The hysterically enthusiastic reaction to the announcement that Harper Lee, the author of the American literary classic To Kill a Mockingbird, will publish another novel, (this one the original version of the story written before the published masterpiece) was both understandable and also, if I dare say, a bit pathetic.
On the Blogosphere I read writers and readers who chimed in that they already pre-ordered the second book, could hardly wait, and that the discovery of an abandoned manuscript made their day.
Ms. Lee, by all accounts a reclusive person who had said until last year that she would never publish another book, had apparently changed her mind. Or was it her new Lawyer who changed it for her? Or, perhaps, was it pressure from family members who would like to have more $$ in Ms. Lee’s estate? The conspiracists were already weaving their tales.
What is the truth? Who knows? How much does it matter? It’s a great story. Our hunger for great stories is the one thing certain.
This whole evolving sequel to what was expected to be a quiet retirement by a great storyteller left me with a bad taste in my mouth. It echoes our obsession, even demand, for sequels. Even if in this tale the sequel was written first and the published first book is really a prequel, and so forth and so on… whatever.
Loved the book? Please, please may the writer write a sequel. A great movie? I can't wait for the sequel.
A stand-alone story better have a nailed-shut ending, maybe one like Hamlet’s, where everyone who matters dies. But wait, why isn't there a sequel to Hamlet? Maybe he can come back, y’know, like the ghost his father did in the original.
I’m not a fan of sequels. I even like ambiguous endings, and I don't need “the rest of the story.” To Kill a Mockingbird is a great book. There have been more than twenty published sequels to it, by other writers, that took nothing but added nothing to the original.
Don't blame the publishers. Sequels are cash-cows and publishing is a business. Don't blame the writers of series, because some stories were meant to be, and were originally written as, series.
But some, I am certain, are stand-alone stories, and should be left alone, people.
I’ll stand alone for standalones. Best. Books. Ever.