Harper Lee’s new novel

No, this isn’t The Onion. This is really happening.

Just like pretty much everyone else in the world who has a stake (emotional or otherwise) in books, this news set me off on a roller-coaster of bookish emotions, and I’m not sure the ride is over. I’m still processing, and what is a blog if not a ready-made forum for talking through my feelings? So here I go.

I believe the overall feeling, and certainly the first one I had after the shock wore off, is unbridled joy. If someone had asked me a year ago for a reading-related wish, another Harper Lee novel would have been in my top ten. And I’m pretty sure voicing this wish with even a glimmer of hope would have produced extensive mockery and laughter. Because as if right? Wrong.

But now that I’ve had time to process the news, and really think about what it means, I’m conflicted. Is this really what Harper Lee wants? We don’t really know what Lee’s state of mind is at the moment right, so can we categorically say that she wants this to be published?

The other slightly disturbing snippet I read today was that this was actually written before To Kill a Mockingbird, and that when the publisher read this they encouraged Lee to focus on Scout as a young girl instead, which makes me wonder how much ‘new’ content is going to be in the book. If she knew that this one wasn’t going to be published, wouldn’t she have ‘borrowed’ from stuff she had already written?

And what if it’s just a real disappointment? I mean, it won’t change the way I feel about TKAM – nothing could – but if Lee hasn’t really sanctioned this being published, and it turns out that it’s not very good, what a horrible legacy to leave.

Let’s be real though, as much as I may feel a bit funny about the timing and legitimacy of the book’s release, there’s not a single ounce of me that doesn’t want to read the shit out of it as soon as I can get my greedy hands on a copy. I just wonder what I should wish for next…

3 replies »

  1. Like you, I’m of two minds about this one.

    I love TKAM. And on the surface, the idea of getting to spend more time with Scout and company intrigues me. But then part of me says — yes, but TKAM has stood on its own so well for fifty years, do we need this sequel?

    And then part of me recalls the rush in the 90’s of various publishers to give us sequels to books that maybe didn’t necessarily need them. I’m thinking of the follow-ups to Rebecca or Gone With the Wind. The thing that this one has going for it is that Lee wrote the book and it wasn’t farmed out to some other writer to copy the style of the original.

    Of course, I’ll read the book. It’s foolish to say I wouldn’t since TKAM is among my favorite books.


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