Why I’m not reading Go Set A Watchman

Should the circumstances under which Go Set A Watchman came to be published influence whether or not we read it?

This week marks the release of Go Set A Watchman, the second book to be published from author Harper Lee, 55 years after the first, To Kill A Mockingbird. Lee attended the University of Alabama and wrote for the same campus newspaper that many of my students have staffed. So, the release of Watchman has perhaps been on my radar a bit longer than others. And since the announcement, I’ve had a sick feeling in my stomach about it.

watchmanLee neither seeks nor enjoys public attention. She does not grant interviews with media (the last was in 1964). She still lives in Monroeville, Ala., the small country town of her birth. And those close to her have long told the press that Lee had no desire to publish again.

In 2007, Lee, hard of hearing and sight recovering from a stroke in an assisted living home, signed away her copyright to Mockingbird, leading to an ugly legal battle to recover it. This Vanity Fair feature from 2013 is absolutely worth your time.

So, when Lee’s attorney, Tonja Carter, announced that she had stumbled upon a long-lost manuscript, and publisher HarperCollins added that Lee was “happy as hell” to publish it, one had to wonder if someone else close to Lee was taking advantage of the author who now permanently resides in a nursing home. Continue reading “Why I’m not reading Go Set A Watchman”