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The best selling and most read book in the world is still The Bible
Harper Lee Didn’t Write To Kill A Mocking Bird – Op-Ed Piece
Now, I have a theory about a certain author and a certain book, and well, here it goes.
One of the most respected authors of all time, Harper Lee didn’t write To Kill A Mocking Bird, one of the greatest books of all time.
Let me explain.
I have a few reasons for this theory, believe it or not. And I even have a person who may have had more say in the book than most of us think.
First, let’s talk about To Kill A Mocking Bird. Truly a classic. I enjoyed it very much when I read it as a teenager, and my sister even bought me a new leatherbound edition of the book for my birthday. It is one of my favorite books of all time. Not Homer, because nothing is Homer, but I love it anyway. The book is a great tale of kids learning of the cruel world while being guided by a noble father. It has timeless lessons that the kids learn to be better people in the world as their father tries his best to fight against the unjust for a wrongly accused man. I like to think that Atticus Finch is one of the prototypes of the father figure hero, the dad who tries to beat the society around him while still being a good person. He doesn’t resort to crimes or bad deeds but tries to help in a righteous way. It’s like how many of us think of Merlin when we hear of a wizard; I think that many think of Atticus Finch when we hear of a noble dad. The story of Scout and Jem connects to many readers, even to this day. It is one of the few universal books that everyone likes.
Now, writing a book that good is not common. If I can be frank, some writers aren’t that talented to even create such a work. Sure, many people are writing on laptops now and posting poems on Instagram, but only a few create art that can stand the test of time. In fact, there are only a handful of writers who could even claim to write a book as good as To Kill A Mocking Bird. There is J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher In The Rye, which I spoke about here. There is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which I also spoke of once here and another time here. And there is Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, which I haven’t spoken of yet, I don’t plan on doing anytime soon. Along with To Kill A Mocking Bird, those three novels are so great that you would expect the writers to have long and astounding careers. And they do. Well, sort of.
Mark Twain and F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote other books that may not be as acclaimed as their most read work, but we can all see the genius in the authors by reading their lesser-known books, so we understand where the greatness of their most popular book came from. Twain showed his wit in other books, and Fitzgerald showed his handle of the English language in other novels. Some may even say that their most popular book is not their best book at all. We have to remember that we can only make this comparison because of the amount of work we have of their career.
As for the other two, that is a little bit more complicated. Salinger had what could only be considered to be a nervous breakdown after the success of The Catcher In The Rye and basically left the literary scene altogether. Although he wrote a short story collection that is considered great for the genre, his career after his masterpiece is not long; it is not completely empty.
That leaves us with Harper Lee. Aside from To Kill A Mocking Bird, what else did she write? Anything, did she write anything besides it? No. And that is weird if I can be honest. If I wrote a masterpiece, which is nice wishful thinking, I’d have another book out before the end of the year cause I would be so jacked up about writing such a great book. It is strange for an author to write nothing after writing the best book ever. Now, if you want to call her second novel, which was released after her death, a true attempt at writing, then go ahead, but I don’t. As a writer, Harper Lee was in the position to write whatever the hell she wanted to after To Kill A Mocking Bird was a hit, and what did she do? I mean, really, what did she do? She didn’t write anything else. That is strange, yes, but not enough for me to claim she didn’t even write it.
Maybe she just decided to leave literature after the book hit shelves. She made her money. She wrote the great book. Perhaps that is all she wanted from her career and was content with retiring from the field. That is unusual to do for a writer of that position, but that is understandable, to an extent. If it was only for that, then I wouldn’t be so suspicious of her engagement with the book.
From what I read of her, she didn’t really talk of the book much either. It was not something she ever spoke of. That’s bizarre. She didn’t ever recall her glory days of being the best writer ever. She never went into long monologues about how great her book was. She didn’t even try to add a fictional story of how she wrote it to her myth, which Salinger did accidentally. I’m sorry, but to be that disengaged from your work is just not right.
My explanation for her quietness is simple; Harper Lee is the Don McLean of literature. Maybe she didn’t talk about writing the book because she didn’t actually write the book. Just a theory. Maybe she has nothing to actually say of the words she wrote because they aren’t her words. But, come on, every writer would kill to have anybody even sort of interested in their book, and this woman had the world interested in it for years and thought it best to be quiet? What part of that sounds like a real writer who spent years struggling to write the book? It sounds like someone who wasn’t as involved in the writing process as some I know.
