Harper Lee Is "Delighted and Enthused" to Release New Novel, Says Agent

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"Having spent quality time with her over the last couple of years, I can categorically state that she is in full possession of her mental faculties."

Harper Lee's agent is firing back against claims the 88-year-old author was a victim of "elder abuse" and was manipulated into publishing her new book, Go Set a Watchman.

"I was surprised to hear that someone had anonymously approached the authorities in Alabama to suggest that Harper Lee was being subjected to 'elder abuse,' " said Andrew Nurnberg in a statement to The New York Times. "Having spent quality time with her over the last couple of years, I can categorically state that she is in full possession of her mental faculties."

"She was surprised when the manuscript, which she had presumed long lost, was found last August, and she is both delighted and enthused that it will now be published," he said. Nurnberg is handling the international rights for the To Kill a Mockingbird sequel, which is scheduled to be released in July.

The state of Alabama is conducting an investigation into the allegation of elder abuse, prompted by an anonymous complaint. The Times reports that the Alabama Securities Commission closed part of its inquiry on Thursday, although investigators for the human resources agency are still looking into the abuse claim.

Here's the full statement:

"I was surprised to hear that someone had, anonymously, approached the authorities in Alabama to suggest that Harper Lee was being subjected to 'elder abuse.' Having spent quality time with her over the last couple of years, I can categorically state that she is in full possession of her mental faculties. We have had wonderful discussions ranging over many subjects, from the state of contemporary politics to university life in England — she spent time as an undergraduate in Oxford — about literature, about writing and about specific authors. She does a fine imitation of C.S. Lewis, whose lectures she attended at the time. The fact that she is hard of hearing and suffers from some macular degeneration (entirely common for someone in their late 80s) has no bearing whatsoever on her quick wit or of speaking her mind on all manner of things. That she chose many years ago to lead a quiet life away from the world at large (the last time she spoke to the press was, I believe, in 1964) is her prerogative and should be respected.

"She was surprised when the manuscript, which she had presumed long lost, was found last August, and she is both delighted and enthused that it will now be published. Contrary to certain press reports, it was not 'rejected' at the time. Her putative editor — having read Go Set a Watchman — persuaded her to write Scout's story through the eyes of a child, and the plan was to write a short novel to act as a bridge to Go Set a Watchman. This is clear from documentation at the time, which I have seen. This bridging book was never written, but, as readers will find, it is not necessary to understand how Scout, her father, her extended family and the politics of segregation in the mid-50s evolved.

“Nelle could not be better cared for in the residential home where she lives. To suggest otherwise, anonymously and without any supportive evidence, is as shameful as it is sad. We should rather celebrate the fortuitous discovery of this long-lost novel and share the author's joy at its imminent appearance.

"As widely reported, the Alabama Securities Commission closed the investigation and issued the following statement:

'We made a determination that Ms. Lee, based on our interview with her, was aware that her book was going to be published. She wanted it published. She made it quite clear she did.' "

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