing that you will lose and fighting anyway is not failing. It's the opposite of failing. That is one of the many things I learned from this excellent, excellent novel.

I am also among the skeptics who believe that this may be getting published against Ms Lee's will. I suspect that will not stop me from reading it anyway.
posted by stennieville at 12:51 AM on February 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's such a weird situation. Authors have their books published postumously all the time, sometimes with no input from them or indeed against express wishes. (The link is to an article about the publication of Nabokov's last novel, The Original of Laura. It also references posthumous publication of writings by Hemingway, which stand in contrast to the way the Laura manuscript was handled.)

I feel that if an author really wants to stop their work being published, they need to destroy it or give it to a library or whatever it is that they want to become of it. But Lee is alive, just not in good health, and it's hard to tell if she legitimately made this decision or if she was pressured to sign, and that feels wrong to me.
posted by BibiRose at 6:52 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, I mean a failure in the terms of the "These People need a Honky" narrative previously introduced, and the traditional mode of courthouse narratives where the system is somewhat validated in protecting the innocent. He's not a failure if it's viewed as a moral narrative about doing the right thing in spite of the explicit and tacit rules of a dysfunctional culture.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:26 AM on February 4, 2015


Questions I Have About The Harper Lee Editor Interview (slToast/Ortberg)
posted by gladly at 7:28 AM on February 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


Article in The Atlantic.
While people tended to compare her to Scout, she explained, “I’m really Boo.”
Ouch.
posted by Melismata at 7:53 AM on February 4, 2015


> Questions I Have About The Harper Lee Editor Interview (slToast/Ortberg)

That is very much to the point. Thanks for linking to it.
posted by languagehat at 9:24 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I should note that I think the entirely-fake manuscript possibility is the least likely, mainly because hiring a ghostwriter would leave a great big vulnerability to blackmail or just pangs of conscience, and I really doubt the lawyer or a random confederate would have enough chops to manage even cod-Harper Lee. I think it's more likely that it's either indeed an old draft of the proto-TKAM book or possibly patched together from old manuscripts. But given that over the last couple of years Carter has apparently been barring some old friends from seeing her, and sending out questionable letters under her name, it's extremely irresponsible for the publishers/editor to not at least try to visit her and confirm that she has a clear understanding and memory of the fact she's publishing a novel. Certainly, if Carter refused access, that would be an answer in itself.

It wouldn't entirely remove the possibility that an increasingly-vulnerable elder had been badgered or cozened into making a decision that might not be the best, but there's a limit to how much you can protect people against their guardians. But confirming she knows exactly what is going on is a minimal ethical standard they are not meeting.
posted by tavella at 9:41 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am starting to wonder if it will really come out.
posted by BibiRose at 10:14 AM on February 4, 2015


More details from The Atlantic:
Berman: Is this accurately referred to as a sequel, or is it—as some scholars had suspected—an original draft of To Kill A Mockingbird? How much overlap is there between the two?

Burnham: There’s virtually no overlap. It’s a difficult thing to qualify. In a way, it’s a pre-sequel, if that could exist. None of the material from Go Set A Watchman can be found in To Kill A Mockingbird. All the scenes are new. The writing is new. There are occasional idioms or sentences that already exist. There are some references back to the years of To Kill A Mockingbird, but nothing that comes to reckon on the book. So it’s in every respect a different novel. It’s not a draft of To Kill A Mockingbird.

Berman: How was the book found? And what has happened in the months since it was found?

Burnham: It was found in this safe location near Harper Lee’s home. It was attached to an original copy of the manuscript of To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee’s lawyer and friend, Tonja Carter, discovered it, sort of picked up the manuscript and flipped through it and then saw that some of the scenes and characters in the book had no relation to Mockingbird and realized it was actually two different books. This was the first time the manuscript had been found since heaven-knows-when. Harper Lee lost track of it in the '60s.

. . .

Berman: How is her health? She has been living in an assisted living facility and has been described as mostly deaf and blind. Can you describe any more about her engagement in this process?

Burnham: Well I can only report that her agent spent a couple of days with her in January down in Alabama and described her to us as feisty and full of good spirits. She’s a fanatical reader. She reads all the time. She just started reading a biography of Queen Victoria by A.N. Wilson—just embarked on. So, no, she’s in fine fettle, by reports.

Berman: What condition was the manuscript found in? Was it completely finished or was there anything that needed to be done by her or anyone else to get it ready for publication?

