Harper Lee’s death on February 19 set off a wave of mourning, nostalgia, and literary analysis. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those rare books that most people were forced to read as children and which they also remember fondly. When I taught college writing, it was one of the few books that I could reference that I could count on all the students having read (the school reading canon deep in the throes of fragmentation and reformation by the time I started to teach.), and which they could discuss with each other. It is also that other rare creature: a very good book that was quickly made into a very good film. And, rather than one eclipsing the other, the two have coexisted more or less peacefully over the past fifty years.
The general good will and enduring popularity of that novel explains why, when Go Set A Watchman, the sequel/prequel/companion novel was published in 2015, I had a copy ready to go when members started requesting it. It circulated more than the average book at our library, but less than I would have expected. In fact, I thought the less-than-glowing reviews might encourage people to use a library copy rather than buy their own. The checkouts have quieted down over the last few months. No one asked for the book in the days immediately following Ms. Lee’s death, and I was getting ready to move the book off of the “New Books” shelf and into regular circulation.
Until this morning.
One of our regular patrons came in from the pouring rain. All he wanted was to read Go Set a Watchman. It was marked as “Available” in our catalog, but it was nowhere to be found. Debbie thought it might be on the regular fiction shelf – perhaps the “New Book” sticker had fallen off and our page had not realized it was still classified as “New.” But, alas, the book had been spirited away – perhaps by a fan mourning Ms. Lee’s death, perhaps by someone who wanted to seethe at the injustices of that novel. Regardless, it was not there for our patron to check out, even though it was supposed to be.
What was worse, however, was that I realized our copy of To Kill a Mockingbird has also gone missing. In fact, no one had asked for it since I started at the Club, so I couldn’t even be sure when it had disappeared.
I’m ordering a new copy of each book – they should be in our collection right now – but we still hope our old copies will return home.