Harper Lee's new release- Will you read it?

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Harper Lee's new release- Will you read it?

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1vwinsloe
Editado: Fev 4, 2015, 11:26am

It has been widely reported that a manuscript by Harper Lee has been discovered and is to be published. It is entitled Go Set A Watchman and deals with the same characters and town as the one in To Kill A Mockingbird.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/04/books/harper-lee-author-of-to-kill-a-mockingbi...

It is not without controversy. http://jezebel.com/be-suspicious-of-the-new-harper-lee-novel-1683488258?utm_camp...

Lee is purportedly very elderly and not mentally competent, and this turn of events is taking place shortly after the death of her lawyer/sister.

I have my own feelings, but I think I'll not express them until others weigh in.

2Yells
Fev 4, 2015, 12:01pm

I am in the 'leave-well-enough-alone' camp. She wrote an awesome book years ago and at this point, will always be known for that book. Why mess with a good thing?

3sturlington
Fev 4, 2015, 12:58pm

I think I will read it. This comment on the article in the NYT articulates my feelings better than I could:

While I agree with the article's skeptical tone towards Harper Lee's involvement in the decision to publish, this novel will be an incredible opportunity for those who teach high school English. Teachers can now use both novels to teach how point of view and setting can influence a story and characters. In addition, students will be able to see how a Pulitzer prize winning novelist changed her writing style and story with the suggestions of an editor. For students (and perhaps jealous biographers) who don't understand that "authors don't write- they re-write" this will be a fantastic resource.


I don't teach English, but this is an incredible opportunity for those of us who love and cherish Mockingbird.

4southernbooklady
Fev 4, 2015, 1:14pm

I'll read it. If the book is published, it's not like you can put the genie back in the bottle.

5meghanas
Fev 4, 2015, 3:25pm

I'll read it, because I like to form my own opinions about books. I'll try to be careful about any preconceived notions I have, though. I feel like too often, people read a sequel already loving it, because they loved the original, or already hating it, because they think it'll never live up to the original.

6nohrt4me2
Fev 4, 2015, 6:54pm

No.

7overlycriticalelisa
Fev 4, 2015, 11:01pm

i was under the impression that she didn't want this book published, which to me also means it wasn't ready (in her mind) to be published, so i won't be reading it. if i'm wrong about that, i'll reconsider.

8vwinsloe
Fev 5, 2015, 11:07am

I do get the point >3 sturlington: that this will be of interest to scholars and those interested in the writing process.

I think that my mind will be made up by reviews. I say that because I have read a number of books, that came out right after the publication of a very successful book, which are extremely inferior to the successful book. I think that sometimes publishers want to capitalize on the success and get whatever writings that they can from an author, whether it was a previously unpublished book, or something that was published but did not do very well. My feelings about the author have always been diminished by those efforts to cash in on a successful book with an inferior product.

It is my understanding that Go Set A Watchman was written prior to To Kill A Mockingbird and was rejected by publishers. And that, subsequent to that, Harper Lee did not want Go Set A Watchman to be published. I would like to know why she changed her mind?

If she is being taken advantage of, and the book is not very good and will diminish her reputation, then I don't want any part of it.

If she needs the money for long term care, I can understand that even though I probably won't read it.

If it comes out to RAVE reviews (which I highly doubt), then I may read it.

9nohrt4me2
Fev 5, 2015, 6:04pm

I expect the rumor mill to bust its gaskets and melt down before the book is published. I have heard on TV, radio and in newspapers:

Miss Alice hated the book and refused to let Lee publish it.

Miss Alice liked the book and kept it for safekeeping in her security deposit box.

Miss Alice had nothing to do with the book; Lee's current lawyer found it.

Lee does/does not want the book published.

Lee is mentally incompetent, and no one knows what she wants re publishing the book.

The book is being published because Lee needs the money to stay at her assisted living facility.

Oy!

I don't plan to read it, as I wasn't captivated by the first one, and I'm not sure how the new novel could top the story of how the media screwed up coverage of its publication.

