Join #LitChat today for a live conversation about the many issues raised by the controversial publication of Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. #LitChat will be moderated today by Judah Freed.
In case you have not been following the news, HarperCollins recently published a long-suppressed manuscript that Harper Lee used as the basis for what would eventually become To Kill a Mockingbird. The differences are striking between the original Watchman story and the subsequent Mockingbird story. The character of Scout is the narrator of both stories, but the girl in Mockingbird is a grown woman in Watchman. The adult Scout has been living in New York and returns to her Alabama hometown to learn that her revered father, Atticus Finch, is not the fair-minded, anti-segregationist her childhood memories painted him to be. The novel deals with her discovery and it’s impact on her life.
The globally beloved Atticus Finch of Mockingbird emerged only after Lee’s editor asked for a revised novel based on Scout’s youthful experience of her father. The resulting 1960 book won the Pulitzer Prize and served as the basis for a movie starring Gregory Peck as the loving and noble man that almost every child wanted as a father. In the original novel, however, adult Scout finds her father had feet of clay. The trial at the center of Mockingbird was just one of many incidents in the man’s life that Scout relates in Watchman.
Harper Lee, 89, is a stroke survivor who now lives in a nursing home. According to some reports, the aging author never wanted Watchman to be published, that her protective sister and attorney, Alice, had blocked publication until Alice died last November. Other reports say Harper Lee was happy to see the book published once she was given reassurances about its handling.
So, that’s a very abbreviated frame for our #Litchat conversation today. The questions we will explore include:
- How does publication of Watchman affect the literacy legacy of Harper Lee?
- Is a literary agent and publisher bound to abide by the previously spoken wishes of an author when a potentially lucrative manuscript remains unpublished?
- How does the revised portrayal of Atticus Finch affect the current dialogue about race and racism in America today?
- Should schools and libraries remove anti-racist Mockingbird from their shelves because Atticus Finch has been revealed as a racist on Watchman?
- How does the writing in Watchman compare to the later writing in Mockingbird, and what does this say about Harper’s Lee’s evolution as a novelist?
- Does the fact Harper Lee kept the Watchman manuscript hidden suggest anything about why she never wrote or published any more novels after Mockingbird?
- Are purchasers of Watchman entitled to refunds because the new/old novel does not match the story they were expecting in Mockingbird?
Here are some links if you wish to do any research before #Litchat begins.
Please join us for what likely will be one of the most engaging #LitChats in some time. We begin on Twitter at 4 p.m. ET and finish at 5 p.m. ET. Moderating our conversation today will be author Judah Freed (@judahfreed).