Go Set a WatchmanJuly 18, 2015
by Harper Lee
I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book ever since I heard HarperCollins was publishing it. (Full disclosure: HarperCollins is publishing my memoir.) I’m about halfway through, and I’m by turns thrilled, disappointed, saddened, curious. On the one hand, I think it’s a marvelous literary artifact. Go Set A Watchman was the draft that first-time writer Lee turned in to her editor, Tay Hohoff. Finding the portions of Scout’s childhood to be more interesting, Hohoff encouraged Lee to start over. Two years later, that do-over became her classic novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. On the other hand, I wince at times, wondering if Lee has unwittingly set fire to her own legacy. No author’s first pages should be read by the public. That’s what wastebaskets and safety deposit boxes are for. To navigate these extremes, I had to remind myself—often—that this is a draft, the parent of Mockingbird, and as such has value by showing us how a great mind thinks. If I looked at this instead as a continuation or sequel to Mockingbird, it wouldn’t hold up because the characters can’t be considered the same from one book to the other. They are inherently, bone-deep different. But more anon.