10MsMaryAnn
Fev 5, 2015, 10:28pm

I will probably read this book, if not for curiosity alone, I also like To Kill a Mocking Bird, both the book and film. Nonetheless, I wait for more information concerning the supposed discovery and publication of this book. I have worked in a government agency as advocate for elder abuse. Manipulation of an elder, especially the monetary gain from their successes in life, their finances, properties and estate is often overlooked as abuse and in many cases hard to prosecute. I hope that Harper Lee has not been exploited in this manner.

11krazy4katz
Editado: Fev 8, 2015, 7:54pm

I was thinking I would read it as long as Harper Lee gets the money. Here is a perspective from Slate:
http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2015/02/06/harpercollins_botched_the_rollout...

Follow-up:
http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/02/08/tonja_carter_harper_lee_s_lawy...

12vwinsloe
Jul 14, 2015, 6:11am

The book comes out today. You can read the first chapter here:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/harper-lees-go-set-a-watchman-read-the-first-chapter...

I can't remember another book that has gotten this much media hype. Now instead of Lee's mental health, the topic has switched to the fact that Atticus Finch is portrayed as a racist in Go Set A Watchman.

For my part, I eagerly await reader reviews as to whether the book is any good or not. In my experience, there is usually a reason that an editor sends a manuscript back for a re-write. I can live with Atticus being a racist, since he was not my favorite character, but I cannot live with bad or poorly edited writing.

13nohrt4me2
Jul 14, 2015, 11:03am

I still find reading about this book a lot more alluring than the prospect of reading the book itself.

The transformation of Atticus Finch from racist to racial defender from first to second draft is interesting. One advance reviewer suggested that somewhere in the rewrite, Lee or her publisher, J.B. Lippincott Co. in Philadelphia, created an Atticus that would offer a role model for racial enlightenment rather than simply document the real situation in the South at the time.

Was a Southern story shaped by a Yankee publisher responding to political forces at the time? That would be such an interesting story in itself!

14vwinsloe
Editado: Jul 14, 2015, 11:11am

>13 nohrt4me2:. See, I always thought that Atticus was a bit of a racist anyway. That whole "don't kill a mockingbird" because they don't do any harm, are good singers and you can't eat them, seemed fine as a metaphor for dealing with the mentally disabled (Boo Radley) but not for African-Americans. For me, Atticus was much more a Lawyer's lawyer who believed in the rule of law and the fact that everyone deserved a competent defense. He didn't seem to be particularly motivated by a passion for civil rights.

But I agree with you. A book about the books would be fascinating, including why Lee changed her mind about publishing Go Set A Watchman, if indeed she really did, that is.

15Nickelini
Jul 14, 2015, 12:33pm

No because it doesn't interest me.

16nohrt4me2
Jul 14, 2015, 3:40pm

>14 vwinsloe: I'm a Yankee and am pretty much tone deaf to Southern literature, but, damn! now I'm gonna have to go look at contemporary reviews of TKAMB to see what they said about Atticus.

I'd be surprised, times being what they were, if Atticus wasn't supposed to be Whitey Who Saved the Day.

But the world of reviewers was largely white Yankee male academicians at that time. Would be interesting to look at reviews in Southern publications as well as the black popular press.

And we'll probably never know what Lee thinks/thought of the reviews. Flannery O'Connor, another Southern writer, used to complain to her friends about academics who wrote asking if they'd correctly interpreted her story. No, they were usually completely off base (didn't understand the South or Catholicism or O'Connor's notions of grace), and she doesn't seem to have bothered to explain. Too busy writing more weird stuff. And good stuff it was, too!

17Citizenjoyce
Editado: Jul 22, 2015, 2:24am

What a pity Harper Lee was persuaded - coerced, whichever it was, into releasing this novel. She was so completely right to keep it hidden. Southern Chauvinism at its peak, this is not what the world would have expected from this woman. I wish no one would buy this book, but, alas, my library bought something like 150 copies. Because of the value everyone had had for her depiction of the nobility of the human conscience we weren't prepared for this example of the meanness of the tribal instinct.

