On the occasion of Harper Lee’s death, Joyce Carol Oates considers her “astonishing” story via Twitter.

twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
Story of Harper Lee is astonishing, like a Grimm’s fairy tale. Young writer submits novel to editor, novel is very critical of racist south


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
@JoyceCarolOates & racist lawyer-father; editor rejects ms. but salvages a section of the novel that is a flashback to childhood; new story


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
@JoyceCarolOates narrated by child recasts father in heroic mode, & hometown as warm & friendly w/ only a few ignorant racists. New, heroic


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
@JoyceCarolOates novel is runaway bestseller & most beloved of all American novels, of all time, for its idealism & noble lawyer-father.


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
@JoyceCarolOates When writer is elderly, old, first-draft novel w/ racist lawyer-father is finally published, casting shadow back upon the


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
@JoyceCarolOates beloved novel. Which is real: the original novel, or the softened, sentimentalized version overseen by editor?


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
@JoyceCarolOates A fairy tale in which the canny original editor is the “author” of the bestseller & her name, to most, wholly unknown.


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
Young writers in particular are fascinated by Harper Lee story: do you follow agent’s instructions, or cleave to your original vision? But


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
@JoyceCarolOates if your original vision is rejected & never published, is your integrity worth it? & what is “integrity” if unrealized?


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
Everyone agrees that “To Kill a Mockingbird” is an exemplary novel, & enlarges sympathy, no matter the circuitous course of its creation.


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
Most writers, confronted w/ rejection, would probably revise their mss. as a helpful editor instructs;only a very few, like Emily Dickinson,


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
@JoyceCarolOates would cleave to their own, stubborn, eccentric vision. “Go Set a Watchman” like the “return of the repressed”…a perfect


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
@JoyceCarolOates ending to a complex moral fable in which Harper Lee is the conflicted heroine as in a tale of “possession” by Henry James.


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
For most writers, revising a rejected ms. will not result in a runaway beloved bestseller anyway; often, revision is rejected, too.


nRDedwvd_biggerExplone‏@Explone
Is art born of both intention and circumstance still perceived the same way? Does it matter, or not? (2/2)


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
I think it should not matter.


6WXPstX0_bigger

Jeffrey Zuckerman‏@J_Zuckerman
@JoyceCarolOates If we’re looking at this through the lens of fairy tales, reading Tonja Carter as an evil stepmother becomes fascinating.


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
It is hard to resist the mythic vision here…


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
Assume that Flannery O’Connor, a contemporary of Harper Lee, would have snorted in derision at suggestion to soften her novel & refused to


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
@JoyceCarolOates revise; but this suggests “character is fate” & not a clear moral decision. Harper Lee insecure, modest, “did what they


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
@JoyceCarolOates told me to do”; out of the young writer’s very modesty & sense of duty, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is born.


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
Personally, I don’t think that any novel, any work of art, should “cast a shadow” back upon any previous work; each should remain separate.


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
Writers often turn against earlier, younger selves & repudiate their great work (Chaucer, G.M. Hopkins); one should ignore such repudiations


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
@JoyceCarolOates & trust to the original work.Nearing death, individuals may harshly judge their earlier, less “moral” selves. Is this fair?


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
“Two visions” of Harper Lee yield two portraits of the (archetypal) father: one, the child’s vision; the other, the adult’s. How rare, such


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
@JoyceCarolOates doubleness played out so publicly, but must be familiar to psychoanalysts whose patients are locked in perpetual conflict.


default_profile_4_biggerunionfarm‏@unionfarm
@JoyceCarolOates Did you consider “Mockingbird” a good novel? Did O’Connor ever write a good novel?


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
“Good” is a weak adjective. Of course these writers wrote very good–“great”–works of fiction, & very dissimilar.


obi44MGj_biggerJoe Leydon‏@JoeLeydon
@JoyceCarolOates Filmmakers often do the same thing. Consider how Woody Allen now dismisses “Annie Hall”


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
Really! That is unfortunate since “Annie Hall” is far better than most of Woody Allen’s more recent work.


302717_10150760774710224_736190223_20599501_872767_n_biggerjason carney‏@jasoncarney5
@JoyceCarolOates but doesn’t a body of work stand for something?


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
What is a “body of work”–? Do your early, high school compositions fit on a continuum with your later great work?


dplVj6xD_biggerJeannie‏@jeannieologist
@JoyceCarolOates what about you? Any specific book you’ve rewritten per editor sugg and wishes you hadn’t?


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
Not ever. Can’t even imagine situation. Self-abnegation of writer–self-effacement–just not possible for most.


twitterJoyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates Feb 20
See “Borges & I”–classic parable of the writer-self & the “actual” self yoked together for life. Neither tragic nor comic: profound.


twitter-showalterElaine Showalter ‏@ecshowalter Feb 20
Brilliant Q&A on Twitter tonight with @JoyceCarolOates on early&late novels, writers&editors, HarperLee. Too much to RT, check it out.


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