Monday, June 05, 2006

Is Harper Lee still writing?

"It takes time and patience and effort to turn out a work of art, and few people seem willing to go all the way. I see a great deal of sloppiness and I deplore it. I think writers today are too easily pleased with their work. This is sad. There's no substitute for struggling, if a struggle is needed, to make an English sentence as beautiful as it should be.

"I want to do the best I can with the talent God gave me. I would like to leave some record of... small-town middle-class southern life. All I want to be is the Jane Austen of south Alabama."

So said Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, in her last major interview, which took place 42 years ago. She's quoted in The Independent Online in an article about a new and very much unauthorized biography of the reclusive writer.

I've never been moved by any of the speculation that Lee's childhood friend Truman Capote might have ghostwritten her one and only novel. Neither am I fascinated by discussions of her possible alcoholism or her fear of success or by any of the myriad hypotheses that have been put forward to explain why she stopped writing--because I don't believe she did stop writing.

Call me crazy, but I think we'll see further novels from her, although they may well be published posthumously. I believe she has written and may still be writing other stories because quotes like the one above reveal somebody with a passion for writing; and as a passionate (though far less gifted) writer, I don't believe it's possible that she could have simply switched that off and walked away.

What do you think?

6 comments:

Domino said...

Personally, I think that if God has given you the heart of an artist, you'll produce art - any way you can, possibly until your dying day.

I was created to write stories. And I will write until God takes away that desire in me.

pacatrue said...

I think you are likely right that she has written some on her own but never desired to have them published. At the same time, I think it is fully possible to move on even from things you care about, because there are lots of other wonderful things to care about as well. It makes me think of my relationship to TV. Sometimes when I watch a Law and Order episode, while I am there, I can get really into it and need to know what happens. But 10 minutes later, I don't really care anymore. Or I stop watching TV, as I basically have, and I don't miss anything. There are other things worth caring about. As far as we know, Ms. Lee got into growing the world's best tomatoes and she's been devoting her spare energy to that ever since. Gardening is a way to explore God's world, get in touch with nature, be creative, etc., too. Writing is great. So is painting and being a mother and keeping fit and speaking with friends and....

Neal said...

You're right Brenda, without a doubt. Will we ever get to see any of that writing? I don't know. But there is absolutely no way that the artist that produced "To Kill a Mockingbird" could never produce another word in their lifetime.

I'd never heard the "Truman Capote" conspiracy before. Not even worth wasting breath over that one!

cantnever said...

I love speculations like this. My mind goes wild at the possibilities! It's like watching people. As they stroll by in the mall - one watches and guesses their circumstances. It's fascinating stuff. I do think she may possibly have never written again, although real writers may disagree (I am not a real writer). Possibly she only had one message/one story. Or as someone else has said other fish to fry anywhere from family duties to insanity. It happens!

Winter said...

I would have to agree, Brenda. I can tell ya right now I have unfinshed novels, finished novels, and short stories all over this house. Even when I'm not writing I'm thinking of writing. To say she never wrote another thing in her life would be like saying an accountant never stops crunching numbers when he leaves work, or a farmer never stops thinking about what tomorrow's work may be. We are all designed for a purpose and we never stop pursuing that purpose until God calls us home. At least, that's what I believe anyway.

Brenda Coulter said...

Interesting comments, all. Thanks for weighing in.