18overlycriticalelisa
Jul 22, 2015, 11:37am

>17 Citizenjoyce:

i haven't read it, and probably won't, but i'm still curious. Because of the value everyone had had for her depiction of the nobility of the human conscience we weren't prepared for this example of the meanness of the tribal instinct. but isn't that also realistic? or did she do it in a way that didn't make sense?

19Citizenjoyce
Jul 22, 2015, 4:17pm

No, it made sense and was very realistic. She probably accurately depicted why she chose to live in the south in spite of the racism she must have encountered constantly. But Aticus, our hero Aticus, is shown to hold such ugly views infantalizing African Americans and promoting southern chauvinism that it grates against the moral uplift of Mockingbird. I think she knew what a disappointment the book would be, which is why she chose not to publish it. I think a great and very sad disservice was done to her.

20japaul22
Jul 22, 2015, 4:43pm

>19 Citizenjoyce: I've just read Go Set a Watchman. I can see your point of view, that Harper Lee may have chosen not to publish GSAW because she didn't want to destroy the view of Atticus that her fans had. But I think it is alternately possible that it wasn't published because the views on racism were too real and harshly stated to be palatable in the early 1960s. In that case, To Kill a Mockingbird still presents many of the conflicts about race present in the South, but portrays it in a less harsh way by setting it earlier (before much of the Civil Rights movement had really ramped up) and by using the point of view of a child.

I still think that To Kill a Mockingbird is the better book, but I'm not convinced that Go Set a Watchman doesn't have its own value. I found a lot to think about while reading Go Set a Watchman and I think it does deserve to be read.

21Citizenjoyce
Jul 23, 2015, 3:49am

To Kill A Mockingbird was published in 1960, and Go Set A Watchman was supposed to have been written before. So the book is 50 plus years old, how sad that the southern chauvinism expressed has not changed a bit. Texas text books now are emphasizing the fact that slavery was not the reason for the civil war, and states' rights is still their number one concern. So, if the book were about a different character, maybe it would deserve to be read. I probably wouldn't have read it, as I'm sure the majority of people who have rushed to do so wouldn't have. The troubling part is that it takes a national hero that Lee created and turns him into a kindly bigot. I think of the arguments I've had about Atticus declaring that he was not the great white man rushing in to help out the poor helpless negro, instead he was a good man doing the right thing for his fellow man. I think that's the way the majority of readers saw him. Now we're proved wrong, and a great hero no longer exists. I think Lee knew all along that it was a mistake to destroy him in this way, which is why she didn't do it. I feel no anger at Christopher Hitchens' attack on the saintliness of Mother Teresa, but the destruction of a fictional character's morality is a hard blow to readers, at least to this one. I know we shouldn't think of all southerners as redneck racists, and Atticus was the example of the type of noble person who might choose to continue living in his old homeland. This book pretty much says that rednecks rule and non racists are outliers batting their heads against a brick wall. That's not the way I want to see my country.

22southernbooklady
Jul 23, 2015, 6:55am

>21 Citizenjoyce: I think of the arguments I've had about Atticus declaring that he was not the great white man rushing in to help out the poor helpless negro, instead he was a good man doing the right thing for his fellow man. I think that's the way the majority of readers saw him. Now we're proved wrong, and a great hero no longer exists.

Since Go Set a Watchman was the first draft of the book that would become TKAM, it could be argued that hero never existed in the first place. That he was a fantasy.

But what I think is more interesting is that Lee created a character that she always knew was both -- the idealistic lawyer and the more bitter genteel racist. The writer in her must have known, anyway, that people are never just one thing. "hero" "redneck" "upstanding citizen." They are a mess of contradictions. Books stand on their own, of course. It's up to the reader to decide if the Atticus of Go Set a Watchman is the same character or an alternate version of the one in TKAM. I wonder which Lee thinks he is?

