I’ve been meaning to talk about literature for the longest time. That’s one topic off my to-do list!
If you were a student in high school within the last 40-50 years, then you’ve probably read a book called To Kill a Mockingbird. Furthermore, if you were watching movies within the same timeframe, you’ve probably also have seen the Academy Award winning movie by the same name. Case and point, I’m most of us are aware of this book’s existence. The novel was written in 1960 by Harper Lee, and has become an American classic, particularly for its views on racial injustice.
The novel has been gaining a new relevance in the past couple of days. It was announced that on July of this year the sequel will be published and available to the public. The first wave of release is said to be two million copies. The book, titled Go Set a Watchmen (which I will now shorten to GSAW), takes place 20 years after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird. where Scout returns to Waycomb, Alabama and revisiting aforementioned events.
This story has a fascinating and ironic history behind it. The original book actually stemmed from this manuscript being rejected by publishers. Lee retooled the story under recommendation by the publishers, which became To Kill a Mockingbird (which I will now shorten to TKAM). Before we even knew of the existence of the story, Lee had on several occasions refused to release a sequel to TKAM as it would take away from the story. 55 years later, she seems to have finally agreed.
Among what some consider excitement or shock was some controversy. See, Harper Lee is currently 88 years old and resides in a nursing home. After a stroke she has been left deaf, near-blind, and in a wheelchair, with her only connection to any media sources being her recently deceased sister (who was also her lawyer and caretaker) and her current lawyer (the one who discovered the manuscript in fall last year). Due to these factors which follow five decades of ruthless resistance for GSAW’s release, fans and speculators came to the theory that this sudden agreement was made under foul play. It may be possible that Lee signed this off without her legitimate consent.
In response to the suspicion, some have called for boycotting the book release to express disapproval of such a practice. Others remain curious and excited to see what the new book is about.
I like many others have read TKAM in school during Freshman year. That book was probably my favorite of the stories I read that year. I really do admire the story for what it was and the issue it was tackling. To me, any work that dares to be different has my support in one way or another. I haven’t had the chance to see what I hear is an incredible movie, but it’s on my movie bucket list. (Yes, I have one of those).
By the time you read this, the news would’ve been introduced to me yesterday in my English class. I was curious to find out more, and when I did the controversy put me in a tough spot. The million dollar question is, of course, whether or not this was Lee’s decision or was it manipulation.
I thought a small while on it. It would be rather dim of me not to acknowledge the jarring coincidence of this sudden change of heart while she is in such a frail state. It’s not even so much an age thing as it is a vulnerability thing. It’s very easy to imagine someone giving her the contract and telling her it’s for something entirely different so she’d sign it. 55 years is also a milestone year; the perfect opportunity to capitalize on what can now be a franchise.
Something in my heart wants nothing more than to believe that she had something in writing somewhere giving consent. But until she herself comes out and verbalizes it (which will probably never happen), we can never know for sure. All that’s left is the moral predicament: do you support a work that may or may not have been released without the author’s permission? Feed curiosity or stand opposed?
This is something I continue to struggle with. Normally scandals in something’s development never stops me from buying or experiencing any medium I wanted to experience. However, it’s probably different since this was probably never meant to be seen. Granted, today I was going to go searching for the leaked original pilot for Big Bang Theory which was never meant to be seen. I was first in line to see “Dexter’s Rude Removal” when Adult Swim uploaded it online; again never meant to be seen (though CN gave consent, so it may be different).
As of right now, I’m not gonna lie, curiosity is getting the best of me. I may not read it when it comes out as I already have Ernest Cline’s Armada to read during the summer. My possible solution will be to get a copy which will inevitably be available in the library in order to avoid moral conflict; but only if and after I get around to seeing that TKAM movie. I need a refresher.
What do you guys make of the situation? Do you care to read the book eventually? Do you think there’s reason for concern or boycotting? Let me know in the comments, because I’d love to discuss this further.
I’m SBox180. Thanks for reading!