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Does This Book Need A Sequel? To Kill A Mockingbird

February 8, 2015
In 50 years, will the sequel also get a special commemorative edition?

In 50 years, will the sequel also get a special commemorative edition?

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the few extremely successful books that doesn’t get complained about too much.  I’ve never heard anybody say he/she hated To Kill a Mockingbird.  I’ve never heard anyone call it “a f***ing piece of sh**” or say they wasted precious hours of their lives reading it.  The worst complaint I’ve heard is that it’s overrated.  It probably is.  No book can have as much acclaim as To Kill a Mockingbird does without being overrated, but I think that almost every bestseller or award-winning book is overrated.  Once anything reaches a certain acclaimed status, it’s automatically overrated.  But I’ve never heard anybody say that To Kill a Mockingbird sucks.

I’m pretty sure somebody’s going to hate the upcoming sequel.  Just like book lovers are already ordering Harper Lee’s new novel ahead of time, there are others who already hate the idea of a sequel for To Kill a Mockingbird.  Some even hate the title Go Set a Watchman.  I believe in judging a book by its title, and I have no idea what Go Set a Watchman means, but I also had no idea what To Kill a Mockingbird meant either until I read it.  To be honest, I might not have known what To Kill a Mockingbird meant until Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch explained it to Scout (and me).  So it’s probably not fair to judge the title of the sequel yet.

I’ve found that when controversial things happen, it’s best to wait about six months to have an opinion.  In six months, there’s usually been enough time to gather information about a given topic to have a well-informed opinion.  In a little over six months, Go Set a Watchman will be released, and that will be the best time to think about having an opinion.  A bunch of critics will have instant opinions about the sequel as soon as it gets released.  Again, I will wait six months to have an opinion.  I might even wait six months before I read the sequel.  After I read the sequel, I might wait six months to have an opinion about it.

Sometimes, it’s best to have time to see what real effect a book or movie has on you.  That’s why some critically panned books become classics and praised books are often forgotten after a few years.  Yeah, it’s tough to wait six months to have an opinion.  Lots of loud people form their opinions right away and start spouting off their opinions in really strong authoritative voices so that by the time six months is up, those of us who have taken our time in forming our opinions learn that our opinions don’t matter anymore.

One warning sign about Go Set a Watchman is that Harper Lee says she’s “happy as hell” that her sequel is finally being published.  I’m happy that Harper is happy as hell, but a part of me wonders if “happy as hell” is code for “Please don’t let them publish this.”  I don’t think I use “hell” to describe positive feelings.  I “run like hell.”  I get “mad as hell.”  But I don’t think I’ve ever been “happy as hell.”  When I think of happiness, hell is one of the last words I use as part of my simile.  Maybe Harper Lee had just reread A Catcher in the Rye and was channeling her inner Holden Caulfield.  Maybe “happy as hell” is code for somebody to write a sequel to A Catcher in the Rye.

Nobody really knows right now if Go Set a Watchman is any good.  There’s a high probability it’ll be disappointing (I have nothing statistical or analytical to back up my claim), but even if the sequel is disappointing, it shouldn’t take anything away from To Kill a Mockingbird.  All of those mediocre Corleone books didn’t diminish my love for The Godfather.  That Scarlett sequel didn’t diminish Gone with the Wind at all.  Dr. Sleep didn’t ruin The Shining for me.  To me, the sequel is a no-lose situation.  If it’s great, it’s another future classic to be enjoyed for generations.  If it’s disappointing, in a few months we can pretend like it never happened.  But for now, I have a good six months before I need to think about forming an opinion.

*****

What do you think?  Are you looking forward to Go Set a Watchman, or are you dreading it?  What other books should have a sequel written?  What sequels shouldn’t have been written?  Does “happy as hell” mean “really happy,” or is something sinister happening before our eyes?  Is six months too long to form an opinion, or is it better to just instantly pick a side and defend it to the death?

*****

The Writing Prompt might never get a sequel, but if it does, I’ll be “happy as something better than hell.”

Now available on the Amazon Kindle!

Now available on the Amazon Kindle!