Like almost everyone else in the world, I am not privvy to what was going through Lee's mind when she refused all those interviews her entire life, or when she finally agreed to publish Go Set a Watchman when it was unearthed from a forgotten stack of papers in an old safe. If ever a book took on a life of its own and become a force unto itself, it is TKAM. When it happened with Harry Potter, JK Rowling held on tight to the reigns. Lee, let go.

There was a PBS piece last week that was kind of an addendum to the "American Masters" episode on Lee, about 13 minutes long and specifically about the publication of the new book. It goes some way towards reassuring the viewers that Lee was not some doddering old woman being led by the nose through the process, but actively engaged and in control of what she wanted. Though not all the way, since she doesn't speak directly on camera:

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/harper-lee/harper-lee-meeting-e...

23japaul22
Jul 23, 2015, 8:21am

>22 southernbooklady:
But what I think is more interesting is that Lee created a character that she always knew was both -- the idealistic lawyer and the more bitter genteel racist. The writer in her must have known, anyway, that people are never just one thing. "hero" "redneck" "upstanding citizen." They are a mess of contradictions. Books stand on their own, of course. It's up to the reader to decide if the Atticus of Go Set a Watchman is the same character or an alternate version of the one in TKAM. I wonder which Lee thinks he is?

Very nicely stated. I've been struggling to put these ideas into words!

24vwinsloe
Editado: Jul 23, 2015, 9:03am

Well, it looks like I will end up reading it. A close friend with whom I exchange books read it straight through the day that it was published, and she recommended it highly. I think that she might be right about my enjoying it; particularly since TKAM was never my favorite book, and I always had mixed feelings about Atticus anyway. (To the extent that I loved TKAM, it was because of Boo Radley.)

From what people are saying, I wonder if the experience of reading Watchman is like watching Crash (2004 film. I loved that film because it demonstrated how the same person could be true hero in one context and a despicable human being in another. It also showed that the character of many, if not all, people are versions of that contradiction. Some hated the movie; others brushed it off with an "of course!"

Reactions that I am hearing about Go Set A Watchman seem similar.

25nohrt4me2
Jul 23, 2015, 11:36am

I think it's interesting that, in talking with others about this book, that people feel the need to come to terms with the two Atticus characters, as if they were one real person. "How did Atticus get to be such a racist in his old age," seems to be the nub of the issue.

I think this phenomenon says something about passionate readers and the ability of authors to create characters.

In reality, the two Atticuses share nothing but their names.

Calling GSAW a "sequel" (as some reviews have done) confuses the issue. TKAMB is a rewrite, and a reimagination of the same family from GSAW. That's all.

26japaul22
Editado: Jul 23, 2015, 12:31pm

>25 nohrt4me2: Have you read GSAW? Because I felt this way (that it was just two different characters named Atticus and what is the big deal?!) before reading the book. During the reading this worked as well, up until a point towards the end where Jean Louise and Atticus are fighting about his views on race. There's a passage where Jean Louise describes her father as she saw him as a child and it is as he is written in TKAM. So actually, the character of Atticus in GSAW is not different, its that Jean Louise as an adult can see him as a whole person instead of idolizing him for how he acted in one specific case as a lawyer in TKAM through her eyes as a child. I think what is upsetting to people is that we as readers were "duped" just as Scout was.

It's interesting to me to think of Harper Lee writing the end of Atticus's life first and going "back in time" to write TKAM without really letting on how she had written Atticus and Jean Louise's relationship ending up. I'm not a writer, so I don't know how easy it is to separate works for an author, but it sounds pretty unbelievable that she could have completely set her characters from GSAW aside in her mind when she wrote TKAM.

ETA: I'm enjoying this discussion! Thanks to everyone for sharing your views on the book!

27vwinsloe
Editado: Jul 23, 2015, 1:05pm

>26 japaul22:. "It's interesting to me to think of Harper Lee writing the end of Atticus's life first and going 'back in time' to write TKAM without really letting on how she had written Atticus and Jean Louise's relationship ending up. I'm not a writer, so I don't know how easy it is to separate works for an author, but it sounds pretty unbelievable that she could have completely set her characters from GSAW aside in her mind when she wrote TKAM."

