The thing about great writing is that people want to read it. Repeatedly. Out loud. Proudly, in front of an audience.
Such is the case with Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning debut novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Books by Kardashians on the other hand, can also be used as coasters. The book, published in 1960, won a Pulitzer prize and became a staple in high school language arts lesson plans. It has sold more than 30 million copies and was adapted into a classic 1962 film starring Gregory Peck in the role of Atticus Finch, an attorney inspired by Lee's father.
On Monday, Barnes & Noble stores and other shops and groups across the country will hold a Read-A-Thon of the cherished Mockingbird in it’s entirety from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in celebration of Lee and the release of her highly anticipated Go Set A Watchman the following day (July 14). The novel, catches us up with Scout 20 years later., when she returns from New York for a visit home to Maycomb, Ala.
As a writer and aspiring published author, it is such a thrill to see so many people in 2015 excited about Go Set a Watchman, a book not dedicated to a certain color shade, written with "co-writers,"or one filled entirely with photos of one’s face and boobs, but a book written by a person who clearly loved writing for the sake of storytelling and not for the fame and attention it could possibly bring. A book written in the 1950s and forgotten in a safety deposit box to be published as is without the assistance or notes from editors (Lee sued her agent for releasing the manuscript in 2013).
With an initial print run of more than 2 million copies and already breaking records in pre-orders, Go Set a Watchman is expected to be the biggest seller of the year — sorry E.L. James— proving that Lee continues to be a badass, even at 89.
That being said, another thing about great writing and the success that it sometimes brings, is expectation.
A dangerous word that most of the time results in disappointment, especially when fans have put a person, event, or in this case, a book, on a pedestal so high that nobody, not even the writer who created it, will be able to measure up.
With already a slew of articles and critiques out in the press about the new novel, (mostly opinions based on just the first chapter thanks to the release of it on The Wall Street Journal website Friday), it is no surprise that Lee, whether she wanted it or not, is probably more talked about right now than the Kardashians.
And that is what we should be celebrating!
Not whether Go Set a Watchman is good or bad, or Atticus Finch a hero or a bigot, but the fact that an 89-year old Pulitzer Prize winning author we haven’t heard from in decades is getting people talking. Discussing. Debating. And she didn’t have to post her naked butt on Instagram, have her assistant do a Twitter chat with fans, or announce a divorce from Batman to do it. She wrote a book. It was rejected. She wrote another. And some fifty years later, that first book is finally getting published.
An example of how not to give up on your writing. And never throw anything away no matter how much your agent said it sucked. Or maybe, it’s a lesson to purchase a larger safety deposit box so you don’t lose an important manuscript for fifty years. The point is, E.L. James’ “Grey” will not be number one on The New York Times best-seller list this week. And just for that, Harper Lee deserves another Pulitzer Prize!
Lee gives me hope that at any age we can still make a difference with the written word and that a manuscript I wrote 10 years ago packed away in a storage unit might be of interest to publishers some fifty years from now. As Atticus Finch said in Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... 'til you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Right about now, I bet Lee’s skin is feeling really good.
Stand-Up Librarian Meredith Myers will be the final reader at the St. Petersburg/Tyrone Barnes & Noble location for Monday’s To Kill a Mockingbird Read-A-Thon that runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Barnes & Noble locations nationwide will be opening at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, July 14, for the release. The first 20 customers who purchase Go Set a Watchman will receive a free To Kill a Mockingbird tote bag, and until 10 a.m. everybody gets a free coffee in the café with their Watchman purchase. The book is 30 percent off and 40 percent for members.
Meredith Myers, the "Stand-Up Librarian," has a Masters degree in Library & Information Sciences from USF and has been performing stand-up comedy since 2002 after checking out a comedy book from her local library. Binding her experiences in comedy and libraries, she created StandUpLibrarian.com in 2010 to educate and entertain people about the importance of libraries and literacy through literary comedy shows that she performs at libraries and book events across the country. In 2012, she launched Stand-Up Librarian Designs, creating literary fashions inspired by her favorite books and authors that she sells at her shows and Etsy shop. Meredith also works as a cataloging librarian and is a volunteer for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and a contributing writer for Creative Loafing Tampa.
Etsy Shop: etsy.com/shop/MeredithMyersDesigns
You Tube Channel:youtube.com/StandUpLibrarian