Why I’m not going to read Harper Lee’s “new” book

A first draft is perfect for having been finished, but that’s about the only thing good about it for 99% of most first time novelists. John Green calls it the clay you need in order to make the ashtray. What you write in your first draft is between you and whatever muse you hold dear. Go Set A Watchmen was written six years before to Kill A Mockingbird. It’s a first draft that had been worked and worked and worked so that it was significantly different enough that they could even release the book in the first place. While watching In Cold Blood, I was horrified at all the Harper Lee scenes where she couldn’t go to this or that because she was working on a new book.

That that new book never came is a tragedy, but it didn’t come for a reason. She didn’t have another book in her, and being able to write a book in 1960 that still be used in classrooms today in a way that confirms humanity, not because of pity or any great white hope but because treating people like people is the only thing people should do, was an incredible feat. 80s music stars are one hit ponies. She wrote a masterpiece, but it had been carefully sculpted and formed from the raw clay of the first draft.

And now the first draft is up for sale. If this was an actual new book I’d be as excited as anyone. And I still think people should buy it because Ms. Lee had been so screwed over in her royalty rights that she deserves something. But I’m not going to read it. I have no need to ruin Atticus or retcon the perfect ending of a society that didn’t care about justice when a person with a different amount of melanin stood accused.

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