RHYS BOWEN: Here at Jungle Red Writers we tend to avoid anything too controversial, topical or political. However something happened this week that had concerned me greatly and think affects our industry. I'm not talking about the Iran nuclear deal, I'm talking about the publication of
GO SET A WATCHMAN, the new/old book by Harper Lee.
It was published this Tuesday by Harper Collins. I haven't read it yet and frankly I don't know if I want to. I find it very disturbing that a woman who guarded her privacy so fiercely and who shunned any kind of limelight is now a topic of universal discussion. A woman who never wrote another book in sixty years now decides to publish an unpolished prequel or sequel of her magnum opus. What disturbs me most was a quote I read that the publisher has never spoken with her directly, only with her lawyer. How is that right? How can they know that her wishes are being observed? We don't even know that she is mentally capable of making decisions. We don't even know if she was even asked. Isn't it more likely that her lawyer got his hands on an unfinished manuscript and decided to cash in on it?So what do other Reds and readers think about this? I would hate someone to find a first draft or early manuscript of mine and thus tarnish my reputation. I admit that the only facts I know are those I've read or heard on radio. So please set me straight if I am wrong.
LUCY BURDETTE: I haven't been studying this carefully, but lots of the facts seem bothersome. I totally agree that I wouldn't want an old piece of work that I'd deemed unpublishable put out into the world. Gosh it's hard enough to feel like a finished manuscript is good enough. Because the recently published book is so "valuable", it certainly opens the process to accusations of exploitation. This reminds me of the struggle over Steig Larsson's unpublished work after his death. the stakes are very high in both cases.
I'm not sure I will read Watchman either Rhys. If you are curious about the change in Atticus Finch's character, you'll want to read this blog post by James Scott Bell: https://killzoneblog.com/2015/07/the-whole-truth-about-atticus-finch.html
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Jonathan is afraid to read it, because he doesn't want to ruin his vision of Atticus. And I talked to a person yesterday who was trying to explain to me how the change of Atticus's personality was a logical progression, envisioned through Scout's brain.
And I think it's fascinating, because in reality, to an author, we are creating characters, and with the stroke of a pen or the delete button, the characteristics can change. I have certainly made a character I thought was good into a bad guy, and it is not difficult to do.
But the good guy AND the bad guy can exist, just in different universes. One does not have to develop out of the other, or even be connected to the other, it's just a completely different character in a completely different story.
It's not contradictory, it's just a different snapshot of a different time. It's not exactly the same, but it is kind of like the Wizard of Oz and Wicked.
(Yes, I admit, I have been relieved that Gregory Peck is not alive to read Go Set.)
I am looking at it as an interesting insight into the author's process. And the editor's process!
Jonathan, looking at it a different way, says it is terrible that the reputation of Atticus is getting ruined… For money.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Lucy, that's a very interesting piece by James Scott Bell. It made me wonder if it doesn't make Atticus Finch's defense of Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird more admirable, rather than less, when we know his political views. He upheld the law in spite of his opinions on race and segregation, which is what a lawyer should do, isn't it? I'd love to know what Jonathan thinks, Hank. Still, that doesn't make the older Atticus (from what I've read) any more appealing, but people are often both complicated and flawed.
Will we ever have a definitive answer to "Should it have been published?" Probably not. Has anyone actually read it yet, and if so, what did you think?
RHYS: Please share your thoughts on this. I really don't want to leap to judgment on this. I could be possible that the lawyer really has her client's best interests at heart and wants the world to be able to share this very different aspect of Atticus Finch. It could be a new national treasure. However.......