I won’t be rushing out for a copy of Go Set A Watchman. If Miss Lee herself held a press conference, looked the camera in the eye and stated clearly, “Yes, I changed my mind about never wanting this manuscript published,” I’d likely feel more enthusiastic about her literary ‘come back’. I’ve yet to see that press conference.
Instead, I will be giving To Kill A Mockingbird another read. I didn’t leave that first read with a sentimentality for old Atticus, nor with a rose-colored view of his time and place. I finished the last page with the understanding that this story was told from the point of view of a child confused by the world around her, as the great gentle beacon that was her father often confused her throughout the span of this story.
I would like to revisit this story, just to make certain that my thoughts on it now are just as they were when I closed it up the last time. Back then I didn’t keep notes of what I read. So, it’s possible that memory has fudged a bit. Possible, but the write up on Go Set A Watchman in The New York Times seemed to rattle loose a few ideas that settled in my mind almost a decade ago — the idea that Atticus was first and foremost an educated, war-worn, and utterly frightened father, frequently alternating between speaking to his children on an intellectual level, expecting a lot for their tender years, and shielding them from as much real world negativity as possible. How then might Atticus speak to his daughter when she is an adult? Would he honestly divulge his opinions, or still do that gangly shuffle around pointed questions? And what might the adult Scout’s reaction be?
In the July 10th edition of The New York Times’ Review of Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman, Michiko Kakutani discusses the narrator’s age difference since Mockingbird, the tumultuous events of the 60s, the shock that narrator experiences when her dearest ones’ voice derisive opinions, as well as the author’s obvious struggle (and failure) to convey what ideals floundered for attention within the gray areas of those stark lines drawn on either side of that era’s greatest conflict. And therein might lie the reason Lee didn’t rush to publish this manuscript forty years ago — those gray areas can harbor a great many problems for an author who, perhaps, wasn’t striving for sympathy from readers outside southern borders, but her own understanding, her own place in the midst of it all.
Regardless, I feel it necessary to revisit To Kill A Mockingbird, if for no other reason than to test my own memory. What are y’all reading this week?