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Harper Lee speaks: Marja Mills-penned bio was unauthorized (Updated)

Harper Lee, aka Nelle Harper Lee, the reclusive author of To Kill a Mockingbird, is the focus of author Marja Mills’ bio The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee, which hits shelves Tuesday. It purports to be a rare in-depth look at the lives of Lee and her sister Alice, borne out of a years-long friendship between Mills, a former Chicago Tribune journalist, and the Lee sisters, whom she moved next door to in 2004.

According to the book’s description, Mills “spent the next eighteen months there, sharing coffee at McDonalds and trips to the Laundromat with Nelle, feeding the ducks and going out for catfish supper with the sisters, and exploring all over lower Alabama with the Lees’ inner circle of friends.” The Lee sisters, it says, “decided to let Mills tell their story.”

But, there’s just one problem. According to a letter penned by none other than 88-year-old Nelle Harper Lee herself—who, mind you, hasn’t written a book since Mockingbird, doesn’t grant interviews, and generally stays out of the public eye—The Mockingbird Next Door was executed without her cooperation or permission and based on false pretenses. Lee first issued a statement on the matter in 2011 when Penguin Press announced that it had acquired the book. Now, on the evening before its July 15 release, she’s reminding us that nothing has changed on her end.

Take a look at Lee’s statement in its entirety after the jump, where she reiterates her declaration that she had not “willingly participated in any book written or to be written by Marja Mills.” And, in case that isn’t clear enough, she also says, “rest assured, as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood.” Penguin Press and Mills also responded Tuesday morning with their own statements.

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On The Books: Hachette Amazon feud escalates, affecting Rowling and Connelly

The feud between Hachette Book Group and Amazon has intensified. The Los Angeles Times reports that Amazon has taken the pre-order buttons off of big Hachette titles, like The Burning Room by Michael Connelly and The Silkworm by Richard Galbraith, the pen name for J.K. Rowling. This is in addition to allegedly extending back order times for popular books, like Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. Hachette has issued a statement saying they are “sparing no effort and exploring all options” to resolve this conflict, but Amazon has declined to comment. Hachette author James Patterson has been very outspoken about this battle. “What I don’t understand about this particular battle tactic is how it is in the best interest of Amazon customers,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “It certainly doesn’t appear to be in the best interest of authors.” READ FULL STORY

On The Books: 'To Kill A Mockingbird' eBooks for everyone

As Harper Lee celebrates her 88th birthday today, she unexpectedly announced an eBook version of To Kill A Mockingbird would be published this July. Until today, To Kill A Mockingbird and Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye were the two white rhinos that still eluded the eBook library’s collection of classics. [Guardian] READ FULL STORY

On the Books: Amy Poehler to host World Book Night

Amy Poehler will be hosting World Book Night this year! The comedian has already sharpened her hosting chops at this year’s Golden Globes. (“Welcome to the 71st Annual Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s Lee Daniels’ The Butler Golden Globe Awards.”) We can expect some big laughs on April 23rd when the star joins a coalition of publishers, bookseller, librarians and 25,000 volunteers to give away 500,000 books to people who otherwise don’t have access to reading materials. “I’m thrilled to be part of World Book Night,” the actress told UPI. “People who read are people who dream, and we connect through the stories we live and tell and read.” The event’s executive director, Carl Lennertz, is equally happy to have Poehler on board. “This news is the icing, cherry and candles on the year three WBN cake,” the director said. Special paperback editions that will be given away this year are Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, Carl Hiaasen’s Hoot, and Solomon Northrup’s 12 Years a Slave. [UPI]

Two hilarious letters written by America’s favorite recluse Harper Lee are being auctioned in Los Angeles tomorrow. The first is written to a Dr. Engelhardt in 2005 and she complains about the To Kill A Mockingbird tourism that plagues her in her small town of Monroeville, Alabama: “You think my home is my castle? No, sir!” She also mentions her poor penmanship: “excuse my penmanship”, which she says she has ” a feeling that it’s cater cornered on the page.” In the second letter, she thanks her friend Doris Leapard “for all the things you do, have done, and will do. (This reads like Nixon’s pardon.) …” It really is a loss that she doesn’t give interviews, since they would obviously be hilarious. [The Guardian]

Indie bookstores are a dying breed. (Bookstores are a dying breed.) But just to remind you that this is a serious problem, here’s an article in the New York Times about bookstores being forced out of Manhattan, a city that used to be a beacon of literary haunts. So many classic booksellers have shuttered in the past decade and the ones that are open struggle to stay that way. So support your indie booksellers! Don’t buy everything on your Kindle…

Check out this great article in The New Yorker by Stacey D’Erasmo on the “Proteus” nature of female artists. “Proteus, who assumes many shapes but is subject to none, is a productive figure for the artist to steer by.” She attributes this tendency to women and the Other. “There’s a doubt, a shadow, a friction between the inner world and the perception or the shape of the exterior container. That shadow between feeling and form, which may begin in gender, releases artistic energy all one’s life. The paper is always torn, the eyes always peer out from within borrowed shapes.”

