Friday, 6 February 2015

Harper Lee and A Second Book

Alabama has a lot of four-star writers....and maybe a couple of five-star writers.

Winston Groom (Forrest Gump), Truman Capote (well, yeah, he was born in New Orleans....but moved to Monroeville and became a Bama writer), Dennis Covington (he wrote the Sand Mountain murder piece), Zelda Fitzgerald (she was married to F. Scott and was a bit crazy, but in's an accepted thing to be eccentric), and then we had Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird).

If you live in central Bama and have any passion for great read Harper Lee's book.  It's been in production since 1960 and probably rated one of the top twenty books ever produced in America.

The amazing thing about Harper that she wrapped up the book in 1960 and never wrote another book, period.  Folks are a bit amazed about this side of the story.  Imagine Mark Twain just writing Huck Finn and walking away.  Or imagine John Steinbeck just writing Tortilla Flats alone and by itself.

This past week, word got out that a new book would be published by Harper Lee.  She's getting up around ninety years old and this announcement was a bit of a shock.

What she says....via the that she wrote a book prior to To Kill a Mockingbird and sent a draft to the publisher in NY City....who kinda liked it but you have anything else?  She went back....spent a couple of months on another book, and sent them To Kill a Mockingbird.  They loved it and published it.

The first book?  What's told to the public is that Harper Lee's manuscript ended up with her sister (a lawyer) and was kept in her private practice there in Monroeville.  The sister didn't ever say nothing.  The publisher never came to ask for the first draft back and publish it.  Nothing was spoken of the first book....ever.

The sister died in the past six months.  The associate in the office of the sister was cleaning out her files, and came across the book.  Relatives taking care of Harper Lee....noted the new document and asked the publisher about it.  The publisher was eager to publish it and it'll be out by mid-summer.

Frankly, upon hearing the whole story.....I generally think it's all bogus.

What most folks say currently of Harper Lee is that she's not too well off physically, and they always want you to know that she's pretty sharp and full of wit.  Based on comments from the funeral of the sister from several folks....they aren't that sure of her wit or sharpness still being there.  Maybe she did write this new book.....Go Set a Watchman....but I have my doubts.

For years, it's been suggested that Harper had some assistance by Truman Capote (a high school friend) to write To Kill a Mockingbird.  There's no real proof to say yes or no on this.  And you will have to wonder if the same folks will suggest this with this second novel.

My sense of logic kicks in with this whole thing.....a person sits down and writes one of the best novels of the century, and never produces anything again?  It's hard to think in these terms of such a writer.

Edgar Allen Poe wrote tons of short stories....but when you go looking for a full-up book....there's only one single book that he wrote.

Oscar Wilde wrote tons of poetry....but there's only one single book that he produced....The Picture of Dorian Grey.

Margret Mitchell wrote only Gone With the Wind.....deciding to never write another piece, and died a couple years later at age forty-nine after getting hit by a car.

Boris Pasternak wrote Doctor Zhivago.....winning the Nobel Prize for Literature on just one book.....and never published again.

So, there are single book writers.  But it's awful hard to find such an individual.  Maybe Harper Lee's story is true....but it's just hard to believe it.  Bottom will get one more piece of work, which got turned down for publication fifty-odd years ago.  You might want to ask why.