Surrounded by publishing acquaintances, Harper Lee lunched in Monroeville, Alabama, roughly two weeks ago to celebrate the release of her long-lost, 58-year-old novel Go Set a Watchman. What made the outing extra special was the presence of filmmaker Mary McDonagh Murphy, who nabbed exclusive video footage and pics of the elusive author for PBS — a first since news broke months ago about the writer’s exit from the one-hit-wonder book club. In this American Masters web video, Murphy & Co. shed more light on the book’s torturous publishing journey in one-on-one video interviews with Lee’s lawyer, agent, and friends.
“It’s not Mockingbird,” Lee’s lawyer, Tonja Carter, says. “Anybody expecting the wonderful, flowing flower of Mockingbird might be disappointed, because this is a first submission. It is a complete book, but it is not edited.” In a 1950s-dated note from Lee’s original agent to an editor, Watchman is called an “eye-opener for many Northerners, as to Southern attitudes, and the reasons for them in the segregation battle.” It was reportedly Lee’s attempt at “a race novel, a Victorian novel, a novel about Monroeville.” Lee’s voice can be heard (sans footage) in quick sound bites throughout the clip. In one instance Michael Morrison, president of HarperCollins, presents Lee with a copy of Watchman, to which she replies: “Wonderful. … Thank you.” When asked if she ever thought she’d see the novel get published, you can also hear Lee remark: “Of course, I did — don’t be silly.” Watchman (first chapter available here) comes out tomorrow.