Don't hate me. I'm just the messenger. I know you're sick of Harper Lee, and you're sick of hype, and you're feeling kind of blue about the whole Atticus-as-racist thing, but I would not be doing my job if I didn't tell you that, holy moly, it might all happen AGAIN in another year or two.
In an op-ed piece in today's Wall Street Journal (which you can only read, in full, if you have a subscription), Tonja Carter, Lee's attorney, defends herself, sets the record straight (or makes it even more meandering than it has been), and reveals the bombshell that there might be yet another manuscript out there, a third book that bridges the gap between "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Go Set a Watchman" (which pubs tomorrow).
In her essay, "How I Found the Harper Lee Manuscript," Carter writes that in 2011, Lee's then-agent, Sam Pinkus, asked to examine Lee's papers, looking for the original manuscript of "Mockingbird." Pinkus and an appraiser from Sotheby's joined Tonja Carter at a bank in Monroeville, where they looked through Lee's safety deposit box.
"The ... box contained several hundred pages of typed original manuscript," Carter writes. "After we all read a couple of pages, someone mentioned that the first page was not the first page of 'Mockingbird,' but rather seemed to be a later chapter."
(Note: I find this confusing, since the first couple of pages of "Watchman" feature Jean Louise as an adult woman coming home on the train, not Scout as a little girl, and it would not take "a couple of pages" to figure this out. But I digress.)
Nothing more was done that day, Carter writes, and then last summer Carter was moved to examine the manuscript again. This time, she realized it was something entirely different than "Mockingbird." She seemed amazed and surprised (but if she had read Charles J. Shields' biography, "Mockingbird," she might have known that such a book existed).
And then, Carter writes, she decided just last week to go look at the safety deposit box one more time, just in case. "What we found was extraordinary and surprised even me," she writes in the Journal.
"Was it an earlier draft of 'Watchman,' or of 'Mockingbird,' or even, as early correspondence indicates it might be, a third book bridging the two? I don't know. But this much I do know: In the coming months, experts, at Nelle's direction, will be invited to examine and authenticate all the documents in the safe-deposit box."
History, she concludes, demands no less.
(Though readers might.)