Booking Through Thursday: Harper Lee

So … will you be reading Go Set a Watchman: A Novel? Why? Why not? What do you think of this whole deal? Harper Lee, after all, is famous for insisting she wouldn’t publish another book, and now this … and the controversy about Atticus? Discuss!

Okay, Bookworm Confessions: I’ve never read To Kill a Mockingbird. I know it’s one of those classics that tons of people read in school, but I was almost always taught from generic anthologies and literature text books, not so much novels, and it wasn’t the kind of book that came up in the college lit classes I took. And despite having been an avid reader my whole life, some things fall through the cracks. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to read it, though, or that I don’t plan to–I did pick up a copy on a trip to Half Price Books, so I’ll get to it eventually. Mandatory overtime and job hunting have been cutting into my reading time, though, and I’m really hoping to squeeze some in tonight. Definitely tomorrow.

That said, after I do get around to it, I probably will get around to reading Go Set a Watchman because I don’t like the idea of ignoring sequels, unless I hate the first book. So far, that’s only happened with the Thomas Covenant series.

Now, since I have yet to read either, I do think this puts me in an interesting position discussion-wise because I’m not really invested either way at this point. So here’s the thing. I think the fact that Harper Lee insisted she wouldn’t publish another book and then did is sketchy. If she didn’t want to, fine. It’s her writing and her call, and if she only wanted one book out of that, okay. As a writer, I don’t understand it at all–except for maybe being afraid of never living up to that standard again–but okay. But I’ve heard rumblings about her having been pressured into publishing it, and if that’s true, it’s really shitty, especially now that the character of Atticus is being questioned. Maybe that was a factor in her not wanting to publish another book. Obviously, I have no idea.

Now, as for Atticus–again, remember I have read neither To Kill a Mockingbird nor Go Set a Watchman, but I do understand the criticism and disappointment, and I’d love to revisit this topic when I do read one or both books. Based on what very little I know, it’s possible that Atticus has just changed, and not for the better. It’s possible that maybe Go Set a Watchman just shows a different side to him, and it just happens to be a very surprising and disheartening side.

Characters can be complex, and when their complexities are handled by a very capable writer, great things can happen (although that doesn’t sound like that’s the case here). But much like real people, sometimes, they’re not who we think they are, or they have some godawful qualities we’re surprised to see and that seem uncharacteristic. Sometimes, they turn into people we don’t like. Sometimes, they always were that person and we just didn’t see it, either through choosing to ignore it or being deceived and manipulated or because of limited contact.

Or maybe Harper Lee just didn’t want to publish another book and gave the world a shitty, racist Atticus out of spite.


2 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday: Harper Lee

  1. I read both books. Did you know that Go Set a Watchman was written first but never published. She than wrote To Kill a Mockingbird and it was published. I never read To Kill a Mockingbird until its 50th anniversary, than decided to read it a few years ago. I really enjoyed the book much more so that Go Set a Watchman. But Go Set a Watchman was interesting to me because it was written first and the young girl in To Kill a Mockingbird was 10 or 11 years old, but in Watchman she is grown up and is 26 years old.

    1. I’d heard that about “Go Set a Watchman” actually being published first, but I wasn’t positive so I didn’t address that. But I think it’s another good indicator that Harper Lee might’ve wanted to leave it unpublished–after all, it’s been so all these years.

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