The She Said/She Said of the Mockingbird Next Door
Until the brouhaha bubbled up to the surface, I wanted to read the new book by Marja Mills called The Mockingbird Next Door about living next to Harper Lee. The journalist rented the house next door to Lee and formed a friendship with the author and her sister, Alice. She claims that she had their blessing in writing the book. Harper Lee says that she cut off the relationship once she realized Mills’s intentions; that she had moved next door specifically to write this book.
And now it comes down to a round of she said/she said.
Image: Jose Sa via Flickr
Either Lee encouraged the relationship and book, and then pulled back at some point, insisting she never agreed to an intimate biography (effectively wasting Mill’s time and money) or Mills wormed her way into Lee’s life for her own curiosity and gain and exploited a woman’s trust in order to write the book she wanted to write. Either situation leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and I was set to refrain from reading on that alone, not knowing the truth.
But the ChickieNob pointed out another reason not to read the book. That no matter how curious we are, no matter how much we think the academic world could gain by having the author speak about her work, no matter how much we feel we’re owed something because we gave Lee’s book our attention and accolades, Lee should be afforded privacy. She’s asked for it. She clearly wants it. To invade that is to disrespect her; a violation.
The best way you can show your love for the work and the person who wrote it is to follow her lead and do as she requests. So I’m not going to read Mills’s book. Even though I am so curious to hear what she has to say about her own work.
Are you going to read Mills’s book? Would you read a biography where the subject is so clearly against having their story out there? And in that way, how is it any different from reading someone’s diary without their permission?