Go Set a Watchman (2015), by Harper Lee

This is a review of Harper Lee’s highly-ancticipated second novel/prequel/abandoned debut Go Set a Watchman. For some thoughts on its more famous predecessor, To Kill a Mockingbird, click here.

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Let’s put aside the unsavory circumstances surrounding this book’s publication, which become more contemptible the more you read about them. Let’s also put aside the sturm und drang about this alternate side of Atticus Finch and what it means for us and our collective image of him as a faultless paragon of virtue.

Let’s focus instead on what we have in front of us, which is an artistic tragedy, though perhaps not for the reasons you might think.

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#10: To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), by Harper Lee

“Atticus–” Aunt Alexandra’s eyes were anxious. “You are the last person I thought would turn bitter over this.”
“I’m not bitter, just tired. I’m going to bed.”
“Atticus–” said Jem bleakly.
He turned in the doorway. “What, son?”
“How could they do it, how could they?”
“I don’t know, but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it — seems that only children weep.”

——–

One of the challenges of writing little pieces about these books is that in many cases it’s hard to come up with anything halfway fresh.  There’s a little obscurity here and there, titles that may have slipped under even an avid reader’s radar (say, Dog Soldiers and Ubik), but To Kill a Mockingbird? What is left to say at this point, etc.

As a matter of fact, don’t we all agree that TKAM  is an unimpeachable American classic*, dexterously able to speak both to children and to adults? Imparting values that younger readers need to hear and older ones need to be reminded of? When I told people TKAM was my next book on the list, they practically fell to their knees in response.  People don’t simply like this novel; they’ve made a soul-level connection with it.

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