Like most folks, I was pretty damn surprised when I read about Harper Lee releasing a new book. It’s not the kind of thing I’d given thought to in more than 15 years; I’d pretty much decided Ms. Lee had only the one in her (a totally bizarre concept to a guy like me, with a whole playground full of characters screaming for attention each time I lift the lid off the creative aether), and that was that. If you’re going all-in, you could do a lot worse than To Kill a Mockingbird.
Giddiness set in once the shock wore off. The very same kind I felt last year when I learned about the forthcoming J.D. Salinger books. I mean, not one but two of the most known 20th-century literary figures with more to give? It’s candy to a creative mind, even if it’s a flavor you dislike…and me, I like both Salinger and Lee.
Next came what I always think of as pop-culture wariness. I distrust the tidal surges of current sentiment as a rule, and this new book’s release is already getting comparisons as a literary event to the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. That kind of hype turns me off, and I didn’t want to be turned off to what could potentially be a fun read.
Finally an unsettling question popped up: am I remembering Harper Lee’s work from the standpoint of experience, or is it the thrust of our culture influencing me, suggesting I “should” like To Kill a Mockingbird because everybody else does? The answer there is I’m not sure. The last time I read that book I was in high school. I remember it being more accessible than a lot of the novels we read, but I recall absolutely nothing of the language, the structure, and the rest of the little things writers often read for as much as a good story.
I’ve decided I need to:
(A) Find out what’s what. I’ll do this by rereading TKaM before the new book’s release, and decide how I feel about the work as a whole.
(2) Keep an open mind. I’m going to look on the sunny side and hope for a well-written, entertaining story, not an earth-shatting-holy-shit-why-didn’t-she-write-more? book. Chances are, TKaM is too culturally ascended for popular comparison.
And that’s what I’m going to do. Make up my own mind about the whole thing. I hope you will, too. Please don’t compare a trans-generational-classic to Go Set a Watchman. Read it as its own entity, whole and complete by itself. Allow it to surprise, thrill, entertain, annoy, irritate, or bore you honestly, based only on its merits. To do else is injustice toward an honest piece of hard work.
P.S. for my grammarian friends, the A-and-2 was intentional, and for you.