My Thoughts on Harper Lee's New Book Go Set a Watchman, a Writer's Legacy, and Their Wishes for Their Creative Work
On February 3, 2015, it was announced that Harper Lee, the author of the young adult classic To Kill a Mockingbird, approved the publication of a sequel 55 years after her much-beloved, award-winning, singular novel was published. According to a press release from Harpers (who only communicated through Lee's lawyer and literary agent, not with Lee herself), a manuscript was "discovered" titled Go Set a Watchman attached to an original typed manuscript of To Kill a Mockingbird in storage. Then the frenzy began! "Another book by Harper Lee?!" they mostly said. "I can't wait!" There were also dissenters who said, "Uh, this sounds fishy. Why now?" And I agree. Why now? For one reason only: Money.
You can Google the history of To Kill a Mockingbird and the behavior and quotes attributed to Harper Lee in dealing with the staggering success of her novel in the decades following the initial publication of the book. She never wanted to publish another book and was also attributed in saying that everything she wanted to say--as a writer--was in To Kill a Mockingbird. She was reticent to talk about the themes of the book, claiming everything you needed to know was in the book. In the years following the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird the book as well the release of the award-winning and beloved movie version starring Gregory Peck, Lee certainly could have gone to her publisher and said, "I have another book! It's about Scout and Atticus 20 years later. It'll be a bestseller. I'll rule the literary world!" But she didn't and the reasons she didn't make complete sense to me as a writer.
It easy for me to understand the excitement from readers who love To Kill a Mockingbird and their desire to want to read this newly "discovered" novel. It's an American classic. People love this book. Practically every student in middle school or high school has read this book. It's still in-print and sells over a million copies a year. People wanted more back in the 60s and people still want more now. But as it states here, "Ms. Lee abandoned the manuscript [of Go Set a Watchman] after her editor, who was captivated by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, told her to write a new book from the young heroine’s perspective and to set it during her childhood." Lee pulled out the best parts of this manuscript, abandoned it, and wrote another novel. Lee knew it wasn't good enough then and in the years after To Kill a Mockingbird was published.