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First Review of Watchman

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I don't think I will read Go Set a Watchman. I love To Kill A Mockingbird so much that I cannot bear to see what Harper Lee had originally planned for Atticus. The New York Times says that he is portrayed as a racist and bigoted opponent of integration in what was basically the original version of Mockingbird. I am so grateful Miss Lee's editor told her to rewrite it and place it in Scout's childhood. Atticus is the ideal American, the man we should all aspire to be and I can't bear to see him portrayed as a hateful, Southern bigot. Instead, I am picking up the old paperback copy of Mockingbird I read in seventh grade and will re-read it. Publishing Watchman is a mistake. It tarnishes a character that we have all come to revere.


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A friend and I discussed this project before it came out.

I envisioned the publisher, hard up for cash flow talking Ms. Lee into it by saying that she had to leave the niece or nephew something after she gone..

I can almost see the editor and the publisher going up to the attic and dragging down the cardboard box with all Ms. Lee's writings

They probably told her, "Don't worry about a thing, we'll take care of everything."

Their intention was to stitch it all together into a coherent book.. They failed and discredited Harper Lee in the process.

Had they just left her alone, she never would have done it.

My friend was disappointed and has just mailed the book to me, I don't think I'll read it.

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I am not so quick to condemn the publishing of this book, and here is why. To Kill a Mockingbird evolved from this Watchman story and so as an author I will be curious to make comparison between the two. As we have all seen in the media, the reaction by those who have read Watchman seems to be one of shock that the well loved character Atticus Finch might be a racist.

For those of you who care to see how that plays out I give you this review from NPR. But you need a spoiler alert here as the review reveals a good deal: http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/07/16/423257877/go-set-a-watchman-is-a-revelation-on-race-not-a-disappointment

It seems Harper Lee, and perhaps the editors at the time Watchman was written, saw great risk in the telling of that story. It is to her credit that she evolved Mockingbird from that earlier draft and published what has become a much beloved book in American literature. I think it holds true that an author owns the words in a story but the characters belong to everyone.

But even if Watchman portrays Atticus Finch as a raving racist it is interesting how Ms. Lee pulled the character back from the brink of destruction. I agree with the reviewer that perhaps Atticus' defense of a black man in Mockingbird was not completely as principled as we are led to believe, and maybe Watchman will give me a clue in that direction. I intend to read the book and make up my own mind on all of the issues presented.

And finally, a look at why Watchman was published. At 89 years of age, Ms. Lee was the subject of much speculation after she had a stroke in 2007. Her loss of hearing and deteriorating sight is a tragedy but it seems she did want to have the book published in it's unedited form.


A caution to authors out there, don't leave your drafts lying around in safety deposit boxes if you become famous. Now we will face even more speculation on the chances of a third novel. When is enough...enough?

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I remain unconvinced that Lee wanted To Set a Watchman published. I think we're seeing revisionist history.

The cited article has one sentence claiming Lee had changed her mind about it's publication after years of stating otherwise: ...an investigation by the Alabama Securities Commission found that Lee wanted to publish the book.

Yeah, right. Why do I think all the esses in that sentence should have vertical lines drawn through them?

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She is her mid 80's and I don't blame her for a second.

I think this was an editor/publisher project and that it was the material from an earlier trial that TKMB evolved out with the assistance of a much more thoughtful editor at that time.

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  • 3 months later...

I'm not going to buy it.

Harper Lee agonized over Mockingbird and took a very long time to get it ready to publish. I think if she wanted this published she would have. It just doesn't smell right.

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