Harper Lee, author of the Pullitzer Prize winning To Kill a Mockingbird, has died at the age of 89.
Her passing comes only a week after it was announced that Mockingbird would be headed for Broadway next year with Aaron Sorkin adapting the book.
Released in 1960, it was the only novel Lee would ever publish until last year’s publication of Go Set a Watchman. While Lee’s attorney claimed she found the lost manuscript and said it was a sequel to Mockingbird, the evidence is clear that Watchman was an early draft of Mockingbird which the notoriously reclusive Lee never intended to see the light of day. One bookstore in Michigan even offered refunds to customers who had bought Watchman.
Although Lee would never truly write another novel, she helped Truman Capote (with whom she befriended during childhood) with his research for In Cold Blood, which is consider Capote’s finest work outside of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Lee rarely gave interviews or made public appearances although she would accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bush in 2007 and the National Medal of Arts in 2010 from President Obama. In recent years, Lee had lost her eyesight, her hearing and her memory was residing in an assisted living facility. All of which made her consent to having Watchman published even more implausible.
Despite the best efforts of her attorney, the body of Harper Lee’s work represents the triumph of quality over quantity. She truly only one published book, but it was a book that mattered and matters still.