Dear Readers, it's no secret that I'm an avid classic movie lover as well as an avid reader of great books. To Kill A Mockingbird, movie and book, have a permanent place in my mind and heart. I had to make a decision for myself about all the hoopla with the publication of Harper Lee's first draft idea for Mockingbird. In my opinion, about which I don't really feel humble, is that it was irresponsible and unethical to make money by outing "Go Set a Watchman," Harper Lee's first draft idea.
Mockingbird is a superb book that inspired a superb movie, a treasure for both movie lovers and lovers of literature who know greatness when they see it. Harper Lee's first story idea was bad, as they so often are. Her publisher suggested something different, as they so often do. So she eventually wrote a great book; maybe then was when she got some help from her friend Truman Capote. I've never believed the old rumor that he actually wrote it. It's not his style at all. He may have given valuable advice, but if I had such a writer for a friend and I was stuck on my writing, I would welcome his help too.
I don't know all the facts about how "Watchman" came to be published; I don't know what Harper Lee had to do with it or what advice she was given. With the greatest respect, Miss Lee is a very old lady, eccentric in many ways, and someone should have had the heart to squelch the idea of publishing that draft, which was squelched in the first place because it was bad. I would die if anybody saw some of the first drafts I've written! Most writers would.
I'm sure many of you know more about the events leading up to the "Watchman" release, and I'm not averse to learning facts. I guess after I first read some of the articles about it and got a look at the story, I was just suspicious about Miss Lee's involvement and, frankly, just didn't care about the draft. It was just that ... a draft. Now so many people are terribly upset, re-thinking the real Mockingbird, and that is very sad. It's especially sad for the generations of kids who will get to know this novel and book that Oprah Winfrey called our national book. It is likely that their experience will be tinged by knowing from the start about the backlash against the idea of Atticus Finch being a racist, the most important issue being discussed. That word, used however carefully or with whatever back-pedaling, is immediate cultural death to anyone or anything involved. That would indeed be a tragedy, one which is up to us to avert by teaching our children and grandchildren how to understand and what to ignore in the case of Mockingbird.
For us, Atticus Finch will always be a loving father and decent, caring and educated man, in a time and place in which some of those virtues were not prevalent. That is how Harper Lee offered him to us. That is who he is. To Kill A Mockingbird will never disappear as long as we adults make a firm decision to teach our children just as Atticus taught his own.
|A decent man and the innocence of children change, for|
a moment, their corner of the world.
|This will never be goodbye, Atticus ... it will always be our tribute.|