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Friday, March 13, 2015

Mockingbird Uncaged?

"Nelle Harper Lee" by Unknown - ebay posting. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nelle_Harper_Lee.jpg#/media/File:Nelle_Harper_Lee.jpg
This is mostly my speculation,  based on the recent reports regarding the investigation into possible elder abuse of Harper Lee, of which one part has now been completed and closed.

 I am starting to see the publishing of 'Go Set a Watchman' as not a caging of the mockingbird, but rather, its release. A couple of reader comments on the NY Times story set off this train of thought.

In the comments, Rebekah from Birmingham wrote:
"In 1972 while discussing casting calls that had been or were to be held at town and gown theater by James Hatcher(he did the casting for the mockingbird )was told by stage crew who worked there and also at at Birmimgham Children's Theater that Harper Lee had written another book .However she was waiting to publish until after her older sister died.Supposedly this was because the book was extremely critical of Monroeville and certain recognizable people there at that time but also had negative things to say about Atticus.The later reason was the one her sister invested on a delayed publication as she felt it would embarrass the family.Hearsay from many years ago but it seems to fit." 

and Michael Currier:
"A lot of people hold back publishing letters until after family members die and are beyond being hurt. I always wondered about if Harper Lee's sister dominated her but was hurt by To Kill A Mockingbird (the sister and the mother are left out of the book!). Was Harper Lee unable to publish it until after her sister's death?
On one hand she never published it, but she also never threw it away and kept it in a secure bank box.

Was it Harper Lee that dis-liked the public attention, or was it the sister who disliked it?"


Would this account for the gleeful and thrilled demeanour of Harper Lee, as described by her lawyer and publishing agent? A final chance to see in print what a possibly over-domineering elder sister had prevented from being published?
Maybe the new novel will push Atticus off his pedestal ,and possibly reflect uncharitably on A.C.Lee, Harper Lee's father, who was considered to have been the inspiration for Atticus in some ways, and Alice Lee herself, who had been inspiration for Jem.

The new book becomes a must-read, not only for the eyes to be opened about old literary heroes, but the new light cast on Harper Lee, in all her glee at having finally outwitted her elder sister by the simple act of outliving her, and getting out the book that Alice insisted was never to be printed.

Update: And the saga continues...  Was the book discovered earlier and quietly pushed aside? Why bring it into the limelight so many years after the first 'discovery'?

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