Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Win, But Still a Mystery

Thanks to a lawsuit filed by The New York Times, on Tuesday an Alabama court unsealed the will left behind by Harper Lee, famous as the author of To Kill a Mockingbird (1960). According to the paper, that document, “signed on February 11, 2016, eight days before her death, directed that the bulk of her assets, including her literary properties, be transferred into a trust she formed in 2011. … The will named Tonja B. Carter, Ms. Lee’s longtime lawyer, as the executor ... of the estate, and it provided her with wide-ranging powers to shepherd Ms. Lee’s literary legacy and the rest of her assets.”

Even before the 89-year-old author’s demise, though, questions arose as to whether some of Carter’s actions were consistent with what the very private Lee would have wanted. “Carter was involved in the controversial [2015] release of Go Set a Watchman,” BookRiot recalls. “At the time of the release of [that] ‘sequel’ to the classic, there was much debate about whether Lee had actually wanted the novel published, particularly since it was a book made up of what was originally the cut-out framing device of To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee at the time had suffered a stroke and had several mental and physical infirmities, and many doubted that she was capable of making a coherent decision about something like publication.”

Unfortunately, this week’s unsealing of Lee’s will “only deepened” the “mystery surrounding one of American literature’s most cherished authors …,” says the Times. “Trust documents are private, so all questions about what will become of her literary papers and who beyond her closest relatives might benefit from her assets, will remain unanswered for now.” Notice those telling words “for now,” suggesting this is not the concluding chapter in the campaign to learn more about Harper Lee wanted to become of her work after her passing.

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