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Tyler

Harper Lee - Go Set a Watchman

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Harper Lee's second novel, Go Set a Watchman, which she actually wrote before Mockingbird, will be published in July.

 

 

"In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called 'Go Set a Watchman,'" the 88-year-old Lee said in a statement issued by Harper. "It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman, and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who 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.

 

"I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn't realized it (the original book) had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years."

 

Edited by Tyler

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So, Mockingbird was set from 1933-35 (the movie compressed the time frame), and Scout is 9 at the end. Assuming Lee wasn't writing about the then-future, Watchman would be set in the mid-50s, making Scout around 30.

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So the gap between the novels is 20 years, but the movie about young Scout was made over 50 years ago. I guess they can't film the new novel with the original actress, then.

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WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT

 

awesome.

Edited by Joel

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Twitter responds.

 

My favorite, from a tweeter called Liberty:

 

Go Set a Watchman: In which Boo Radley is caught in an intrinsic field subtractor, and is now a hairless blue guy, called Blue Radley.

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From Jezebel: Be Suspicious of the New Harper Lee Novel

 

 

Harper Lee's sister Alice Lee, who ferociously protected Harper Lee's estate (and person) from unwanted outside attention as a lawyer and advocate for decades, passed away late last year, leaving the intensely private author (who herself is reportedly in ill health) vulnerable to people who may not have her best interests at heart.

...

Tonja Carter, Harper Lee's attorney since Alice Lee retired at the age of 100, acknowledges that the author—who was left forgetful and nearly blind and deaf after a stroke in 2007—often doesn't understand the contracts that she signs. "Lee has a history of signing whatever's put in front of her, apparently sometimes with Carter's advice," Gawker reported last July.

...

In the past, Lee affectionately referred to her sister Alice as "Atticus in a skirt." Not just because she was an amazing lawyer, but because she was the protector who shielded Harper Lee from the publishing world and press attention that she was so adamantly repelled by. But now Alice—her Atticus—is gone and an unhealthy and unstable Lee must alone face the publishers, interviewers and literary agents that she's spent her entire life avoiding.

Edited by Tyler

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Is it just coincidence that *both* of Harper Lee's novels have titles that follow a "[consonant]o [short verb] a [only polysyllabic word in the entire title]" template?

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Is it just coincidence that *both* of Harper Lee's novels have titles that follow a "[consonant]o [short verb] a [only polysyllabic word in the entire title]" template?

 

One more and it's a trend, right?

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Is it just coincidence that *both* of Harper Lee's novels have titles that follow a "[consonant]o [short verb] a [only polysyllabic word in the entire title]" template?

 

So Eat a Sandwich

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I'm interested in Go Set a Watchman because of the myth of Harper Lee, The One-and-Done Novelist. I'm not so interested in the new book's actual contents (To Kill a Mockingbird may be an American classic, but it's never been a particular favorite of mine).

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NYTimes:

 

Answering questions on Saturday through both emails and text messages, Ms. Carter said that Ms. Lee is “extremely hurt and humiliated” at the suggestion that she had been duped.
 
“She is a very strong, independent and wise woman who should be enjoying the discovery of her long lost novel,” Ms. Carter said. “Instead, she is having to defend her own credibility and decision making.”
 
Others close to Ms. Lee, like two friends who visited her on Saturday at the Meadows, attest to her excitement over the release of the novel.
 
Cynthia McMillan, a resident assistant at the Meadows who has taken care of Ms. Lee for several years, said in an interview that Ms. Lee was alert, understood what was happening with the newly found manuscript and seemed invigorated by the prospect of publishing again. “She seems excited about it, and it has given her something to focus on since her sister died,” Ms. McMillan said, describing Ms. Lee as “sharp as a tack.”
 
Nonetheless, the skepticism remains heavy here in this town of about 6,500 residents....
 
Yeah, count me out of the pearl-clutching. People who've seen Lee say she's fine; it's people who haven't who are raising the questions. So typical small-town gossip blown up to a major story because of the person it involves.

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Melville House's "Two for Tuesday" asks whether Watchman is a draft or something else. I thought it was pretty clear, actually, that it was a sort of a draft.

 

Meanwhile, The New Yorker argues that we should give the book a chance:

 

eyond the social context, and even if people’s darkest fears are confirmed, it’s hard to see what harm the publication of the book, somewhat oddly titled “Go Set a Watchman,” would do. If the novel is inferior to “Mockingbird,” Lee’s classic of American literature will not suffer. William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury” was not invalidated by the deservedly forgotten “Pylon.” The posthumous publication of Ralph Ellison’s disappointing “Juneteenth”—reorganized by one of Ellison’s friends—has not diminished the power or importance of “Invisible Man.” Like those other works, “Mockingbird” has created its own inviolable space; the sudden appearance of a second-rate work from Lee would hardly discredit the book that made her famous in the first place. The worst that could happen would be for a mediocre “Watchman” to make it seem that “Mockingbird” was a fluke. In that case, “Mockingbird” would be all the more remarkable.

[snip]

[P]erhaps the comparisons to de Kooning, and to Faulkner and Ellison, are overblown. Perhaps the more apt comparison would be to novelists like Pearl S. Buck and James Michener, writers who once occupied a now defunct space somewhere between literary and popular fiction. Though “Mockingbird” won a Pulitzer Prize, like Buck’s “The Good Earth,” it is not typically considered part of the “serious” canon of literature. It might seem insulting to call a beloved book like “Mockingbird” middlebrow, but such works—“Gentleman’s Agreement,” “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit,” “Exodus,” and “Fear of Flying,” to give a few examples—are the ones that shape public consciousness. If you concede that Lee’s book belongs in that category, then the publication of an inferior sequel would be nothing new. With such a book, what matters more than the style and sensibility of the author is that it crystallizes its moment. Considered in this light, “Mockingbird” is not primarily a work in Harper Lee’s oeuvre, so to speak. Rather, the author is a footnote to her achievement, a humbling fact that may even help account for Lee’s near-reclusiveness.
Edited by NBooth

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Apparently, Lee is still lucid enough to send journalists a sharpie-written note of dismissal.