My understanding is that it is semi-autobiographical, and that Lee is writing about a fictionalized version of her father. It makes a lot of sense in that context, i.e., how she felt about him as a child as opposed to how she felt as an adult.

28nohrt4me2
Editado: Jul 23, 2015, 4:44pm

>26 japaul22: No, I haven't read the book, so thanks for the correction. Sounds like Lee DID mean for them to mesh. Interesting.

29japaul22
Jul 23, 2015, 6:26pm

>27 vwinsloe: that's interesting and makes sense if it has autobiographical elements. Makes it easier to understand how the two books fit together in some ways.

>28 nohrt4me2: I don't want to give the impression that they absolutely mesh (there are some things that are definitely different), but there are too many similar elements for them to be completely different books and characters in my mind. I suppose we'll never get reliable answers, considering what we've been told about Harper Lee's current state of health.

30southernbooklady
Jul 24, 2015, 10:48am

I thought you all would like to see the comment one of the booksellers I work with sent me about Go Set a Watchman (she said I could share it around):

I finished Go Set a Watchman this weekend and... I loved it. It's not a perfect book, not by a long shot, but I do think it's an important one, particularly for the South. Atticus isn't perfect; instead, he's nuanced and complicated, like a lot of Southerners (and humans!) I know. My full review is up on our store's blog, but I also wanted to share how wonderful it has been to have so many fantastic literary conversations in the shop, at the register, as people are buying this book. Books make hot button issues a little safer to discuss, and I have had some of the best conversations with my customers over the past week, all thanks to Harper Lee and Go Set a Watchman. As a young, new bookstore owner, I have been pleasantly surprised and comforted at the power books still hold.

Anyway, just two cents from this bookseller in southern Georgia.


Annie is with The Bookshelf in Thomasville, GA.

31Citizenjoyce
Editado: Jul 24, 2015, 3:00pm

Atticus is nuanced? Both he and Scout are stuck in the South's conquered country mentality of state's rights and the downplay of racism. These attitudes are old and destructive now and were so when the book was written. To my mind they grab Harper Lee from the list of authors who view humanity with a clear eye and place her snuggly in the good ol' boy Strom Thurmond fantasy camp. And that's a pity.

32nohrt4me2
Editado: Jul 24, 2015, 5:38pm

Errin Whack offered a perceptive look at both of Lee's books on NPR: http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/07/16/423257877/go-set-a-watchman-is...

Dana Williams, chair of the English department at Howard University, has also been making the rounds talking about this book on Diane Rehm and On Point.

Just a couple of ideas for those looking for something other than white Northern views of the book.

33Citizenjoyce
Editado: Jul 24, 2015, 6:03pm

A little bit more about the lack of nuance in Go Set a Watchman. I found one review, which alas I can't find again, that describes the "mansplaining" that goes on in the book. Two different characters, Uncle Jack and Atticus have paragraphs of clunky explanations to Scout about state's rights (which she agrees with) and the fundamental childishness of blacks (which she's not quite sure she agrees with). There's nothing nuanced about the exposition, it's clumsy and relies on general southern chauvinist attitudes. The book, aside from its political stance, is not lyrical and is not inclusive of any humanity but able bodied white southerners. Not only is there no room for Tom Robinson or Boo Bradley, but when she starts to peek in on Calpurnia, the scene, while well written, is brief. It's a one note book, an "I'm learning to write a novel" kind of book that could never have been published without the name Harper Lee behind it.

34vwinsloe
Jul 26, 2015, 10:24am

I saw the ThugNotes video on GSAW (here's the link; beware spoilers http://www.wisecrack.co/shows/thug-notes/go-set-a-watchman-by-harper-lee/) and it raised an interesting question for me.

The analysis opined that the title refers to drawing a line or "setting a watchman" for your values. Exactly how much slack should we cut someone who is spouting racist garbage? Should we ignore the occasional lapse, try to instruct or just cut them out of our lives? Where do you draw the line?

