Okay, I'm way behind today on work and trying to catch up. And, for that matter, I have no particular opinion on whether Truman Capote wrote some/much/most/all of To Kill A Mockingbird (see previous post), or whatever. I do know that Capote supposedly had repeatedly hinted as much to others, but I also know that Capote also supposedly claimed to be friends with celebrities that he had never, in fact, met. But, my having broached the topic in yesterday's blog post notwithstanding, I have no especial opinion on the matter or even any real interest, beyond just thinking the idea intriguing.
BUT, I do care about clear thinking about the evaluation of evidence. The reason I am intrigued by the idea of Capote's participation in To Kill A Mockingbird is co-existence of two separate facts that had earlier circulated independently in my head:
(1) that Capote and Lee were neighbors from the same small Alabama town. Start counting on your fingers: Capote, Lee, and other Alabama writers who have the same level of public recognition as Capote and Lee. Did you even get to your second hand? Now think of how remarkable it is that two of those fingers were neighbors growing up.
(2) Find a list of the top 100 American novels of the 20th century. If you were going to choose the one novel on that list for which there was the least independent evidence of the talent of the author outside that novel, you'd likely decide on Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird. I mean, if I'm wrong about this, please correct me: but doesn't the rest of her published oeuvre consist of like a handful of short and indistinguished magazine articles? Even if you look at people who wrote one great novel and killed themselves promptly thereafter (Confederacy of Dunces, Raintree County), you probably have a longer independent paper trail than Lee's.
Either of these facts, alone, wouldn't lead me to be especially intrigued by the Capote-TKAM theory. But, put them together, and the pair is greater than the sum of its parts. So, counterarguments like "Jason Williams and Randy Moss went to the same high school," even if it wasn't a bad argument-by-analogy for other reasons, not only misses the point but does so in a rather frustrating way. It's the combination of the almost-uniquely-weird lack of independent evidence of Lee's authorial gifts AND her having this close-friend-since-childhood who had indisputably forbidable authorial gifts, that makes the idea intriguing to me.
Again, the true answer about the authorship of To Kill A Mockingbird isn't very important to me. I'd much rather know if Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. But, please, try to understand that when the conjunction of facts A and B can be offered as evidence suggestive of a hypothesis, the counterargument that A isn't much evidence on its own for the hypothesis should not be regarded as very compelling.