On Tuesday, fans finally get a look at "Go Set a Watchman," the widely anticipated new novel by Harper Lee.
On Long Island and elsewhere, it's an occasion to celebrate Lee's classic 1960 debut, "To Kill a Mockingbird," and to discuss the mysterious appearance of the second novel, coming 55 years later.
News of "Go Set a Watchman" took the literary world by storm in February, when publisher HarperCollins announced it would be releasing the book, from a manuscript Lee wrote in the mid-1950s. Her publisher at the time asked her to substantially alter the story, which became "Mockingbird," about Scout Finch, a girl in Depression-era Alabama, and her father, principled lawyer Atticus Finch. "Watchman" picks up these beloved characters some 20 years after the events of the first book. The first chapter was posted on the websites of The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian on Friday -- revealing that Scout Finch's brother has died -- and inspiring an outpouring from fans on social media.
In the months since the announcement, some have questioned whether the 89-year-old author could consent to the publication and the circumstances of how and when the manuscript was discovered. (Lee's lawyer claimed to have discovered the manuscript last summer, though a rare-books expert from Sotheby's told The New York Times he had seen it during an appraisal in 2011.)
Stony Brook University professor emeritus Michael Edelson, an arts and humanities educator who specializes in film studies, says he is curious about whether the new book will contain the same intricate but subtle story lines and beautiful prose as "Mockingbird."
"It was a remarkable perception through the child's eyes, that cuts through the pretensions of adults," says the Greenport resident about Lee's first novel.
Edelson will give a lecture on Harper Lee and her works later this month at Westhampton Library. Step back into the fictional Alabama town of Maycomb with these readings and events happening around the book's release.
Monday, Barnes & Noble bookstores across the country, including the seven on Long Island, are holding 12-hour read-athons of "To Kill a Mockingbird" from beginning to end. Local notables may show up to read, so drop by to hear a bit, or stay awhile.
Tuesday, B&N stores will open at 7 a.m. for the release of "Go Set A Watchman." Stores with cafes will offer a free tall coffee to any customer buying "Watchman" (either in-store or through preorder); the first 20 customers at each B&N store will get a "Mockingbird" tote bag.
"The staff is very excited about the release of the book," says Lindsay Hagan, manager at Barnes & Noble in Manhasset.
At the Massapequa Park store (5224 Sunrise Hwy., 516-541-1456), store employees will read, says Joan Doyle, the assistant manager.
Atticus Finch himself (or someone in costume, anyway) will show up at the Bay Shore store (Gardiner Manor Mall, 842 Sunrise Hwy., 631-206-0198, cafe), according to manager Monica Rodriguez.
New York Assemb. Edward P. Ra (R-Franklin Square) will be one of the readers, from 10 to 10:30 a.m., in Carle Place (Country Glen Center, 91 Old Country Rd., 516-741-9850, cafe), and the store is still looking for volunteer readers. Call if interested.
Other Barnes & Noble booksellers holding marathon readings are in Manhasset (1542 Northern Blvd., 516-365-6723, cafe), Lake Success (1424 Union Tpke., New Hyde Park, 516-437-0324) and Smith Haven (600 Smith Haven Mall, Lake Grove, 631-724-0341, cafe)
INFO Readings 9 a.m.- 9 p.m. Monday at all Barnes & Noble locations. "Go Set a Watchman" goes on sale at B&N stores at 7 a.m. Tuesday. and at other bookstores on the Island.
FILM, FOOD, TALK
You'll experience a little bit of Southern hospitality right here on Long Island when the Westhampton Free Library hosts a potluck dinner and a screening of the 1962 film "To Kill a Mockingbird" on Friday, July 17.
"We'll provide fried chicken," says Nola Thacker, the adult program coordinator at the library. Others can call with their own food donations. The event is free, and open to anyone, but seating is limited.
The following Friday, Edelson, the Stony Brook professor, will discuss Harper Lee's writing and its social and literary influences. Plan on a lively discussion about the book, race relations (Edelson lived in the South in the 1950s) and the controversy regarding the release of "Go Set a Watchman."
INFO Potluck dinner followed by a screening of "To Kill a Mockingbird" on Friday, July 17, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Talk by Stony Brook professor Michael Edelson on July 24 from noon to 2 p.m. Both events at Westhampton Free Library, 7 Library Ave., Westhampton Beach. Reservations required; 631-288-3335 ext. 4, westhamptonlibrary.net
Join Mary Badham, who played Scout in the classic film of "To Kill a Mockingbird," as she reads passages from both Harper Lee novels at the 92nd Street Y. Books will be available to purchase on site.
INFO Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the 92nd Street Y, Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street, Manhattan. Tickets start at $24. 212-415-5500; 92y.org