Y’All Can Kill That Mockingbird Now

With Harper Lee on deathwatch in 2014, we reviewed the metapolitics and general phoniness surrounding the phenomenon of To Kill a Mockingbird. 

This began as a blog-post, then essay, in 2010, conceived after a correspondence with Lee’s biographer. I’ve shamelessly repurposed the material a few times. Here it is in its canonical version:

One of these days Harper Lee is going to kick off and have great big posthumous laugh at our expense. Bwah-hah-hah! Because right there in her Last Notes and Testament, we will find an answer to that puzzlement that has troubled the publishing biz for a half-century or more.

Namely, why didn’t Harper Lee write any more novels after To Kill a Mockingbird?

And the main reason she didn’t, she will aver in words that are coarse and pithy, is that To Kill a Mockingbird was a phoney-baloney contrived piece of fluff. It wasn’t her novel anymore, not after her agent and editors got through tarting it up, to make it modern and popular and sellable. They mutilated her baby, and young Nelle Harper Lee didn’t have the heart to go through that again.

Popular and sellable it certainly was. It was on the bestseller list for about two years, and thanks to the sponsorship of Gregory Peck it became a guaranteed hit movie even before a screenplay was written.

And it was modern. By laying on themes of racial strife and civil rights, and deleting most references to Thirties pop culture, the publishers made the novel as up-to-date and relevant as the latest issue of Look magazine. The book contains some vague references to the New Deal, and a courtroom trial is said to be happening in 1935; officially we’re in the mid-30s for most of the action. But otherwise the setting might as well be the Deep South of the 1950s and even 60s.

Read the whole thing: http://bit.ly/1JXX9Qp