Go Set A Watchman — Book review

In July 2015, as I read Nelle Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman, a point arrived when I thought the title should change to Go Set It Aside. But the story compelled me to keep going. At another point in the book, I thought Besmirching the Character of a Character would have worked better. But I endeavored onward.

Editing

A photo of a page from Nelle Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman

A photo of a page from Nelle Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman

HarperCollins, the publishing company, does not seem to have edited this book. There is just no other way to put it. From misspelling Judgement (Sic) Day by adding an extra letter E on Page 65, to the absolutely ridiculous changes from first to second to third person interchangeably, worst on Page 120. The second paragraph on Page 170 begins with a lower-cased letter L, I do not understand how these things would have bled over with red ink pens by the first or second editor at HarperCollins. Italics would have been nice when we jumped into Scout’s head in first person from the previous sentence being in third. Or in second (think of listening to the world’s worst quarterback Tony Romo trying to talk sense … you, you, when you…)

Nelle Harper Lee most likely did not revise or have editors pour over this book 

A friend of mine says there’s no way Nelle Harper Lee would have penned the sentence atop Page 24 where Scout is studying her beau Henry and says to herself, “I never tire of watching him move, she thought.” No, said my friend, “That’s a line out of Thelma and Louise, but the only way to know if Harper Lee wrote that would be to go visit her in the nursing home and ask. It’s clear they did not involve her in editing this book.”

My theory about the manuscript

This leads me to my theory about what happened. Harper Lee never revised or had editors comb over this book. Maybe I’ve just not dug deep enough online, but it appears they took this work in progress by Harper Lee and published it like an archaeologist would leave a find in situ—undisturbedas they found it.

One of my most valued writing mentors told me she was going to pass on Go Set A Watchman and not read it in order to not damage her perspective of Atticus Finch and “Keep my childhood intact.”

Another writing colleague intends to juxtapose Go Set A Watchman with To Kill A Mockingbird and use them as examples of GREAT writing and not so much.

Is it worth reading?

Go Set A Watchman is worth reading. Go Set A Watchman CoverThe subject penned in this story is still being dealt with today and applied to more issues than just relations between white and black foke. Maybe that’s what some of the foke who are reading it are getting upset about. It’s been a bitter summer in 2015 for many across the land and in many of the same ways, the liberal Yankee media they complain about in the book and the Supreme Court still does not have a clue as to the mindset of most Southerners and probably never will. What happens because of that eventually is going to get far uglier than what we have seen already. For every action, there’s a reaction and the pressure cooker’s steam is on the rise.

A Writer’s Declaration

After reading Go Set A Watchman, I now declare that if after I have died or a debilitating stroke, my daughters, loved one, an /or my agent or someone else goes through my drawers of umpteen notecards, notebooks of drafted manuscripts yet unpublished, or finds files on my computers they think the world should be privy to, they CANNOT release them unless they have been well-edited. And by that, I mean no style errors, no head-hopping, no changing tenses on one page without logical breaks in between. No, nothing that would make people as frustrated as I was Tuesday afternoon trying to figure out what in the world Nelle Harper Lee was trying to share with us in her book. Got it?

Solid sources for anything Nelle Harper Lee, should start with Wayne Flynt, is University Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at Auburn University. Professor Flynt made regular trips to Monroeville, Alabama through the decades, and was a good friend to the late author. In fact, he was with her often during the last days of her life. He has written a book about the late, talented author. 

Another solid source is Nancy Anderson, formerly, sort of still at Auburn’s Montgomery campus.

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