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Is it a sin to publish a sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird”?
News that Harper Lee’s classic novel about racial injustice would not be her only published book soared through the country Tuesday.
Publishing house HarperCollins’ announcement that Lee wrote another novel, “Go Set a Watchman," which was recently discovered and is slated for a summer release, was met with great fanfare and skepticism.
The elusive author, who still lives in her home state of Alabama, had written “Watchman” in the 1950s before turning her attention to the novel that would win her a Pulitzer Prize and be adapted into an Academy Award-winning film, which is considered a classic in its own right.
The Southern gothic novel, which has been a staple on high school reading lists for decades, is still widely read. Many of those readers took the news as an occasion to crack jokes about just how long it took for Lee's sophomore release to come.
Josh Gondelman, a writer for "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver," compared the upcoming release to Guns N' Roses' long-awaited 2008 album "Chinese Democracy," which undersold expectations and disappointed many fans.
"Harper Lee is finally going to publish her second novel, "Chinese Demockingbird," he tweeted.
Some fear that — like the deluge of sequels and remakes in Hollywood — the new book will not live up to the original.
Others suggested that "To Kill a Mockingbird," which is considered by many to be the Great American Novel, should not have a sequel at all.
HarperCollins issued a statement announcing the news. It included a lengthy quote from Lee.
She says that “Watchman” was about the character of Scout as an adult woman but that her editor was taken in by the flashback passages to her childhood and asked her to focus on that instead.
“I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn't realized it had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it,” she said, according to the statement.
Lee goes on to say that she is “humbled and amazed” that the book will finally be published all these years later — but not everyone believes this version of events.
Connor Goldsmith, a literary agent for Fuse Literary, fears that the publication of the novel may be exploitative.
He noted that Lee's sister, Alice Lee, had protected her estate and was one of her few confidants.
But Alice died on Nov. 17 at the age of 103. Three months later, we get news of the new book — this did not sit well with Goldsmith.