Harper Lee: breathing life into a classic
If you haven’t read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird then what have you been doing all these years? If there ever was a ‘modern classic’ then this is it. Set in Alabama and focussing on the childhood Jem and Scout Finch, the children of local lawyer Atticus, the reader is shown the absurdity of racism through the innocent eyes of children.
Largely hailed as a champion of the Civil Rights Movement and still incredibly relevant today with regards to the situation in Ferguson, USA, Lee’s novel has, until now, been a one hit wonder. So successful was her novel that not only did Lee need to work again, but the attention of writing such a groundbreaking novel was too much for the author. Many people, until yesterday, presumed that she was a man:
— Independent Books (@indybooks) February 4, 2015
Lee, the 88-year-old author has announced that this year she will be publishing a follow-up to her novel entitled Go Set a Watchman, focussing on Scout’s return to her home town as a young woman. Most people seem to be excited about this, but there are others who worry that the new publication will detract from the ‘classic’ status of its predecessor. As with any sequel, there is always the anticipation that it has to live up to the first one. Look at how the Star Wars ‘prequels’ were butchered, or how Hangover II just didn’t have the impact of the first one. When you write a novel as good and seminal as To Kill a Mockingbird, do you ever get a second chance to do it again?
Take, for example, Bob Dylan, whose best work is arguably his early 60s albums like The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and Like a Rolling Stone. Though still making music, Dylan has lost the magic of his early career. Perhaps this is due to the change in zeitgeist, we no longer have such a need to hear these songs?
For Lee, the issues in her first novel are still as relevant as ever. Earlier this week, Vanity Fair Magazine was shown to be ‘too racist’ in the production of the cover of its annual Hollywood Edition. Only one black actor, David Oyelowo (who has also spoken out about the lack of opportunity for black actors in Hollywood) features on the cover after the controversy of all white nominees in the acting categories for the Oscars. Lee’s remarkable novel is still incredibly relevant and one hopes that her second will open as many minds as the first.
Though Infinite Ideas are in no way as ground breaking as Harper Lee, we see the value in relaunching and republishing because ideas and publishing are important. Our new series, the Classic Wine Library, has rejuvenated what was a tired series and breathed new life into much loved titles, such as Julian Jeffs’ Sherry, which has recently been published in its sixth edition. Still as relevant as it was in 1961, when first published, Jeffs’ book is the very definition of a classic.