Everyone (as we can even see from this thread!) draws the line in a different place. There is even the phenomenon of colorism among African-Americans, and people calling out one another for not being "black enough." I have known people who have been strong and effective advocates of affirmative action in their jobs, who were very racist and/or paternalistic toward people of other races in their every day lives. And what about the Archie Bunker type who has black friends that come to his home?

Should we draw the line at different places with different people? Or should we not cut anyone any slack?

Personally, I don't think that we talk enough about race. I don't like living in a world where white people feel the need to lower their eyes and their voices when giving a physical description of someone who is black--so afraid to be whomped with the bigot stick.

I guess I am with you >30 southernbooklady:, if GSAW stimulates some thoughtful discussion about race, then I am glad that it was published.

35southernbooklady
Jul 26, 2015, 11:45am

>34 vwinsloe: Should we draw the line at different places with different people? Or should we not cut anyone any slack?

Another way to ask this is "at what point do we write off another person as hopeless and not worth the bother?" My personal goal is not to be silent, to speak up, when I am confronted with bigotry. I don't always make it, but I try. that's a personal goal that applies to me, though, and does not depend on anyone else conforming to my idea of what is right.

But my line for "cut someone out of my life" is much, much farther past "bigot." After all, can you imagine what our fate would be if every black person decided to drawn the line at "racism" or "bigot" when dealing with white people?

We can't solve anything if we don't talk to each other.

36nohrt4me2
Jul 26, 2015, 1:31pm

I guess I see "race" as a pernicious concept. Does talking about it help? Or does it just emphasize an arbitrary divide invented centuries ago based on certain physical ethnic features? I'm of two minds.

While I think every American parent has a duty to explain our nation's fraught ethnic history--"Huckleberry Finn" was our way into that talk, which included groups from our own family such as Jews, Irish, Italians--I'm not sure how this topic resonates with Our Young People.

For Millennials in my son's generation, race seems to be a pretty blurry idea, especially given the growing number of kids with mixed ethnic backgrounds.

37southernbooklady
Ago 2, 2015, 7:36am

>31 Citizenjoyce: Atticus is nuanced? Both he and Scout are stuck in the South's conquered country mentality of state's rights and the downplay of racism.

Much of the book felt polemical to me. As if Lee was working out what she thought about the issues presented by desegregation and the modernization of the oncoming "industrial age." It's not done very artfully, it's didactic. "States' Rights" is covered in a long, not very coherent speech given by Uncle Jack. In fact "not very coherent" is pretty much what you could call all the political forays in the novel. If Lee was struggling to integrate her South with the march of progress, to make sense of it all, if she is somewhere in the heart of Jean Louise, then that struggle shows.

But "nuanced" is still a fair description of Atticus, and indeed of most of the characters in the novel. "Nuance" is a quality that depends on our willingness to see complexity. Jean Louise steps off the train in Maycomb at the beginning of the story with her hero worship of her father intact and unassailable. By the end of the book she is disillusioned, but Atticus is more human. That's what I think people mean when they say that the Atticus of Go Set a Watchman is "more realistic." It's not that he was a Southern good ol' boy and all Southern good ol' boys were practically KKK by default. It's that Atticus is a good man with a streak of something really bad festering in him. He's complicated in the way that all people are complicated.

Lee doesn't do a good job of bringing that out -- the book is definitely "first draft" and a rough first draft at that. But the idea is there to be seen. And if anything, the Atticus of this book only shows up how un-nuanced the character of Atticus is in To Kill a Mockingbird. That man, the paragon of integrity and virtue, is fantasy. But this Atticus, whose principles are good but whose perspective has become skewed, is real.

38nohrt4me2
Ago 2, 2015, 12:11pm

Randall Kennedy, a lawyer reviewing in the NYT today, weighs in: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/11/books/review-harper-lees-go-set-a-watchman-giv...

Interesting take.

