Harper Lee's Lawyer Says Harper Lee Is 'Hurt and Humiliated'

Illustration for article titled Harper Lee's Lawyer Says Harper Lee Is 'Hurt and Humiliated'

The controversy over Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman continues, as her lawyer attempts to allay fears the beloved 88-year-old author is being manipulated, pushed into releasing the second novel she always resisted publishing.


The New York Times talked to Tonja Carter, who took over Lee's affairs as her protective older sister aged, and she sounds very unhappy with the speculation about Lee's state of mind:

Answering questions on Saturday through both emails and text messages, Ms. Carter said that Ms. Lee is "extremely hurt and humiliated" at the suggestion that she had been duped.

"She is a very strong, independent and wise woman who should be enjoying the discovery of her long lost novel," Ms. Carter said. "Instead, she is having to defend her own credibility and decision making."

But it's Carter who's having to defend her credibility, here, not Lee. And she's upset about that:

Ms. Carter said she was distressed by the suggestion that she would exploit Ms. Lee. "Nothing can describe how I feel" about that, she said. Asked why she had not provided more detail about the discovery, which might have quelled suspicions, she said: "I am a lawyer, not a celebrity. The focus should be on the gift Harper Lee is giving the world."

The good folks of Monroeville aren't much help sorting this out. Some say she was manipulated. Others say she's in perfect command of her faculties, the claims of manipulation are untrue and Carter has been nothing but a tireless protector and advocate for Lee. Everyone is very conspicuous about referring to Lee as "Nelle." I'm starting to wonder whether perhaps her time spent in New York was meant as a break from this kind of oh-let-me-tell-you-about-the-Lees-and-their-people Southern small-town gossip.

The crux of the matter is that it's very clear this whole deal was hammered out by Carter, and as far as anybody can tell, Lee's had no direct role in dealing with the publisher or media. (Hell, for that matter, all her statements are coming through Carter.) But then, she wouldn't, would she? It's plausible the whole thing's on the up and up, but there's plenty of reasons for skepticism, too. Throw in the fact her longstanding insistence she wouldn't publish another novel, and it's hard to see how this thing gets resolved short of an extremely annoyed Harper Lee sitting down for a video interview with Oprah toting a doctor's note about her soundness of mind—i.e., the exact kind of publicity she's been dodging for decades.


Image via Getty.



This whole situation is so sketchy and I don't like it at all. The majority of evidence points to Lee not being in total control of her faculties, and that's been true for years. Given her sister's recent death, I find the timing extremely suspect. Add all that to the fact that I so deeply cherish TKAM, and want nothing to alter or even add to the way I experience that book, and I have no intention of reading this new book.