Burnham: It is completely finished. It needs virtually no editing. The only editing I think it needs is perhaps a light copy edit. It looks to me like a book that’s been worked on and polished, and is very much a finished thing. So it’s not going to go through any extensive editorial process.
I would put my money on this being a legitimate work by a young Harper Lee. If there is scandal involved, it will relate to the question of whether Lee is able to and did consent to the release. It seems the only people with full information about that are Carter and (perhaps) Lee's agent.
posted by sallybrown at 11:05 AM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


There also is a pretty ok segment about this on MPR this morning, worth listening to [link]
posted by edgeways at 11:59 AM on February 4, 2015


There is no scenario in which Harper Lee consented to the publication of this book that is even remotely believable.

The woman who steadfastly avoided all fame and publicity for 60 years all of a sudden wants to publish her early shit just cause somebody found it? Like the reason she didn’t publish for sixty goddamn years was because she forgot where she put it?

The publisher is acting unconscionably here. They’ve got dollar signs in their signs and apparently lack even an ounce of moral fiber. “Nah, it’s cool, bro. Her lawyer says it’s legit.”

At least it’s given everyone a reason to talk about her work and how much it’s impacted them. Because every other part about this is absolutely disgusting.
posted by fryman at 6:19 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


A local friend of Harper Lee's named Wayne Flynt has popped up in a couple articles this evening claiming she is fully able to consent and would not have consented if she didn't want the book published, for those looking for a source other than Tonja Carter. (Flynt has spoken out before on knowing Harper Lee, for those wondering whether he is a newcomer to the situation).

Frankly, I continue to think the Alice Lee / Harper Lee / Tonja Carter / HarperCollins situation is more complex than "Alice was protecting Harper from the wider world and nefarious local forces."
posted by sallybrown at 8:42 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's such a weird situation.

The discomfort here comes from seeing behaviour that isn't uncommon from a literary estate before there is officially a literary estate. Once an author's dead, you'll often see either a steadfast keeper of the flame restricting access to scholars and biographers, or conversely a rush by publishers and executors to get every scribble and draft into print. To see such things while an author's still alive feels like jumping the gun. It's certainly not cynicism to point that out.

In addition, durable power of attorney doesn't fit well with our concept of the author as a singular controlling presence defining "the work" by what he or she chooses to publish in life.

There's also the meta-narrative: the author who comes from nowhere, publishes a single novel that has a massive impact, shuns publicity, lives quietly, never publishes again. That's quite a story. There will be those who don't want that spoiled. Sometimes we ask not only that authors write great stories but also live them, and that's perhaps too much to ask.
posted by holgate at 9:45 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


There is no scenario in which Harper Lee consented to the publication of this book that is even remotely believable.

The woman who steadfastly avoided all fame and publicity for 60 years all of a sudden wants to publish her early shit just cause somebody found it? Like the reason she didn’t publish for sixty goddamn years was because she forgot where she put it?


I can see her thinking, "Tonja found that old novel and wants to publish it. What the heck. I'm old, blind, and deaf. Nobody's gonna be after me to go out in public to talk about this thing. I'm not going to be getting a zillion phone calls from reporters. Sure, why not."

Sometimes when you get older you look back on something you cared passionately about when you were younger and realize you really don't care about it anymore.
posted by straight at 12:59 AM on February 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


Both fryman and straight have laid out possible, but incompatible, scenarios for how this might all have come about. The problem is that we're even in the position to have to speculate. Like tavella said, it ought to be easy enough for someone at Harper Collins to eliminate all the worry with a simple affirmative statement that they have spoken to Lee to confirm that she wants the book published.

That they haven't made that statement sure makes fryman's version seem more plausible. And it's baffling...like Ortberg's article says, hasn't TKAM made Harper Collins enough millions of dollars that they could put someone on a plane to Alabama to actually check that this is all ok?
posted by Ipsifendus at 4:31 AM on February 5, 2015


SomethingAwful's take.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:44 PM on February 6, 2015


A recent article. I think until she's actually spoken to someone who isn't her lawyer this will remain controversial. Personally, I think it's quite possible that the whole thing is true; she did write this book, it was put away and she never considered releasing it until now.

I believed in the eagle who picked up the kid too though, so what do I know?
posted by h00py at 4:44 AM on February 10, 2015


To Shill A Mockingbird: How a manuscript's discovery became Harper Lee's 'new' novel

I think this is the getting-to-the-bottom-of-all-this everyone was waiting for.
posted by anazgnos at 7:24 AM on February 19, 2015


I think this is the getting-to-the-bottom-of-all-this everyone was waiting for.

