Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Harper Lee Is Releasing A New Book

This is BIG FREAKING NEWS, people. Harper Lee, reclusive author of my favourite-ever book, To Kill A Mockingbird, is releasing her second ever novel this year, Go Set A Watchman, and it will feature Scout as a grown woman returning to Maycombe to visit Atticus. Considering To Kill A Mockingbird was first published in 1960, that's a hell of a break between books - fifty-five years, in fact, so I'd say she's done an excellent job of trolling us all. I never even imagined she'd ever write another a book, so for her, aged 88, to just basically turn around and say, 'oh look, what's this that I've found lying around? Oh wait, it's only ANOTHER FREAKING BOOK ABOUT SCOUT!' is just... it's big. To me, it's as big as when they found that Shakespeare folio in a village library in France.

Go Set A Watchman, due to be published in July 2015, was actually written before To Kill A Mockingbird, with Scout looking back on her childhood. But when editors advised Lee to write from Scout's point of view entirely ("My editor... persuaded me to write a novel from the point of view of the young Scout. I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told."), the original manuscript got set aside and was believed lost until her it was rediscovered last year - according to The Bookseller, "the original manuscript of the novel was considered to have been lost until the autumn of 2014, when Carter [Lee's friend and lawyer] discovered it in a secure location where it had been affixed to an original typescript of To Kill a Mockingbird". Can you believe it? It's like stumbling up in to the attic and finding your dad had forgotten he has a mint condition, first edition copy of Superman. Except bigger. I can't even begin to imagine how Tonja Carter felt when she realised what she was holding. I hope it was reverence and an overwhelming desire for a stiff drink.

I'm not yet sure how I feel about this news - actually that's a lie, I'm so excited I can barely sit still. I'm on the same kind of high I usually only get from booking holidays. But obviously, as many people have been quick to point out on Twitter, she's got quite a lot riding on this, a lot of hype to live up to:

But I don't really think we've got anything to worry about. I've not been expecting, or even hoping, for another novel from Harper Lee - let alone one that features Scout -  so it's not exactly like expectations are riding high. I think most people are just delighted, like I am.

So sorry Jonathan Franzen and Kazuo Ishiguro - I know it's been a while since your last novels came out, but your thunder has officially been stolen. Tough break, guys.

In the meantime, I'm just gonna be doing this on repeat:

UPDATE (04-02-2015):

My excitement over this news had been somewhat tempered by this article on Jezebel, which speculates on the inconsistency between Lee's previous stance on publicity and publishing, and the news that she is now releasing a new title. This is just one article, collating several points made in various corners of the internet, but now my initial excitement has died down a bit there is the nagging concern that maybe Lee hasn't actually consented to the publication of Go Set A Watchman. Read the full article for more, but the points made relate to Lee's declining mental health, her tendency to sign whatever is put in front of her, and the coincidence that this news comes three months after the death of her fiercely-protective sister, Alice. I'm not saying this news is fact, not by a long shot, and I'm really hoping it's not true, but now I think on it, it is a massive coincidence and certainly concerning that an old woman might be being taken advantage of.

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