Last week, some big news hit the internet: after 55 years, Harper Lee of To Kill a Mockingbird fame is releasing a new book. My reaction to this has been up and down. First, I was SUPER EXCITED. Then, I was shocked. Now that almost a week has past… I’m not exactly sure how I feel.
I’m sure by now most of you are familiar with the controversy: Harper Lee has previously gone on record saying that she’d never publish another book again. So… why is she deciding to publish Go Set a Watchman now? This announcement seems interestingly timed too, as Lee’s sister, who previously managed her legal issues, recently passed away. Plus, after suffering from a stroke in 2007, Lee’s health isn’t exactly in the best shape… I won’t continue to delve into this as it really is kind of a “he said, she said” situation, but for more information about this, Tanya from 52booksorbust has a very informative and interesting post here.
Personally, I’m torn. On one hand, I would hate it if something untoward was happening behind the scenes, but on the other hand, would me not buying the book even change anything? (Is that the wrong attitude to have?) I guess whether or not I decide to read the book is something for me to decide in a few months’ time (though if I’m being honest I can’t see myself resisting too hard), but all of this talk has me thinking about posthumous works.
Let’s say, hypothetically, that Lee doesn’t actually want this book to be published. Obviously, we should respect her wishes and not publish something against her will. But what happens to the manuscript if she passes? One example of a posthumous publication comes to mind here: Franz Kafka famously wrote to his literary exectuor and friend Max Brod telling him to destroy all of his unpublished works and letters after his death. Brod decided to ignore Kafka’s wishes and publish most of what remained in his possession anyway. Nowadays, The Trial is an often-studied and critically-acclaimed work of literary fiction, and it seems like the fact that Kafka never wanted it to see the light of day hasn’t really affected consumers. So… how does this relate to this Harper Lee situation?
To be honest, I don’t really know. I think it’ll be interesting to see how this continues to develop. Either way, a new novel by one of the most highly regarded English novelists is coming out this year and it is sure to be a huge literary event.
What do you think? Would make a difference if Go Set a Watchman was published posthumously? Would it somehow make this situation less controversial? How do you feel about this news? Do you think you’ll read Go Set a Watchman regardless? Please feel free to weigh in – I’m incredibly curious to hear your thoughts!