By now you may be aware (and even tired) of all the spiraling controversies surrounding Go Set A Watchman; whether or not Harper Lee made the decision to release this book despite her lifelong insistence that she would not publish another book, the fact that this announcement came only three months after Lee’s sister passed away, the fact that the lawyer, Tonja Carter hase recently released a statement saying that there may even be a third manuscript, how none of the publishers have actually corresponded with Lee herself, instead communicating with the lawyer and the literary agent, Andrew Nurnberg.
In light of recent and not so recent events in our country, I think we can all agree that this ‘version’/sequel/prequel/whatever you want to call it, of To Kill A Mockingbird reflects a racism in America that never really went away. Maybe that’s why this text was ‘hidden’ for so many years; maybe Harper Lee wanted to write a productive book about racism rather than just parroting it. And now while actual black men and women are being killed by police and their churches are being burned, a rejected draft of a timeless classic about racism is racking in hundreds and thousands of dollars, which the author didn’t want.
With all these issues in mind, I implore you, HarperCollins, Tonja Carter, and Andrew Nurnberg, to donate all the proceeds from Go Set A Watchman towards the reconstruction of black churches across the South, eight of which to date have been destroyed by arson.
Literature doesn’t exist to profit off of the circumstances of times. Literature exists to comment on it and do something about it. It’s irresponsible to allow these people and this publishing company to reap the benefits without doing anything to help the current situation at hand.
To quote Joe Nocera from The New York Times:
“In one of her last interviews, conducted in 1964, Lee said: ‘I think the thing that I most deplore about American writing … is a lack of craftsmanship. It comes right down to this — the lack of absolute love for language, the lack of sitting down and working a good idea into a gem of an idea.’
A publisher that cared about Harper Lee’s legacy would have taken those words to heart, and declined to publish “Go Set a Watchman,” the good idea that Lee eventually transformed into a gem. That HarperCollins decided instead to manufacture a phony literary event isn’t surprising. It’s just sad.”