Reader’s Corner: ‘Go Set a Watchman’

Go Set a Watchman-reviewSince there is apparently no classic work of literature or cinema that can’t be sequelized or reimagined, over a half-century after Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize and the hearts of millions, now comes Go Set a Watchman, a sequel of sorts that almost nobody knew existed until very recently.

Go Set a Watchman is on sale now everywhere. My review is at PopMatters:

In Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, Jean Louise Finch, no longer going by her tomboy nickname “Scout,” takes the train from New York to her hometown of Maycomb. She’s twenty-six and except for an affinity for coffee, not much different from the effervescent tomboy we first met in To Kill a Mockingbird, a book that stands in even grander relief against this unfinished-feeling first draft now pressed into unnecessary service as a semi-sequel…

You can read the first chapter of Go Set a Watchman here.

Writer’s Desk: Harper Lee on Who to Ignore

Harper Lee, c. 1962.
Harper Lee, c. 1962.

There’s a lot of education that can go into being a writer. All those workshops, retreats, seminars, and conferences; there’s enough of them that just taking in a small percentage could be a full-time job.

There’s also the less-formal education, that involves just listening to what other people think of what you’ve done. That’s always necessary, because writing is nothing without its audience.

But it matters who you listen to. Not every opinion matters, after all. Harper Lee knew that. Listen to this, from one of her letters (written after To Kill a Mockingbird was published) that are being auctioned off next week:

…one is not supposed to be aware that critics, reviewers, and English teachers exist.

All those people have their place, of course. But their beliefs should probably only be taken seriously in moderation. Especially by a writer who’s just trying to write.