 

I hoped she would confirm that she is in fact lucid and fully in control of the destiny of "Go Set a Watchman," a "To Kill a Mockingbird" corollary that her representatives claimed to have recently unearthed. I hoped she would help clear up all the questions the world has been waiting to have answered about the circumstances of the book's planned release.
 
On Wednesday, I received an envelope without a return address, made out to "Conner Sheets." I opened it without fanfare, only to find my letter, wrinkled and refolded, with four words and one punctuation mark scrawled in cursive Sharpie at the bottom: "Go Away! Harper Lee."

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Apparently the State of Alabama is on the case.

 

Now the State of Alabama has been drawn into the debate. Responding to at least one complaint of potential elder abuse related to the publication of “Watchman,” investigators interviewed Ms. Lee last month at the assisted living facility where she resides. They have also interviewed employees at the facility, called the Meadows, as well as several friends and acquaintances.
 
It remains unclear what, if anything, will come out of the investigation, now more than a month old. One person informed of the substance of the interviews, who did not want to speak for attribution because the inquiry was ongoing, said Ms. Lee appeared capable of understanding questions and provided cogent answers to investigators.

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The State of Alabama's investigation is closed.

 

The New York Times reported on Thursday that the Alabama Department of Human Resources was looking into Lee’s health with the help of the Alabama Securities Commission. The commission has since closed its investigation, issuing the statement: “We made a determination that Ms Lee, based on our interview with her, was aware that her book was going to be published. She wanted it published. She made it quite clear she did.”
 
But the Department of Human Resources would not confirm or deny the existence of any investigation to the Guardian, nor to the New York Times.
 
According to Nurnberg, the Alabama Securities Commission had “closed the investigation”.
 
You know, I actually feel bad for Lee at this point--and I understand why she's avoided the spotlight for so long. The sources questioning her competency are pretty much universally people who don't know or haven't seen her in years--doctors who aren't acting as her doctor, writers who claim to be her bff even though she's denied it, etc etc etc--and these folks have the gall to insist that they and only they have Lee's best interest at heart? When no matter what she says they'll just shrug it off and say she's old and doesn't know any better?
 
And her lawyer is the one engaging in elder abuse, instead of folks who insist on hounding her now to make sure she really knows what's going on?
 
It's...well, it's very Southern. I'll give it that.
 
EDIT: Regarding Watchman itself, I found this bit interesting:
 
“Contrary to certain press reports, it was not ‘rejected’ at the time: her putative editor – having read, Go Set a Watchman – persuaded her to write Scout’s story through the eyes of a child, and the plan was to write a short novel to act as a bridge to Go Set A Watchman. This is clear from documentation at the time, which I have seen. This bridging book was never written but, as readers will find, it is not necessary to understand how Scout, her father, her extended family and the politics of segregation in the mid-50s evolved.”
Edited by NBooth

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The New Yorker has an interesting piece on another lost Harper Lee project.

 

The Radney family shared a copy of the manuscript with me, on the condition that I not quote from it. The chapter begins dramatically with that early-morning telephone call, when the Reverend Maxwell asks the Lawyer Larkin for his help. There are only six paragraphs, just over eleven hundred words, but they form a sweeping chapter that traces the Larkin family history from the shores of Ireland to the sandy soil of Alabama. Lee only sent Radney these four pages, but she told him many times that she had written more. “I have accumulated enough rumor, fantasy, dreams, conjecture, and outright lies for a volume the length of the Old Testament,” Lee told another writer, Madison Jones, who was researching the case. In a 1987 letter now housed at Emory University, Lee wrote to Jones: “I do believe that the Reverend Maxwell murdered at least five people, that his motive was greed, that he had an accomplice for two of the murders and an accessory for one. The person I believe to have been his accomplice/accessory is alive, well, and living not 150 miles from you.” But, she wrote, “I do not have enough hard facts about the actual crimes for a book-length account.” Still, she and Radney stayed in touch for years after this, and he was convinced that she was still working on the project.

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Anand Venigalla wrote:

: Hey guys, did you know that Atticus was a racist?

 

I'm intrigued by this bit from the Wikipedia entry on To Kill a Mockingbird:

 

Lee has said that To Kill a Mockingbird is not an autobiography, but rather an example of how an author "should write about what he knows and write truthfully".[12] Nevertheless, several people and events from Lee's childhood parallel those of the fictional Scout. Lee's father, Amasa Coleman Lee, was an attorney, similar to Atticus Finch, and in 1919, he defended two black men accused of murder. After they were convicted, hanged and mutilated,[13] he never tried another criminal case. Lee's father was also the editor and publisher of the Monroeville newspaper. Although more of a proponent of racial segregation than Atticus, he gradually became more liberal in his later years.[14]

 

I wonder if the Atticus Finch of Go Set a Watchman is closer to Lee's real-life father, whereas the Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird may have been cleaned up somewhat (or may have reflected changes in attitude that took place much later for Lee's real-life father).

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Hey guys, did you know that Atticus was a racist?

So saith sources around GO SET A WATCHMAN

My curiosity about this book has suddenly taken a more-than-historical-interest turn.

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