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Thoughts While Listening to Harper Lee's GO SET A WATCHMAN

For My Students, From My Writing Desk, Reading, ReviewsAngelina OberdanComment

Okay, so I didn't actually, physically, read Harper Lee's second novel, Go Set a Watchman; I listened to it, as narrated by Reese Witherspoon. 

Instead of composing a review, I decided to jot down my thoughts about it. 

1. I know about all of the hullabaloo that surrounds the publication of this novel: it may or may not have been found earlier, Harper Lee's estate manager waited until her (Lee's) sister died to publish it, HarperCollins published a book that wasn't really worth it, etc. Drama. Maybe marketing. 

2. I'll tell you what; I'm a literary executor, and whatever happened, it doesn't quite seem ethical. But did Dickinson want all of her poems published? We think so, and we like to hope so, but we're not completely sure. Estates get mismanaged. I won't mismanage the one I'm in charge of; hire a good executor. 

3. Adam Gopnik is one of my favorite reviewers and commentators, and he actually reviews the novel, not just the saga surrounding it. Read it here. 

4. While Gopnik doesn't think it's a great book and while he does think that it's full of cliches, I don't think my Southern Lit. prof from Clemson University would agree with him. (I'm not quite sure that Gopnik agrees with himself, either, because he is constantly comparing the book to the Southern Lit. of 50 years ago, which it presumes to be.)

5. If you're going to listen to it, have Reese Witherspoon read it. After all, she is the voice of Jean Louise and Alabama, no question. 

6. Will Atticus Finch ever be anyone besides Gregory Peck? I'm not even sure how he was actually described because the only person I could picture was Gregory Peck. 

7. Yes, we are all disappointed that Atticus has always been a racist. Our childhood ideal, much like Jean Louise's in the novel, has been squashed.

8. Between the loss of our hero and the drama surrounding the book's publication, of course everyone is pissed about it. 

9. Isn't this the conversation that no one wants to have? That some people think the wrong thing, that (like Gopnik says) retrospectively we all probably will. The problem is that some people think the wrong thing and, on purpose or not, do endorse the violence that goes along with it. Is this what Atticus does? 

10. Maybe it's too hard for us to think of Atticus as allowing violence because he's supposed to be our lawful and objective hero, but he's not. Don't we too silently endorse the violence that is too often related to race in this country when we avoid neighborhoods or keep our pocketbooks closer to our sides? 

11. Why isn't anyone having this conversation about book? Did anyone read it? 

12. I think it's like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I love the tone and the sentences. 

13. Maybe Lee didn't get a chance to perfect this book (or maybe To Kill a Mockingbird is it's perfection), but, damn, she could write a sentence. 

14. Where was Uncle Jack in To Kill a Mockingbird? I love him. I would re-read this book just to try to jump from one of his quirky references to the next! 

15. Better published or not? I don't actually care. I really enjoyed it. 

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