When Lee Harper was asked if the reason why she never wrote a novel after To Kill a Mockingbird was because she didn’t want to compete with herself, the author replied, “Not just no, but hell no.” (“To Steal a Mockingbird,” by Mark Seal, Vanity Fair, August, 2013, pg.112) She stopped writing, she said, because she didn’t like the business of publishing, plain and simple. Particularly, she didn’t like reporters and despaired at how fame had destroyed her good friend, Truman Capote. (Ibid pg. 112)
Her distrust of the business was well placed, because Lee Harper, whose book appears in 40 languages and still sells over 750,000 a year, at 87, frail and suffering from macular degeneration, has become embroiled in a legal fight for control over her creation, having innocently signed over her copyright to her agent. John Steinbeck suffered the same fate from the same agency.
Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it, someone wisely said. Harper was smart enough to know the truth of the saying. The spotlight of success casts shadows that can alter relationships. She kept a low profile and worked hard to be honest to herself and others, hoping to avoid fame’s pitfalls. Her efforts failed because she has suffered the unkindest cut of all: betrayal by someone close.
Lee Harper wrote a book that encouraged us to rethink our values and to strive to understand one another. Now she’s suffering for it.
(Image from “To Kill a Mockingbird,” courtesy of luckycharms.net)