By Callie Oettinger | Published: February 6, 2015
This past week, the Crazy Train rolled through, packed with reports about Harper Lee and another book.
Had the media storm that followed been an actual snow storm, it would have been the first this season to have been predicted with 100% accuracy.
As Winston Churchill put it, “A lie gets halfway around the world before Truth has a chance to get its pants on.” In this Global Village of ours, I doubt if Truth was even out of bed by the time all the rumors were on their second circuit around the pond.
I don’t know Lee or her family and friends, or her publisher or her lawyer, so I’ll let them sort out the rumors.
There is one thing I’m having a hard time dropping, though—the opinion that she shouldn’t publish. By publishing now, this thinking goes, she might risk tarnishing her legacy—and To Kill A Mockingbird thus lose its “classic” label.
Assuming she wasn’t “manipulated” into releasing the book as some have opined, why shouldn’t she publish? It’s her life and her work.
Yes, it might be that the new release won’t be as good as the first. And, perhaps we’ll find that To Kill A Mockingbird benefited more from a genius editor than a talented writer.
But, we also might find ourselves reading another book confirming Lee to be the literary force that so many of us have believed her to be. We might find ourselves reading the seed of what grew into the now-classic. We might find ourselves reading the next Great American Novel. And, we might find, as the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board wrote, that the new release “does nothing more than inspire readers to pick up Mockingbird for the first time or again.” And that is, as the Editorial Board also wrote, “enough of a gift.”
Is it really worth playing it safe?
No. It isn’t.
You might flop, but if we’re so fickle that we change opinions of your earlier work—or if your first release was a flop and then we use it as the marker to decide if your future work is worth our time—we don’t deserve you.