If you’ve been paying attention to the news you know that Harper Lee is releasing a new book, Go Set A Watchman. Except of course that it’s not new. It is, in fact, the book she wrote before To Kill A Mockingbird. Mockingbird is in essence a prequel that tells the story of Scout when she was a girl. Watchman was never published and left in a safety deposit box.
As part of the publicity campaign for the “new” book, Lee’s editor, Hugh Van Dusen, was interviewed by Vulture but it does little to explain much of anything. Over at The Toast, Mallory Ortberg writes about Questions I Have About The Harper Lee Editor Interview.
It’s important to remember that Lee is in a nursing home as a result of a stroke. She, or at least her legal representative, has been fighting a copyright battle over Mockingbird. There doesn’t seem to be an actual quote from her in any of the press releases. No one involved seems to have actually spoken to Lee in years. Some point a finger at her lawyer for being greedy and ignoring her wishes regarding this book.
To almost everyone, those wishes were clear: don’t publish. There’s a reason Lee’s publisher told her to go back and write Scout’s story and never bothered editing Watchman. There’s a reason why Lee never went back to that book and seemed to have even forgotten it ever existed. There’s no reason to believe the decision to publish an unedited manuscript after 55 years is Lee’s. There’s every reason to believe it’s a cynical ploy to make money off an elderly author too incapacitated by age and infirmity to prevent it.