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Friday, July 21, 2017

On Go Set a Watchman

     I don't as a rule review books, and this post will not be a book review as much as a sharing of my thoughts about the publishing of Go Set a Watchman.

     I resisted reading it for a long time. Then a few Saturdays ago I found a copy in the swap shop at my town dump. I brought it home and read it. It did not break my heart as I'd  heard happened to other readers. At least it didn't for the reason I'd heard it was breaking hearts across America, due to Atticus's fall from grace. To Kill a Mockingbird is, always will be, one of my favorite books, but I never saw Atticus as an infallible man. I knew we were seeing him through a little girl's eyes.

     The same girl when grown, Jean Louise, sees him more realistically. I didn't find much there to be shocking. I'm sure she wrote quite realistically of race relations in Alabama at that time. Less believable to me was the idea that she, grown-up Scout, was so pure of racist beliefs or even awareness and that her new home, New York City, was somehow responsible and so much better.

      But none of that matters. Not at all. Because we should not be reading this book. It is so clear when you are reading it that it is a draft, an early draft of Mockingbird. That is what writers do, we hash out stories on paper, wrestling with them while we wrestle with ourselves, figuring out how to tell a story while we figure out how the story connects to who and what we are. And no writers early drafts should be shared without permission. It was wrong to publish this book, at least in this format, presenting it as a finished novel. As a manuscript published for academic purposes, especially about how a novel can change so much with relentless revision, it certainly is instructive.

     This publication, and the way it was released, was grossly unfair to Harper Lee.

      When I am touched by a book, when it connects with me in any meaningful way, I give it a place in my home and am unlikely to ever part with it.

     Tomorrow I will set Go Set a Watchman back in the swap shop at the town dump. I think that is what Lee would want me to do. Scout too.

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