My mom called me this past Friday and after our usual update and opinion sharing, she said, “Oh before you go, do you think Harper Lee should be publishing another book?”
I was a bit taken aback. Why wouldn’t I be excited about the mind that strung together To Kill a Mockingbird releasing another work she wrote around the same time? My mom referenced this article she’d read in the New York Times and said, “Just read it and let me know what you think.”
Here’s what I think…
In a world where Mike Huckabee is on the NYT Best Seller List, in a climate that is super duper excited about a seventh grade level whips and chains “romance” making it’s way to the screen, I welcome Harper Lee. I want her conflict and questions, her characters and her story. I even want the discussion that may follow. I can’t wait.
As for the article, the book may not be a masterpiece, it may be dated and lost in this modern world, but that is all right. I want to read her story, and she wants to share it, so let’s go. The New York Times writer intimates that today’s audience may tear Ms. Lee apart. I do not think that will be the case, and even if it is, that is not a reason to stay silent.
I think it was Maya Angelou who said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
I am guessing some of us will love it, take it within the context it was written, and appreciate visiting with a cherished familiar voice. An even larger group will, at the very least, respect the new work (Go Set a Watchman). It will rest under the protective umbrella of To Kill a Mockingbird.
There will be those readers, maybe many of them, emboldened by the mask of the internet, that will judge, criticize, and probably even be grumpy and nasty. That’s part of sharing a story. Writers expect criticism, even ignorant or mean spirited criticism, it’s part of the game.
To hide, to not let your words reach out and touch entirely new generations. To leave Scout forever a child when you, as the writer, know she becomes so much more, seems cowardice and I imagine Harper Lee, the woman that created Atticus, to be made of much tougher stuff.
My thoughts from the laundry room. Bedtime Story.