Tuesday, July 28, 2015

On Rumors that Truman Capote Wrote To Kill a Mockingbird

Back in February, The Daily Mail published an interesting piece addressing very old rumors that Truman Capote wrote (or helped Harper Lee write) To Kill a Mockingbird.  The rumors are likely to grow new legs with the release of Go Set a Watchman, which is arguably a first draft of her magnum opus.

I tend to agree with Charles Shields, the author of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, who is quoted in the article as saying that such rumors are sexist and baseless.  I think it’s far more likely that Capote insinuated authorship to his father and some of his friends (or else failed to deny it) in order to make himself look better in their eyes.  I’ve read a good bit of Capote’s work, his book of letters, the Plimpton book, and a couple of his biographies, and I think such behavior is consistent with his character.
Every writer produces work of varying quality, but some of us have to work harder than others to make a line sing.  I imagine that Harper Lee produced a great deal of work in order to get where she needed to go, including some poor, plain, and solid writing in the draft known as Go Set a Watchman.  She kept at it though, working those flashback sections, until she produced something capable of capturing the minds and hearts of millions.  She put in the work, she deserves the credit.

Further Reading from Al.com

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