With Harper Lee’s death there is already speculation about her writing and if it should have been (or should be) published. There are discussions about the publishing houses and if they preyed on an elderly woman with dementia. Was her state of mind lucid enough to suddenly publish Go Set a Watchman? I do not have an answer to this question, but I do know a little bit about the elderly.
Over the past 5 years I watched my father slowly lose his mental faculties to age related dementia. There were days he was his old self, full of jokes and laughter. Then there were the days he thought he was at his childhood summer home wondering where his brother and sister were. It was his good days that threw me off balance, so much so that I thought he was back and we didn’t have to worry anymore. It was his good days that made all the rest bearable. It was his good days that gave me a false sense of “normal.”
If I had to guess, it may have been during one of those good days (sometimes they last for days and weeks at a time) that Harper Lee was cleverly duped into signing the rights over. Maybe it was a series of good days. I don’t know. I wasn’t there.
One thing I feel is true, as a writer, if there is anything I never want published – I’ll destroy any and all copies, forms, ideas, and outlines of said story while I have the mind to do it. “Horrors!” You might say, “What if you change your mind?” If, what I wrote before (and deleted) is good enough, or fills my heart enough to finish, I will find the words again. I will find the story again. Plus, it will probably be much better the second time around.
Harper Lee should have destroyed any manuscripts she really didn’t want published. If she disliked Go Set a Watchman so much, she should have burned it. Why? Ultimately, it is our responsibility as writers to protect our work, because those that prey on the weak and debilitated will pounce the moment we can’t stop them. It is our work and our choice about publication. Period.