Monday, July 20, 2015

My Thoughts on Go Set a Watchman

Everywhere I turn people are talking about Go Set a Watchman. And I don't blame them. This is probably one of the most exciting things to happen in publishing since Harry Potter. But unlike Harry Potter, I'm not sure I'm going to read this one.

To read this book I'd have to read To Kill a Mockingbird first. I've read it, and I've seen the movie, I believe as an assignment sometime back in my teen years. I have incredibly fond memories of the characters. They live on in my head in the same way an old friend lives on. I don't remember all the details, but I do remember them with a fondness that I hope never to lose.

It's because of those memories that I might never read Go Set a Watchman. I've been saddened by the controversy surrounding the book and even further saddened by some of the reviews I've read. Everyone is entitled to an opinion of course and I think many will find they need to read the book to see what people are talking about and, possibly, prove reviewers wrong. For me though, I'd like to hide my head in the sand on this one and remember Scout as she was in my childhood.

--jhf

11 comments:

Stacy McKitrick said...

I feel the same way. I loved "To Kill a Mockingbird." I don't want to ruin that feeling. Maybe if I didn't feel the author was being taken advantage of, and that she really wanted the book published, I'd read it. Since I'm not sure what she wanted, I'm not taking any chances.

Anonymous said...

The book is called "Go Set a Watchman", not tell...

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

Thank you Anonymous. That's what I get for writing blog posts early on a Saturday. I made the correction.

--jhf

Jennifer S. Brown said...

If I may quote from my own Goodreads review (I finished the book last week after angsting over whether or not to read it), I think this book is an excellent lesson that the first go-round of a book is not the final go-round for a reason. That even authors who are heralded as “great American novelists” have to do considerable work—and be provided with considerable editing and feedback–to create their works of art. This book is not a companion piece in any way, but an example to be shared: No one gets it write the first time. Go Set a Watchman is a draft of To Kill a Mockingbird. I will treat it as a blueprint—the rough sketch—to a truly wonderful novel, as a peek into the inner workings of the mind of a great writer. This book does not influence the way I see TKAM except to make me appreciate even more the labor that Harper Lee put into writing it. I don't think it's a book for the casual reader to pick up, but for those whom writing is a process, this book is absolutely an education.

Elise Chidley said...

I think it's confusing for readers to have this book come out at all. It's obviously an abandoned first draft, not intended as a prequel in any way. Naturally enough, people are trying to create some continuity between the characters in the two books without realizing that a writer may choose to use the same name for a character while almost entirely reinventing who and what they are. I haven't read the new book yet, and I don't really want to--but I think curiosity will get the better of me!

Elissa M said...

I will probably read it sometime. My husband ordered it and it's sitting on the table now. But at the moment, I'm very confused about it.

People are saying it's a "first novel" and a "good view at the writing process" and a "rough draft". Harper Lee is not dead. If I were a well-known published writer, and a draft of an early novel of mine were found, I sure as heck would NOT publish it without revision.

Yes, I would probably say it was an early work, but I still wouldn't release it before cleaning it up, washing its face, and polishing its shoes. It's one thing if readers aren't happy with the story it tells. It's quite another if the writing is an issue. From what people are saying about "Go Set a Watchman", there could be a problem with both.

Why would any writer not revise an early draft before publishing?

Me said...

Wow, now I'm really nervous about reading this. Of course I read TKAM and I have a great deal of respect for Harper Lee. I'm not sure if I want to cloud my feelings for a great writer.

John Frain said...

Elissa,

I don't know the answer to your question with any first-hand knowledge, but I've read a number of places that hint at Harper Lee not having all the mental capacity she once did. Perhaps she "consented" by signing some things that she really had rather not signed. Certainly wouldn't be the first time something like that has happened by unscrupulous people, whether it be in publishing, banking, real estate or many other industries.

I'll give Harper Lee plenty of leeway and I'm inclined to agree with Jessica that maybe this one doesn't need to be read after all.

John Frain said...

Jessica,

Your brilliant explanation reminds me of why one journalist (George Plimpton, maybe?) refused to attend a baseball fantasy camp that so many teams host nowadays.

His logic was just like yours. He didn't want to remember his childhood heroes as older guys who could no longer make dazzling plays in the field. They all owned cherished spots in his memory, and creating new places in the mind for a hero making an error or running out of breath rounding second was not worth his time, much less a $5,000 investment.

E.L. Wagner said...

I feel very much as you do. I can't get past the feeling that this novel, which was written earlier, will have cruder and less developed versions of these people, or at least earlier versions who might contrast sharply with the Scout, Atticus and so on that we came to know and love.

Anonymous said...

I read it and loved it. I'll be frank and say TKAM has never interested me. It felt too smug, too paternalistic, even when I was a teenager. GSaW is the real South...of today as well as yesterday. It's unlikely GSaW would have been a charming novel Americans in the 1950s would have settled down with a cup of tea to read one lazy afternoon.
Also, I don't believe it's a first draft. GSaW was a completed manuscript that Harper Lee was submitting to publishers and was rejected. That it took Lee two years to pull TKAM out of her original manuscript and then never wanted to publish again says a lot to me.