About Chapter 8
August 3, 2015
by Harper Lee
August 3, 2015
July 28, 2015
When I chose Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee as our August read, I knew there would be discussion about how well it was written. I think we all assumed it would never top her To Kill a Mockingbird in terms of writing excellence or character development. I'm not sure any of us had an idea of the turmoil the book would cause in the literary world, or how many words would be written about the newly published book. I'll admit, I probably have more conversations about books than the average person. After all, my entire working life has been in books, and many of my friends come from this world as well, but even for me, this is overwhelming. Today, while reading an online piece in the New Yorker about musician Kasey Musgraves, there was a reference to Harper Lee and other Southern writers who have written about "home.” Because Andrew Marantz is a very talented writer, I will not attempt to paraphrase his article, but instead, am including part of it here for your perusal.
"1935, the Kentucky-born poet Allen Tate wrote about the dilemma of writing Southern literature that would be ‘read curiously as travel literature by Northern people alone.’ This is not exclusively a Southern problem. Artists of many extractions have struggled with the question of how much of their people’s dirty laundry they should air in public—see, e.g., Philip Roth’s “Writing About Jews,” or Dave Chappelle’s explanation, to Oprah Winfrey, of why he quit his show (‘I know the difference between people laughing with me and people laughing at me’). In 1978, in an essay called ‘Going Back to Georgia,’ Walker Percy wrote, ‘One nice lady in my home town said to me the other day: “You’re just like certain other Southern writers—no sooner do they get published in New York than they turn on the South and criticize it.” I didn’t have the nerve but I felt like saying: ‘You’re damn right, lady. I sure do.’ ”
Another chronicler of Southern life, Harper Lee, is currently the best-selling author in the country. In her beloved To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960, Lee portrays Maycomb as a bucolic Alabama town, despite its flaws; in Go Set a Watchman, published last week by HarperCollins, Maycomb is overrun with conformists and hypocrites. “There’s no place for me in Maycomb, and I’ll never be entirely at home any place else,” Jean Louise Finch says.
In Go Set a Watchman, Jean Louise’s Uncle Jack tells her, “It takes a certain kind of maturity to live in the South these days. You don’t have it yet, but you have a shadow of the beginnings of it.” According to Watchman’s publisher, Harper Lee wrote the book in the nineteen-fifties, as an early draft of what would become Mockingbird. There are reasons to doubt this version of events; but, on its face, it is plausible that an artist’s first depiction of her home town would over-represent its flaws, and that her second attempt would overcorrect toward sappiness. A more mature authorial voice would be a synthesis between the two—neither self-righteously indignant nor willfully naïve. It’s safe to assume that Lee, who is eighty-nine, will never write such a book.
Well, there you have it. Read the book, do your own research, or simply come and listen to the conversations. We now have two options for your CapRadio Reads enjoyment. Sign up for the 2pm or the 6pm meeting on Tuesday, August 11, and I'll see you at both.
July 22, 2015
Go Set A Watchman, the new/old book by Harper Lee, may be a great book, or it may be a terrible book, or it may be a terrible disappointment for readers who loved Atticus Finch BEFORE he was a racist. Whichever it is, it's a book that has sparked more conversation than any new book in my memory.
Have you decided to read it? Will you come share your thoughts with us on August 11? We have scheduled two separate groups on the 11th, and for all our future Face to Face meetings, in order to allow for as many people as possible. You may choose our original 6pm meeting or our new 2pm group. I'll be leading them both, and I cannot wait to hear what you think.
I've been on a roadtrip this July, so reading time is left until the end of the day, when I am overloaded with memories of my day. This book, and all the words surrounding it, keep me going until late at night. I'm still not sure what my review will be, but I am very glad I didn't turn my nose up and refuse to read it. I am also very glad I took the opportunity to re-read To Kill A Mockingbird before this came out. I will admit that Atticus Finch has long been a literary hero of mine, and I was sorry to hear (before reading it myself) that he turned into a very different person from the one Scout loves in Mockingbird. But is he really? Do I need to go back and read Mockingbird again to search for hints?
All these questions, and hopefully some answers, await us all. Please join us at one of our meetings in August to find out. Remember, you don't need to love it to talk about it. Join the conversation on Tuesday, August 11, at either 2pm or 6pm. We're saving a seat for you.
July 15, 2015
Our August read is Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee. Lee is most famous for her prize-winning, much-loved To Kill A Mockingbird, which was published in 1960. It won the Pulitzer Prize that year and has gone on to become a classic of American Literature. Watchman was written before Mockingbird, but it takes place after, and it apparently has many of the same characters.
There has been much discussion on the publication of this book. Is Ms. Lee well enough to have made the decision to have it published after all these years? Mockingbird is such a remarkable book. Is there any way this can be anything but a disappointment?
I recently re-read To Kill A Mockingbird. I remembered it as a wonderful, thought-provoking book, but I had forgotten how elegantly written it was. What a pleasure her words are to savor.
I will start this book today and, with you, will see what all the fuss is about. We will meet on Tuesday, August 11 -- at 2pm and at 6pm – at Capital Public Radio to discuss these and other questions.
See you there.