Lastly, spare fifteen minutes to peruse this “He loves me, he loves me not” quiz based on Samuel Richardson’s 18th century novel Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded. “If you’re asking yourself, ‘Does my recently-orphaned master like me, or does he like me like me?’ then you’re in the right place. It can be hard to tell if a libertine’s just being friendly (he shakes hands with all of his housemaids’ breasts like that!) or if he’s starting to think of you as someone special (he hides under your bed while you’re at church, even on Whitsuntide!), especially when he owns you and all of your labor for the next seven years.” Haven’t we all been there? [The Toast]

On The Books: Harper Lee settles lawsuit against Alabama museum

Harper Lee settled her federal lawsuit against the Monroe County Heritage Museum in Monroeville, Alabama. As we reported in October, the reclusive author sued her hometown museum for selling souvenirs of To Kill A Mockingbird without compensating her. She was also embroiled in a lawsuit against her former literary agent last year over the copyright to her book. Those charges were dismissed after the parties reached an out of court settlement. [AP] [ABC News] READ FULL STORY

On the Books: Harper Lee sues hometown museum; Alice Munro to miss Nobel awards ceremony

This week’s books news kicks off with a lawsuit, a shortlist, and a petition. Read on for today’s top headlines:

To Kill a Mockingbird novelist Harper Lee is suing a museum in her hometown for selling souvenirs with her name on them. [USA Today]

The shortlist for the 2014 Red House Children’s Book Award has been announced. The winners will be announced in London on Feb. 22, 2014. [The Telegraph]

Alice Munro, the winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature, will miss the awards ceremony in Stockholm for health reasons. [Nobel Prize Twitter]

After Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries won the Man Booker Prize last week, British publisher Granta is rush-printing an extra 100,000 copies of the novel. [The Guardian]

Several self-published pornography writers whose works were removed by Amazon and other e-book retailers have launched a petition in protest. [LA Times]

Authors are accepting censorship rules in China in order to see their books published. [The New York Times]

Today’s must-read: John Williams’s Stoner has found an unexpected following in Europe, thanks to a translation by French writer Anna Gavalda. And as The New Yorker says, it’s the “greatest American novel you’ve never heard of.” [The New Yorker]

Up for debate: Sam Jordison argues that Edgar Allan Poe’s storytelling is more snooze-worthy than thrilling. Quoth the Raven: “Zzzzz.” [The Guardian]

Harper Lee sues hometown museum in Alabama

To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee is suing a museum in her hometown of Monroeville to stop it from selling souvenirs with her name and the title of her Pulitzer Prize-winning book.

The lawsuit, filed last week in federal court in Mobile, said the Monroe County Heritage Museum has traded on Lee’s fame without her approval and without compensating her. It seeks an unspecified amount in damages.

“Every single statement in the lawsuit is either false, meritless, or both,” museum attorney Matt Goforth said Friday in an email.

The lawsuit comes after Lee sought a federal trademark for the title of her book when it’s used on clothing. The museum opposed her application, saying its souvenir sales are vital to its continued operation. A ruling is over a year away.
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Harper Lee settles 'Mockingbird' copyright suit

To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee has settled a New York lawsuit against two of the defendants she sued in May to re-secure the copyright to her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

A court filing Friday in federal court in Manhattan says Lee’s lawsuit against defendants Leigh Ann Winick and Gerald Posner has been dismissed. A lawyer for the two said a settlement with the remaining defendants is likely to be reached next week.

Attorney Vincent Carissimi wouldn’t disclose the terms of the settlement. A lawyer for Lee did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The 87-year-old author sued her former literary agent’s son-in-law, Samuel Pinkus; companies he allegedly created; and alleged associates of his. She claimed they had failed to protect the book’s copyright.

Harper Lee sues over 'To Kill a Mockingbird' copyright infringement

Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, is suing her agent for copyright infringement. Lee claims that Samuel Pinkus, the son-in-law of her longtime agent, Eugene Winick, tricked her into signing over her copyright in 2007 when she was in an assisted-living facility after having suffered a stroke. Gloria Phares, Lee’s Lawyer, stated in the complaint: “Pinkus knew that Harper Lee was an elderly woman with physical infirmities that made it difficult for her to read and see.”

Lee claims that she had no idea that she had signed over the copyright. And although the copyright was reassigned to Lee last year after other legal action, the 87-year-old author filed an additional lawsuit on Friday, hoping to reclaim full ownership of the copyright to the 1960 novel, therefore taking any remaining commissions away from her agent. With this latest lawsuit, Lee aims to stop Pinkus from receiving any more royalties from the hit novel, which has sold more than 30 million copies to date.

Read more:
John Grisham sequel to ‘A Time to Kill’ to be published
‘How I Lost You': Janet Gurtler talks new YA novel
‘Waiting to Be Heard’ by Amanda Knox: Read EW’s review of the $4 million memoir

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