Days after the announcement that Go Set A Watchman, (Harper; HarperLuxe, HarperAudio; July 14, 2015) Harper Lee’s first, unpublished book, had been discovered and will be published in July, media excitement subsided into dark questions.
Lee, now nearly blind and deaf, lives in an assisted living facility and does not speak directly to the press. All of her statements are issued by her lawyer, Tonya Carter, who is also the person who discovered the manuscript. Throughout her life, Lee was adamant that To Kill a Mockingbird would be her only book. Is it any wonder that questions are being raised?
The New York Times today outlines the arguments that Lee has been manipulated into agreeing to the book’s publication as well as those that she is “happy as hell” about the whole thing.
Over the weekend a purported cover appeared on Twitter, which Amazon is now shows as the cover [UPDATE: the cover has now been removed from the Amazon site. Whether it is the real cover or not, it looks similar to the U.K.’s 50th anniversary edition of Mockingbird, above. Amazon U.K. is still showing the Watchman cover above left]. As of this writing, no cover appears on HarperCollins’ site.
What does the title mean? According to a story on the Alabama Media Group web site, Lee, who grew up reading the bible and particularly loved the King James version, took it from Isaiah 21:6, “For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.” One of her life-long friends, Monroeville, Alabama resident, Wayne Flynt tells the publication, ”
‘Go Set a Watchman’ means, ‘Somebody needs to be the moral compass of this town.’ Isaiah was a prophet. God had set him as a watchman over Israel. It’s really God speaking to the Hebrews, saying what you need to do is set a watchman, to set you straight, to keep you on the right path … Nelle [Harper Lee] saw her father as being the watchman on the metaphorical gate of Monroeville [which became Maycomb in To Kill a Mockingbird] … To me it’s a beautiful title that was probably wildly out of fashion in 1960 … I find it a delicious irony that this [original] biblical title … is suddenly coming back as a second novel, because the first novel made her an international literary celebrity, and now it doesn’t make it any difference what she calls it.”