Lum: Mockingbird revisited
I made it through Harper Lee’s “new” book, “Go Set a Watchman,” which has to be the world’s least memorable title of a book that was largely a big disappointment. It was only six discs long, half the size of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” but it seemed longer since I kept falling asleep listening to it.
Much of the rumbling against Watchman is about the portrayal of Atticus as a bigot, but what got me was the portrayal of Scout — the young narrator of Mockingbird who changed the definition of a young girl from sugar and spice and everything nice to everyone wanting an outspoken, honest kid like Scout.
The Scout we encounter in Watchman is an unpleasant young woman who has moved to New York City and is making her annual two-week visit to her hometown of Maycomb, Alabama.
Scout loves playing golf and seems to enjoy torturing a young Maycomb man who inexplicably wants to marry her.
What happened to our Mockingbird Scout?
I hate writing book reports, I just want to say that since I brought it up last week the least I can do is not encourage you to read this sequel or prequel or whatever it is.
Watchman was supposedly written before Mockingbird but set almost 20 years later. Scout, who now goes by her hated given name of Jean Louise, reflects back a great deal on the adventures from Mockingbird, but confuses the issue because there is an implied assumption that we already know the details.
My friends Jack and Darren helped me pick out an iPad a couple of months ago and I’ve been shopping at Audible.com like a drunken librarian. I had ordered the CDs before I got the iPad, but the second I finished Watchman I went to Audible and bought Mockingbird.
I was on a Harper Lee roll.
I was surprised by how much I had forgotten, realizing that what I had really been remembering was the movie rather than the book. It goes without saying that the movie is next on my list, but I’ll try to keep quiet about it. The book was extremely racial, laced with the N word — I didn’t remember that.
There were whole good chapters in Watchman that could have been plucked right out of Mockingbird — stories about the kids that might have been culled from the original — but the chapters about revisiting Maycomb, losing faith in Atticus and diddling with the poor suitor were not at all up to Lee’s standards, and I doubt she even wrote them.
All in all, it is just very sad. Mockingbird was one of the best American novels ever written and Watchman should never have been published. You won’t find a whiff of greed behind Mockingbird, but Watchman reeks of it. Somebody found or wrote Watchman and the only logical reason for publishing it, with a fanfare tantamount to a new Harry Potter, was to cash in on Lee’s fame and the mockingbird they killed was Scout.
Su Lum is a longtime local who still gets goose pimples when she hears the words, “Hey, Boo.” Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at email@example.com
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