33 Comments
  1. I don’t know if I’d want to risk tarnishing the reputation of the first. There’s always the possibility of ending up with another Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

  2. I had vaguely heard about it, but I probably won’t run out and read it, especially since I have about 30 books currently waiting to be read, for free. But if everyone loves it, I might read it in the next 20 years.

  3. I agree with everything you said. I guess, though, when she wrote the sequel, she had no idea how popular TKAM would be.

  4. To Kill a Mockingbird sucks! It is a f***ing piece of shit!

    Kidding! I just inferred a sense of longing in your opening paragraph, as though ‘Hear a violently dissenting view of To Kill a Mocking Bird‘ was on your bucket list or something.

    I’m strangely ambivalent about this sequel news. It’ll be great to watch it unfold, but isn’t something I’m busting to read. (Salinger’s new works, on the other hand …) If I do read it, I’ll probably do as you suggest and wait six months to avoid having my opinion lumped in with the reactionists’. I think what you’re advocating is the ‘mature’ approach, which I guess is why it sounds so refreshing and unheard of.

    Do I think Go, The Watchmen Who Set Things will tarnish Lee (or Mockingbird‘s) reputation? No. But I’m excited as hell to see others’ opinions. I expect it’ll be divisive, like Rowling’s post-Potter works. I feel a literary shit-storm approaching. Better batten down the hatches!

    • “To Kill a Mockingbird sucks! It is a f***ing piece of shit!”

      Ha ha! I appreciate that, but I don’t think it really counts if you don’t mean it.

  5. I really love To Kill a Mockingbird and am excited to read more from Lee but I can’t shake the feeling something shady is going on with this new book. Great article by the way, I wrote one similar you might like: corrosiveteapot.wordpress.com

  6. The only thing that worries me is that this “new” book was written before Mockingbird. Back then, the publisher told Lee that she might make a better story from all the flashbacks to when Scout was a child, and that’s how she came to write Mockingbird. The manuscript of this original book has now resurfaced and someone has decided to publish it, but I don’t know if that means Lee is going to actively re-write it or if the publishers are just going to put it out there exactly as it was written back then.

    I certainly don’t claim to be a writer in the same league as Harper Lee, but if someone pulled my early works from a trunk and decided to publish them I would be horrified! My first two novels will never see the light of day because they were the practice runs, and part of a very steep learning curve. In common with many other writers, the novels I wrote after them are far better, but without those first two I wouldn’t have done the groundwork needed for the third novel that I now call my “first” one.

    Either way, when it becomes available I will read Lee’s new book with an open mind.

    • Harper Lee won’t be re-writing it. Her publishing agent has claimed it needs only a copy-edit. They MIGHT ask Harper to write an intro, but that is it. She is too old and sick to go re-writing an entire Novel.

      I have my reservations about the way this has surfaced. Harper Lee resolutely refused to write or publish anything else her entire life. I can’t help but think she is being manipulated in her fragile state. I don’t know that I am willing to read it because I don’t know for sure that she wants this.

      One thing I think the article failed to mention (although subsequently mentioned a couple of times in the comments) is that Go Set a Watchman was written FIRST. It’s not a sequel in the technical sense. She didn’t suddenly decide to write a sequel completely against everything she has ever said about never writing another novel ever again, it was just there, a manuscript, and decades later, it’s going to be published.

      • This is the comment I would have written had Naomi not written it first. Thank you, Naomi! I’m really not sure this is happening with the approval of a Harper Lee who fully understands what is happening.

  7. Dreading it, but I bet I still buy it.

  8. Unless Harper Lee wrote it, no way.

    • She wrote this first and the publishing company asked her to write from the child’s perspective. This was her original work, found in amongst the papers and documents. I trust the way it will be published intact.

  9. This is just how I feel …

    I’m Confused | Books, Movies, and More
    http://booksmoviesandmore.net/2015/02/07/im-confused/

  10. I’m so happy to see someone write that they have to digest information before they form an opinion about it. It’s always confused me, with music in particular, how a critic can form an opinion about a piece of music so quickly. Do they listen to an album 30-40 times in a day? Or do their brains just work differently than mine? When I walk out of a truly great movie, I may have a solid conviction about that movie on the way out, but it changes as I digest it and talk about it with friends. A truly great book is usually far more complex than either of those two, yet there are some that have opinions about it on the day of its release. I understand that they receive advanced copies, but most critiques still seem parsed and rushed. Power to the minds that need to process information, I say, for we’re the ones that usually get it right.

