Author Casey Cep writes about a true crime story Harper Lee could not complete. “Harper Lee always said that she was ‘intrigued with crime.’ She grew up surrounded by stacks of the magazine True Detective Mysteries, cut her teeth on Sherlock Holmes, watched trials from the balcony of the local courthouse as a kid, and studied criminal law at the University of Alabama.”
The story of Reverend Willie Maxwell, a man accused but not convicted of murdering and collecting death benefits from five family members, was as compelling as any story Lee had grown up with. But she could not pull it together. Perhaps the characters were too much larger than life.
Part of why true crime stories are so appealing is that they force us to confront the limits of what can be known, and eliding those limits, whether by fabricating motives or means or inventing someone’s inner life, doesn’t just cross the boundary between fiction and nonfiction; it transgresses something deeper.
A bookseller says the hype over Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman mislead readers, who are now expressing their disappointment in what was supposed to be a new classic.
Brilliant Books in Traverse City, Michigan, has said that its “dozens” of customers for Go Set a Watchman are owed “refunds and apologies” over the way the novel has been presented. “It is disappointing and frankly shameful to see our noble industry parade and celebrate this as ‘Harper Lee’s New Novel’,” the bookseller writes on its website. “This is pure exploitation of both literary fans and a beloved American classic (which we hope has not been irrevocably tainted). We therefore encourage you to view Go Set a Watchman with intellectual curiosity and careful consideration; a rough beginning for a classic, but only that.”
Anthony Daniels talks about his concept of Harper Lee and the memories To Kill a Mockingbird provoke for him.
In To Kill a Mockingbird, the blacks in the courtroom stand when Atticus, who has just defended Tom Robinson vigorously and decisively but unsuccessfully against a false and malicious charge of rape, goes by, such is their grateful respect for him. The next day Atticus receives a large quantity of such humble presents as very poor people are able to give. And when the children, Scout and Jem, are taken by Calpurnia, the family’s black cook, to the church for blacks, they are treated virtually ex officio as very special. These are similar to experiences I had in South Africa and in other parts of the continent.
He eventually draws it down to questioning the novel’s conclusion, that “most people are real nice when finally you see them.”
Harper Lee’s Watchman has captured the hopes of many readers, and now the author’s lawyer has announced the discovery of papers that may be yet another manuscript. Yes. That part’s true. Not even the lawyer appears to know what those papers hold, but The Onion has gotten hold of the title, “My Excellent Caretaker Deserves My Entire Fortune.”
Electric Lit reports that several publishers are now announcing newly discovered sequels to many of your favorite classics:
- Lunch at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
- The Cul-De-Sac by Cormac McCarthy
- The Raisins of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- Moby-Dick 2: The College Years by Herman Melville
These look good, but when are publisher going find real blockbusters like these:
- The Big Bang Theory: A Personal View by Eccentrica Gallumbits
- Dreams Don’t Mean Anything by Richard Tull
- How I Survived an Hour with a Sprained Finger
- Highly Unpleasant Things It Is Sometimes Good To Know, a compilation
- Frank Recollections of a Long Life by Lady Bablockhythe
- Finding Love and Yeti, a memoir
- Keep the Home Fires Burning, by Nero Caesar
- When Mildew Awakens and Shouts, by Culdugger Smith-Smyth