Oh, why did I mention Don McLean there? You may be asking. Isn’t he the guy who wrote American Pie? One of the greatest songs of all time? No, I don’t think he did. Personally, and I have nothing to really prove this, I think that John Lennon wrote it. The song sounds like a Lennon song, something akin to The Ballad Of John and Yoko. The song makes sense coming from Lennon’s eyes, strangely enough. He lived through the ’60s, obviously. And that is the thing; the song is so personal, it is like we are listening to someone who was there, not some amateur musician, that McLean was then. The mentioning of the Stones and Bob Dylan and Elvis would make as much sense if John Lennon wrote the song. Not some no-name no one heard of beforehand. And get this, the song was released a year after the Beatles broke up. Plus, that line, “Lennon read a book on Marx,” is not a line written by someone outside of the music world. It is almost as if Lennon may have slipped that line in there to tell people he was reading about Marx. I mean, who the hell keeps track of what musicians read? The song has numerous scenes that we are led to believe that the narrator was there. Apparently, a football game happened where the Beatles (the marching band in the song) didn’t want to stop playing their songs. And then this same narrator is later on at a Rolling Stones concert watching Mick Jagger on stage. So the same dude is at the football the Beatles were playing and the Stones concert? Right…. Want to call it good research by McLean? Eh, go ahead. But I don’t buy it. Lennon was in the marching band, and him being at a Stones concert is more likely than McLean. Also, the narrator hates the Stones in the song, which also is more of how Lennon would have viewed them than McLean. I am just saying that when I hear the song, I think that it is too good to be by McLean. He has too short of a catalog for that song to be even in there. It’s like what I say about Harper Lee; her one-time greatness doesn’t add up. That wasn’t a one-hit-wonder or a fluke bestseller. That was a work of genius. Normally, geniuses do other works so that we can see their imagination or creativity even if the work isn’t always there. Sure every painting Da Vinci made wasn’t Mona Lisa, but we see his ability in the works that are not great, as much as the ones that are hailed as timeless masterpieces.
Now, you may be thinking, okay, so you don’t think Harper Lee wrote To Kill A Mocking Bird, then who did?
I actually have a name and a reason that his name isn’t on the book cover.
Truman Capote wrote To Kill A Mocking Bird, or at the very least had a larger hand in its creation than he is given credit.
Saying that he wrote it makes more sense to what I wrote earlier of the genius writing other works. Capote absolutely wrote other works. In Cold Blood is considered one of the greatest non-fiction books of all time, so his genius is definitely there. Unlike Harper Lee, we aren’t left wondering what the hell he was doing after the book was written. We know.
It is traditionally viewed that Lee and Capote took from their childhoods for To Kill A Mocking Bird. Scout is Lee, and Dill is Capote, so me saying that Capote had a hand in the book is not a surprise. I am saying that he should have had his name on it.
I speculate that the publisher of the book wanted it to be family-friendly and to be able to sell to the masses. And that was not Truman Capote. He was an openly gay socialite who enjoyed parties and drinking. Not exactly the guy who should be promoting the book about kids learning important life lessons. As for Harper Lee? She is easy to sell. She always appeared very mellow and non-controversial. They could easily say that she wrote a book with a great lesson, and no one would be upset. Heck, they even have her woman’s name sound like a man’s name, so they could present it as if a man wrote it. That has been a thing in literature for a long time. For some reason, readers have a hard time accepting that a woman could write a book, so publishers, even to this day, encourage women writers to have names that sound like men. Just look at J.K. Rowling and V.E. Schwab. There is an unspoken rule in the literature that a writer has to have a non-ethnic male name to be successful. The name can’t be too feminine, for that will deter male readers, and the name can’t be too ethnic, for that will isolate the masses. Even look at my last name Luti; some would say that is not really acceptable and is too ethnic. Some would suggest that I change my name to something like Greg Smith or Greg Johnson to get more readers.
If you are going to write a book that is going to be an all-time classic, then, unfortunately, the author has to be accepted by the masses. And I hate to say it, but the best way for authors to be that is to be boring like Lee was. Don’t talk of the book. Don’t live a crazy lifestyle. Don’t be any trouble. That wasn’t Capote at all.
So the publisher decided on the smart business decision that would get the most amount of buyers for the book; to make Harper Lee the official author of the book, not Truman Capote. Americans are not comfortable with the “Great American Novel” being by an openly gay socialite, so they took his name off the book, not mentioning him in the book’s greatness and allowing the book to speak for itself, as Harper Lee kept quiet through it all.
Harper Lee never spoke about writing the book because she didn’t write the book.
Did You Know?
To Kill A Mocking Bird has sold 30 million copies worldwide.
We hoped that you enjoyed this theory about the classic book.
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About The Blogger
Greg Luti is an editor and blogger on pensandwords.com. His favorite writers are Robert Frost and Charles Bukowski. He enjoys reading up on history, watching comedies, and playing video games, when he is not writing down a few notes for his next piece. He started this blog out of his love for literature and hopes that the reader shares that same passion.
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