  11. It is written by the author and not someone else, which means a lot to me! Harper Lee intended to publish this and the publishing company encouraged her to expand the children’s point of view. I will read this! Smiles, Robin

  12. I have a hunch that the sequel is going to get panned unfortunately. That’s not to say it won’t be a great novel. My question is, can it ever live up to the hype? The fact it was written BEFORE the more famous novel makes me have hope. Lee is clearly a very talented writer and had she written the book within the last ten or twenty years there would be a huge risk of the quality dipping. The fact she wrote Mocking Bird after this shows me that she may well have the same feel that the originally published work had. Either way I hope for magic as I have a profound fondness for the Mocking Bird tale. As long as the book stays true to the narrative of the original it can’t go too far wrong.

  13. I find it troubling that less than three months after the death of Harper Lee’s sister and lawyer, Alice Lee, HarperCollins has announced the release of Go Set a Watchman.

    By all accounts, Alice acted as Harper Lee’s advocate and protected her from people who might not consider her best interests. Harper Lee is 88, blind, deaf, and in ill health. Like you, I somehow doubt she suddenly said: “I’m happy as hell this is being released.” — 55 years after TKAM.

    There are a lot of people who stand to gain from this book. Publishers, repubs of TKAM, film rights, lawyers, etc.

    I’m a bit sickened by what I perceive as vultures circling Harper Lee’s bedside. Time will tell.

    eden

  14. I definitely don’t think that To Kill A Mockingbird is overrated. It was one of my favorites (still is) even back when I didn’t like reading. Even if Go Set A Watchman isn’t as good as To Kill A Mockingbird, I’m sure it won’t be anything to throw away because Harper Lee is very talented and very amazing at what she does. I do agree with you, however, because although I will be ordering and reading the book as soon as possible, I will wait a while to make my opinions known on it, ensuring the most objective reasoning possible. There has been a lot of speculation and/or literary drama surrounding this novel and I’m hoping that it will not disappoint.

  15. Can i ask a favor?Can you make me an essay about “Student or Learner”, about their differences..

  16. Doesn’t a writer had the right to write a second book? The second book was written first, also. So TKAM is the prequel!

    • I’ll have a tough time thinking of To Kill A Mockingbird as a prequel. Maybe I’ll be around in 50 years to see if TKAM is called a prequel or if the new book is called the sequel.

  17. Like you, I’m going to wait to have an opinion. I was never forced to read TKAM, so I was able to approach it in my own time on my own terms. I plan to do the same with GSAW.

  18. I haven’t read To Kill A Mockingbird. Yet. It may have been one of the books that I pretended like hell that I read in high school or university. I’ve been meaning to read it as a responsible adult, and book-loving reader and writer. Perhaps, now is a great time to read it. And then I can give myself six months after that to read the sequel. And six months after that I can perhaps form an opinion on the first book. I enjoyed the way you framed your thoughts. I’m laughing about the six month waiting period. I’m going to use that in real life.

  19. Six months to have a opinion???? That will never work in blogland.
    We want your opinion before you read the book. I can’t bear the thought of Scout being a cynic who never read a Capote novel.

  20. As I believe someone has mentioned above, Go Set a Watchman.was actually written before To Kill a Mockingbird but Lee’s editor liked the flash backs to Scout’s childhood and encouraged her write To Kill a Mockingbird instead. I’ve put some information about it in my blog post on the subject if your interested https://crownlesspublications.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/harper-lee-why-your-editor-might-be-right/

    With the various legal controversies over the years its not difficult to see why some people are little concerned as to whether Harper Lee is a 100 percent behind the book release. But as you quite rightly said, its best to wait a little while and find all the information before forming an opinion, totally agree on that point!

  21. I think it will be interesting to have a sequel to come out. Honestly I thought I would like the book a lot more than I actually did. It was alright, but I think I would have to actually re-read it to be sure. I’m interested in checking out the sequel – maybe it’s even better, you never know.

  22. Hey! I found this a really interesting read. If you liked this, check out my new post on my blog about how we use words (it really isn’t as boring as it sounds).

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