To publish or not to publish

As promised, I don’t usually use this forum to rant and rave. Believe me there is plenty to rant and rave about. Especially if you come from a long line of ranters and ravers like me. But this time I just can’t keep my mouth shut. Something must be said, and I would like to join the chorus of voices that are saying it. I am sure you’ve heard about Harper Lee’s new book. It’s all over the news.

We grew up with Scout just like we grew up with Holden Caulfield. These became our spiritual kin. We love them in a way that we don’t love any other human being. And we keep them close to us. Sometimes we even ask, “What would Scout do?” Or “What would Holden Caulfield do?” Scout is always Scout but Holden Caulfield is never just Holden.

Now we hear that we are going to find out what happened to these two scamps. Seems Salinger deemed it in his will that there will be more Holden Caulfield soon. That is not the case when it comes to Scout. She’s going to step out into the world, kicking and screaming. Scout, and her mama Harper Lee, get no say in the matter.

Oh, sure. All those involved with the project releasing “Go Set a Watchman” say they have talked to Scout and she doesn’t object. Nobody outside of the project’s managers is really sure whether her mama, an aged Miss Lee with major health issues, approves. Folks involved with the project say they have checked with her and she gives the project a big thumbs up.

At first, they said Miss Lee didn’t even remember the fool thing. It had magically disappeared. Now it has magically reappeared. I can’t speak for the memory of Harper Lee or any author. I just can’t imagine her writing something, then forgetting about it the way we’ve been told. I have been writing since I was knee high to a grasshopper and I just about remember every piece I’ve produced. Both the good and the bad. Authors take pride in the characters we create and love them for the children they are. But I am here to tell you that I would never send my children out into the world if they were not dressed up in their Sunday best.

Over the years Miss Lee insisted she had no other books for publication. Which leads me and others to believe that there just ain’t no way she wanted this book published for all the world to see. My theory is Harper Lee took it out with the garbage and never expected it to blow back in her face. Based on the evidence we’ve heard, I don’t think she would agree to this egregious affair if she had her health. So why are her wishes not being honored? ‘Cause there is big big big bucks to be made.

Just ask Christopher Tolkien. He’s been living off the proceeds of his daddy’s research notebooks for years. It was done to Ralph Ellison and William Faulkner and Scott Fitzgerald and Charles Dickens. Executors of their estates released work into the world that just wasn’t ready for the big time. If it had been ready, I am sure the creators would have sent their children forth with pride. Instead they have to withstand the laughter that gets thrown at them like a cake at a food fight.

Margaret Mitchell was twice raped. Her estate published “Lost Laysen”, an early stab she made at writing. Then they went and hired not one, but two, novelists to write up epilogues for her “Gone with the Wind” children. Pretty soon we will have “Tara and the Zombies”. They did it to Abe. Why not Margaret Mitchell. Depressing, isn’t it?

There are all sorts of theories about why Hemingway committed suicide. I am one who thinks that he could not stand the thought that he actually typed “The Garden of Eden”. Notice I didn’t say wrote. Now it’s out there in the world, butt naked, and spitting on the master’s grave. All ’cause the folks who were supposed to have Papa’s best interest at heart forgot their responsibility. It is amazing how much shit we will do if we are offered the right amount of money.

At least J D Salinger made sure that Holden Caulfield gets a proper introduction to the world. In his Sunday Best.

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19 thoughts on “To publish or not to publish

  1. Food for thought: it could all be uplifting and inspiring for any unpublished writer today to read an icon’s work-in-progress, so to speak, just to understand how far they’d come to produce what has become a classic. I think I’ll need to be very specific in my will…all unpublished titles must be subtitled: “The Crap Version”. Wonderful post, Don – it clarified details I had not been caught up on.

  2. Ah, yes, there is a lot of s**t out there, all in the name of the almighty dollar. Just like the Beatles, now that 2 members are dead, they just dig through the archives hoping to release anything they can find. Like, hello, there’s a reason they didn’t release it. On a side note, I just got Catcher in the Rye from the library for my son. He probably should have read it a couple of years ago but better late than never.

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