39Citizenjoyce
Ago 2, 2015, 7:53pm

>38 nohrt4me2: That seems the right take to me. I still can't help but think that if Lee had been in the sound mind she had been when she was enduring/accepting all the acclaim she got from Mockingbird, she would have continued to refuse to have this poorly constructed first draft released.
As for the nuance of Atticus, I think a well intentioned good man can be just as nuanced as a well intentioned bigot. In fact I saw little nuance in Watchman's Atticus. He was a sick, tired old man who accepted the community's view of civil rights vs state's rights with little evidenced thought about the matter. The earlier beloved Atticus had to constantly rub against the abrasion of his bigoted or tribal oriented neighbors. He still respected them as people, but he formed his own opinions about right and wrong. That's a difficult thing to do, and I find it a very nuanced stance. Spouting the common refrain requires no thought and no nuance.

40southernbooklady
Ago 3, 2015, 4:54pm

The divided nature of Monroeville -- the real life Maycomb

Retired schoolteacher Mary Tucker, who served on the board of the courthouse museum, does not see it that way. She grew up in a Monroeville where, at the local cinema, blacks had to sit in the balcony while whites took the seats below.

“Socially we’re still separated, pretty much,” she said, “Our churches are separate and our schools are pretty segregated.” Though young people are more tolerant, she said, “many of the older people still have those old attitudes and wish things were like they used to be.”

She says that though all local schoolchildren study Mockingbird in Grade 8, many black residents don’t understand it or like it.

41nohrt4me2
Ago 3, 2015, 11:34pm

>40 southernbooklady: Seems like the publication of GSAW would be an opportunity for residents to come together to discuss the various responses to the book and the nature of life in their town.

But that probably wouldn't be great for the tourism. Visitors want to see something that looks idyllic and quaint, librarians in rocking chairs waving palmetto fans with the names of funeral parlours on them.

Who wants to listen to a community meeting about how everything's still segregated, and many black people don't like the book even though the school forces them to read it.

42southernbooklady
Ago 4, 2015, 7:32am

>41 nohrt4me2: But that probably wouldn't be great for the tourism

It's hard to change the world if you refuse to admit it needs changing.

43eromsted
Ago 4, 2015, 3:00pm

>40 southernbooklady:
Too bad the article didn't spend a bit more time on the reactions of the black people in town. I wonder if part of the dislike of Mockingbird stems from the Driving Miss Daisy problem. That is, Mockingbird is a race story by a white person, about white people and for white people. And even if it is well intentioned and well written, it's not going to connect as well with a black audience.

Add to that the fact that race stories by and for white people are far more successful than works by black authors and the frustration grows. Driving Miss Daisy, which won the best picture Academy Award was released the same year as Do The Right Thing, which was not even nominated. Mockingbird has four times or more the number of copies on LT as books by Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison or Richard Wright. Mockingbird has been tagged racism more than any other book and more than four times more often than any book by a black author. Are students in Monroeville assigned novels by black authors? (Note, I actually was assigned Walker, Morrison, Wright and other black authors in school, but I lived in a fairly liberal town. Don't know how common that is.)

It's of course fine to have books and movies about white people struggling with racism. It's a problem, though, when those stories are the stories about racism in popular consciousness.

44southernbooklady
Ago 4, 2015, 3:10pm

>43 eromsted: It's a problem, though, when those stories are the stories about racism in popular consciousness.

I agree. And it is a problem when we accept their narrative without question, as if they were magically immune to the racism they are writing about.

45southernbooklady
Ago 4, 2015, 3:22pm

>41 nohrt4me2: Visitors want to see something that looks idyllic and quaint, librarians in rocking chairs waving palmetto fans with the names of funeral parlours on them.

Is this not basically the "it's about Southern heritage" argument that people use to defend the Confederate flag? Shouldn't we be asking "idyllic for who?" Can we value such things if we know they are built on cruelty and oppression?

