The Murky Waters of the New Harper Lee Book

Hopefully by now, most of you have heard the announcement that Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird) is going to publish her second novel. If not, educate yourself before continuing.

Shortly after the announcement, speculation turned to the fact that Harper Lee’s very protective lawyer/sister had died just 3 months ago, and the elderly Lee has some medical issues from a 2007 stroke, which makes this announcement sort of suspect.

I will not be going into all that. Buzzfeed has a great article that explores the issues and how we as readers want to consume unpublished content. Check it out here.

My thoughts on this particularly story are difficult to express. On the one hand, I feel that there is no way to top To Kill a Mockingbird. This book is taught in public schools, in colleges, and actively one of the best American novels. And I do question the ethics of publishing a book by an elderly author, who by some accounts, is mostly blind and deaf, and reportedly signs what is ever placed in front to her. The fact that her editor has not actually spoken to her, and only through her lawyer, only complicates my feelings.

But she is alive. She fully backs the publication of this book. My grandfather did some really out there things as he got older, too. So I can totally support a change of heart, or whatever she is feeling.

Ethically, as someone in publishing, it feels wrong. The questions I am ultimately left pondering: Was Harper Lee taken advantage of because of her age? Even though she claims to fully back this new book, all communication has been through her lawyer. And if I was the editor, would I still feel ethically conflicted when faced with a publication of a lifetime?  Probably.

But publishing is a business and books, thought we love them, are a consumer product.

I guess I am still on the fence.


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