“To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Watchman” In The Internet Age

Whither Cyberspace Scout?
Back in July 1960 when Harper Lee published “To Kill A Mockingbird”, the Internet was a rough skeleton of university and government computer networks, more accustomed to crude bits of data transfer and big ideas yet realized, versus the flood of information and media that we enjoy (or despise), along with programming that some of us work with today. But what if Lee’s nearly universally acclaimed novel — “Mockingbird” was ranked the best novel of the century in 1999 — had been published now, in the Facebook and Twitter age?

“Go Set A Watchman”
Although it is difficult to compare a sequel, set more than one half century forward, we might soon find out. Lee and her representatives are expected in July 2015 to publish Lee’s late, late follow-up, “Go Set A Watchman”. Some question whether the reclusive Lee, at age 88, has a full grasp of these events, or whether she even wrote the new book at all. But her closest friends and advisers say she is “sharp as a tack,” and just doesn’t want to talk or deal with the media, which rings true; Lee has not granted one interview since 1964. And given the torrent of media coverage today, one wonders whether Lee would have tried doing ANY of this, had she started writing in the Internet Age. She might have been bemused and unmotivated trying to take on our current wired and un-wired world, as she showed such courage against mid-century racism and the beauty of co-existing as equal people in her original work.

Social Will Push “Watchman” Exponentially
“Go Set A Watchman” reportedly follows the memorable and charming adolescent character Scout of Mockingbird fame into adult life. This means that handles like “@ScoutWatchman”, or “@HarperLeeSequel”, or similar names will no doubt grace the Twitterverse. This will mean that the Harper Lee machine will push the book on Facebook, and that the immortal good lawyer Atticus Finch, “Mockingbird’s” chief protagonist whom Lee based on her father, will get his own likes, follows and comments on social media.

Debase Modern Culture Might Have Drowned Out Atticus
The great Atticus Finch, played by Gregory Peck, might also have demurred at what passes for acceptable language and grammar in today’s cell phone- and tablet-fueled world. In the Internet Age, one wonders whether both Atticus and Scout — not to mention Tom Robinson (the falsely and racially accused black farmer) and “Boo” Radley (played by a young Robert Duvall) — might have been drowned out by the likes of the Kardashians, Pit Bull or myriad talking head web flame-throwers.

Although Lee’s original “Mockingbird” automatically blows a great gust of marketing wind into the sequel, we might get a glimpse soon, when “Go Set A Watchman” comes out summer this year.

Greg Goaley, President of WinCommunications in Des Moines, Iowa, is a former copywriter and creative editor, and a 25-year digital content strategist and provider. Kathryn Towner is President of WinM@il USA, a former 15-year sales rep for Random House/McGraw-Hill, and a 20-year permission-based email publications consultant and provider.