One problem with allowing people to publish their work without first taking the benevolent guiding hand of the publishing industry is that writers are left open to all sorts of potential exploitation. Just as it’s easy to take advantage of an elderly person who’s had a stroke and get them to sign all sorts of papers and statements and turn their lives over to virtual strangers, it’s easy to dupe young writers into making choices and deals that are not in their best interest.
That’s why I’m thrilled — thrilled — to see HarperCollins’ Jonathan Burnham taking such good care of Harper Lee and her recently discovered long-lost novel, Go Set A Watchman, which she apparently wrote prior to writing her rightly celebrated masterpiece, To Kill A Mockingbird. I get sick thinking how Lee might have been ill-served by a lesser white knight incapable of anticipating a jaded public’s dubious reaction and providing a preemptive and detailed forensic defense of such an important discovery:
“Everyone had believed it to been [sic] lost, including Harper Lee herself,” Burnham said. “You can see that it is written on a manual typewriter from the period. It has on the front of it the address where Harper Lee was living at the time in New York. But if you read the book, more importantly, only Harper Lee could have written this novel.”
Thank goodness! Because in the dark corners of the publishing world you can only imagine how easy it would have been for someone with fewer scruples to take an early draft of Mockingbird and pay a ghost writer to bash out a few new chapters on and old typewriter, using the resulting bastardized mishmash not only to exploit Harper Lee but rip off an adoring and trusting public. Fortunately, that has obviously not happened. [ Read more ]