Ursula Le Guin, by the way, attempts to answer this question in an article about Go Set a Watchman someone on another forum pointed me to:

http://bookviewcafe.com/blog/2015/08/03/a-personal-take-on-go-set-a-watchman/

She likes the book, thinks it is a shame the original editor didn't push Lee to turn it into a real novel instead of taking the "easy way" out by focusing on the child Scout. I don't agree with her conclusions, but she has some telling things to say about what it is like to love and respect individual people, of family, in the face of their bigoted culture. She says "You meet the endless overt bigotry with silent non-acceptance."

I'd like to say I'd prefer not silent non-acceptance, but I've done my share of tolerating the sexist, bigoted, and homophobic in my extended family in the name of keeping the peace, or putting family before politics. So I won't get on my high horse about it.

46vwinsloe
Editado: Ago 4, 2015, 3:30pm

>43 eromsted: & >44 southernbooklady:. I like the way that nohrt4me2 summed it up at >16 nohrt4me2: above with her mock title, "Whitey Who Saved the Day." That about sums up the phenomenon of which you speak.

And >45 southernbooklady:, thanks very much for sharing Le Guin's excellent review.

47Citizenjoyce
Editado: Ago 5, 2015, 3:23pm

>45 southernbooklady: silent non-acceptance - it redeems the young woman who wrote this book, who wanted to tell some truths about the Southern society that lies to itself so much. - and my favorite all the persuasive and predictable justifications for moving very, very, very slowly towards righting the wrong.
I've read that white non-southerners just don't get this book, and that certainly applies to me. I see the South as having held the US politically hostage since its beginning. Watchman shows good people doing all those southern bad things and trying to encourage each other and the rest of us that they are indeed moving very, very, very slowly towards righting wrongs. It reminds me of the book I just finished, Lipstick Jihad in which some of Azadeh Moaveni's Iranian apologists try to convince her things are getting better, just very, very, very slowly. Moaveni, the eternal outsider, sees that lie for what it is and writes a difficult book that shows many sides of the situation. Perhaps, as Le Guin wrote, that's what Lee was trying inexpertly to do. Perhaps with a great deal of work and editing she would have succeeded. But to me this work as it is just doesn't succeed.

48nohrt4me2
Ago 6, 2015, 11:02am

>45 southernbooklady: My thanks, too, for the LeGuin article.

In answer to your question: Yes. I think that visitors want the Quaint South without the ugly institutionalized racist underbelly. And LeGuin quite properly points out that TKAM is full of little white/White lies that allow the White Southerners in Lee's hometown to propagate such fictions.

And while newscasts in the early 1960s of civil rights marches formed my views of Southern whites, and a Southern accent still conjures up a negative visceral response for many Northerners, Yankees sometimes forget that they have their own institutionalized racist past to confront.

Until the 1830s or thereabouts, Northern whites enslaved people legally. When abolition laws were passed in various Northern states, there was usually a lag of some months before they took effect. Many Northerners sold people into the South during this lag time, even though it was illegal, in order to make a tidy profit.

Because, apparently, years or decades of free labor just wasn't enough of a profit.

Moreover, institutionalized Jim Crow was not a phenomenon of the South alone. East Lansing (and many other Michigan towns) had curfews for black residents; you get caught out after dark and you could be locked up. The assumption was that non-Whites were murderers, rapists, and drug dealers.

Sound like any particular white Yankee now running for prez?

And that doesn't include individual prejudices of white Northerners. It wasn't just Southerners who had their Cousin Roys, whom LeGuin describes. Race talk and arguments were common in my family, and many relatives I loved deeply voted for George Wallace when he ran for president.

49southernbooklady
Ago 11, 2015, 12:50pm

I finally put my thoughts about Go Set a Watchman into some kind of coherence, if anyone is interested:

http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/likefire/

Basically, I think the book is worth reading, but it is neither a coherent examination of cultural racism, nor a well-written story. But there are parts that are well-written, and they are very well-written.

(x-posted in several other threads, but someone suggested I put it here.)

50vwinsloe
Fev 19, 2016, 10:56am

Just heard that Harper Lee has passed away at the age of 89.

51Citizenjoyce
Fev 19, 2016, 12:03pm

What a pity that this book was released in the last year of her life.

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