Friday, September 4, 2015

'Watchman' a Disservice to Author Harper Lee

I was in Costco recently where I saw a pile of hardcover copies of Harper Lee's new-old novel Go Set a Watchman. I picked up a copy, but decided not to buy it.  I had read that this novel is set in the 1950s with Scout as an adult and her father Atticus Finch an older man, and -- a racist. Further, the other characters in the second novel aren't that likable and the writing is poorly done.

Harper Lee's first novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, is one of my favorite novels. I also love the movie made of it. The characters in that novel -- the children and the righteous Atticus Finch -- seem real to me. I did not want to read something that would taint my ideas about them.  My hero, Atticus Finch, a racist? No, thank you.

When I had lunch recently with the Southern Writer, Eve La Salle Caram, and Harper Lee's second novel came up, Eve frowned and said she did not like the voice of Scout as an adult. Eve is very polite.

From what I've read about Go Set a Watchman, it's a book that shouldn't have been published. The 89-year old Harper Lee's protector, her sister Alice, died last November, and her new protector, Tonja Carter, made arrangements with the publisher HarperCollins to have the second novel published. Decades ago, Harper Lee herself could have offered that manuscript to a publisher had she wanted to, but the esteemed author didn't -- she must have known it was not a good novel. But Ms. Carter and HarperCollins went ahead and published the second novel, which reportedly made 1.1 million dollars a week after it was released. An Opinion article in The New York Times refers to the publication of Go Set a Watchman as "one of the epic money grabs in the modern history of American publishing."

The New Yorker Magazine says, "Not since Hemingway's estate sent down seemingly complete novels from on high, long after the author's death, has a publisher gone about so coolly exploiting a much loved name with a product of such mysterious provenance."

I feel sorry for Harper Lee who is old and vulnerable and is being exploited in this way. Some of her letters went on auction last June, and Ms. Carter had even suggested that Harper Lee may have an unpublished third novel, an idea that has been investigated and shot down. (Right now I have a mental image of vultures picking at a prey.)

To the readers who think the "big publishing houses in New York" publish good literature --- keep this in mind; they're after that 1.1 million dollars more than publishing worthy books. Don't be impressed therefore by everything they print.

Read also
         The New Yorker Review of Go Set a Watchman
         Harper Lee's 'Watchman' Is  a Mess That Makes Us Reconsider a Masterpiece
         No Third Novel from Harper Lee
Tags: literature, Southern literature, novel, book, writers, Eve Caram, Harper lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman

This is all for now,

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