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Harper Lee releases new statement following 'Go Set a Watchman' announcement

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Penny Weaver/AP

(Read caption) Author Nelle Harper Lee sits in her assisted living room in Monroeville, Ala.

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Following the announcement that she will publish a new book this summer, “To Kill a Mockingbird” writer Harper Lee has released a statement:

"I’m alive and kicking and happy as hell with the reactions to ‘[Go Set a] Watchman.’”

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A spokesperson for her publisher, HarperCollins, also released a statement, saying, “Harper Lee still enjoys reading and uses a magnifying machine from the New York Institute for the Blind to read books, newspapers, and documents.”

The second statement refers to reports that Lee is experiencing problems with her eyesight and hearing. 

Lee's publisher announced earlier this week that she will be releasing a new book, the first since the publication of the classic book “Mockingbird,” which follows Alabama resident Scout Finch and her experiences as her lawyer father Atticus defends an African-American man in a rape case.

In a statement, Lee said that she had first written “Watchman,” which follows Scout as an adult. 

“I thought it a pretty decent effort,” the author said of the novel in a statement. “My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout's childhood in [“Watchman”], persuaded me to write a novel from the point of view of the young Scout. I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn't realized it (the original book) had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”

Lee’s editor Hugh Van Dusen told the website Vulture that “the book was in either a safe deposit box or a bank vault, and it was wrapped in a manuscript of To Kill a Mockingbird and nobody noticed it for all these years. Her lawyer, Tonja Carter, who is also Nelle's very close friend, was apparently looking through this safety deposit box and found [‘Go Set a Watchman’]. I guess she then went to her friend [and] said, what it is this?” 

Marja Mills, an author who became acquainted with Lee and her sister Alice and wrote a book, “The Mockingbird Next Door,” about her time with them, told the Monitor, “I think it’s likely that there certainly were earlier chapters she had written or just earlier pages and versions done well before 'To Kill a Mockingbird' became 'To Kill a Mockingbird'…. She certainly wrote a lot before 'To Kill a Mockingbird' was ever published, so I don’t know.” 

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Mills added that she had “some concerns about the timing” of the book’s publication. Lee’s sister Alice, who was a lawyer and, according to Mills, was in charge of much of Lee’s business, died this past November.


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