Not much new information there, just a really bizarre notion that because the work wasn't accepted for publication originally that this somehow proves that it's unreadable trash that should never have been published.

It simply never seems to have occurred to the person writing that piece that A) people are interested in unpublished writings by significant authors regardless of their inherent quality, or that B) publishers sometimes make the wrong call about the quality of the MSS they read.
posted by yoink at 8:45 AM on February 19, 2015


A) people are interested in unpublished writings by significant authors regardless of their inherent quality

For limited numbers of people, and for values of 'significant authors' where $is_author_alive = 'false'.

You're right that it doesn't add much new information, but it does discuss the extensive editing process for TKAM at Lippincott, a narrative that was mainly known to literary scholars. But you're also whacking at a straw man: the primary objection here is not that this manuscript might be 'unreadable trash', but that its publication implicitly declares Harper Lee dead when she is not actually dead.
posted by holgate at 12:18 PM on February 19, 2015


the primary objection here is not that this manuscript might be 'unreadable trash', but that its publication implicitly declares Harper Lee dead when she is not actually dead.

I did not get that sense at all from the WaPo piece. How did you arrive at that?
posted by Etrigan at 1:07 PM on February 19, 2015


The discussion of the 'Watchman' manuscript's reception at Lippincott and the editing process, for starters. But there's a lot of subtext in the conclusion.

The Waste Land: A Facsimile and Transcript. The Silmarillion. Stephen Hero. Whatever Salinger work might make it into print: this is what literary estates do with drafts and fragments and juvenilia and other unpublished material. We have a critical vocabulary to discuss posthumous works in terms of possibilities and becomings and what-ifs. I have little doubt it will be drawn upon in July.
posted by holgate at 5:47 PM on February 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have little doubt of that either, but I still totally didn't get any sense that that was the "primary objection", or even a particularly notable objection, being raised by that article.
posted by Etrigan at 7:51 PM on February 19, 2015


The New Yorker has an in-depth piece today on the background of Lee's relationship to her lawyer (Tonja Carter) and to the town of Monroeville. It's pretty damning in parts, specifically:
Carter has also not explained [...] her very public disagreement that same year with Alice Lee over a memoir by a writer named Marja Mills, titled “The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee.” Mills first met the Lees in 2001, when she went to Alabama to write a feature for the Chicago Tribune. She had more luck at getting the sisters to talk than almost any reporter before her, and returned a few years later to live in Monroeville; for eighteen months, Mills lived next door to the Lees, renting a house with Alice’s help. [...]

But on April 27, 2011, after the memoir sold to Penguin Press, a statement signed by Harper Lee circulated that said, “Contrary to recent news reports, I have not willingly participated in any book written or to be written by Marja Mills. Neither have I authorized such a book. Any claims otherwise are false.” That statement was quickly refuted by Alice Lee, who wrote in her own statement: “The letter signed by Harper Lee and sent on April 27 via the Barnett, Bugg, Lee & Carter email address was sent without my knowledge and does not represent my feelings or those of my sister. I hope this letter puts the whole matter to rest.”

It did not, and three years later, when Penguin published “The Mockingbird Next Door,” the matter was argued again by press release. On the eve of the book’s publication, another typed statement bearing Harper Lee’s signature went forth: “Neither my attorney nor I have retracted my original statement. Rest assured, as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood.” [...]

Mills produced a handwritten letter from Alice dated May 12, 2011, which she believes explains some of what was happening. “Imagine my shock,” Alice Lee wrote to Mills, “when I began to read and get clear about the statement sent from BBL & Carter’s office. I had made no statement and could not [see] how that would get started. When I questioned Tonja I learned that without my knowledge she had typed out the statement, carried it to The Meadows and had Nelle Harper sign it. [...] Poor Nelle Harper can’t see and can’t hear and will sign anything put before her by any one in whom she has confidence. Now she has no memory of the incident.” It ends, “I am humiliated, embarrassed and upset about the suggestion of lack of integrity at my office. I am waiting for the other shoe to fall.”

Not long after that exchange, Tonja Carter obtained durable power of attorney for Harper Lee.
Someone who has so brazenly impersonated and countermanded the direct wishes of their clients is not someone who should be trusted, especially when those clients are now dead (in Alice's case) or disabled and isolated (in Harper's).
posted by Rhaomi at 9:43 PM on February 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


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