Now the hot, muggy Japanese summer is upon us, and school is winding down. Thus, more books! Here is the first:
Go Set a Watchman: A Novel, by Harper Lee
The second is Kramer vs. Kramer: a Novel, which I will write about later.
I find the way they both have “A Novel” as a subtitle…a bit condescending? As if to wash away any doubt that it could have been based on a true story. Keep them guessing, publishers. You don’t have to baby us. Also, there are so many other cool catch phrases you could have used instead. Why miss the chance?
I was excited about Go Set a Watchman from the moment I read it would be published a few months ago. The wait was excruciating. It first caught my eye because…
1) It’s Harper Lee’s second book, after many years of only one published novel.
2) Something being published now that was probably written decades ago
3) Apparently, it was the first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, and a sequel to it.
Which are all obviously some really good bait.
So wow, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t too overoptimistic either, and was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed it very much (I read it in two days, out of excitement.) It probably helps that Scout is now close to my age now, and had some interesting things to say, and in a snappy way.
Things I liked about it: (SPOILER ALERT!)
1) Scout growing from a tomboy to a lady, but keeping that lovely personality and curiosity and THAT MOUTH of hers.
2) Scout as a working woman in the big city.
3) Scout and her bantering with Hank. Very nice dialogue.
4) ATTICUS. Oh, ATTICUS. My two cents on him in this novel: I consider it human that he could be imperfect (aren’t we all?) and that it also makes him a better and more realistic character. The way he changed (or perhaps he was always like that, and only Scout’s view of him changed) also made sense and was relatable, especially when I think about my own parents and grandparents and how their generations definitely have lines drawn and thoughts and notions that other generations like mine may not agree with (and in some cases, find repulsive. Sometimes I listen and have to repress my
“Wow, do you realize that what you’re saying is actually quite racist /homophobic/ sexist/ xenophobic” remarks to them.) So, points to Lee for doing that, I thought that was one of the awesome points of the novel. It would have been really interesting if it had been left there in To Kill a Mockingbird, though. Imagine that.
5) The prom story (you know the one), which was hilarious.
Things that surprised me:
2) Lack of Boo Radley. He must have been added in later.
3) There were a lot of explicit and implicit politics going in in this book, and the general political stance seems a bit different than To Kill a Mockingbird. Not completely, but definitely a little bit.
My favorite quotes:
”She was almost in love with him. No, that’s impossible, she thought: either you are or you aren’t. Love’s the only thing in this world that is unequivocal. There are different kinds of love, certainly, but it’s a you-do or you-don’t proposition with them all. She was a person who, when confronted with an easy way out, always took the hard way. The easy way out of this would be to marry Hank and let him labor for her. After a few years, when the children were waist-high, the man would come along whom she should have married in the first place. There would be searchings of hearts, fevers, and frets, long looks at each other on the post office steps, and misery for everybody.”
Hank: “Well, as a general rule, most women, before they’ve got ’em, present to their men smiling, agreeing faces. They hide their thoughts. You now, when you’re feeling hateful, honey, you are hateful.”
Jean Louise: “Isn’t it fairer for a man to be able to see what he’s letting himself in for?”
Hank: “Yes, but don’t you see you’ll never catch a man that way?”
“First,” he said dispassionately, “hold your tongue. Don’t argue with a man, especially when you know you can beat him. Smile a lot. Make him feel big. Tell him how wonderful he is, and wait on him.” She smiled brilliantly and said, “Hank, I agree with everything you’ve said. You are the most perspicacious individual I’ve met in years, you are six feet five, and may I light your cigarette? How’s that?” “Awful.” They were friends again.
“Well,” said Jean Louise, “it takes considerable getting used to. I hated it for two years. It intimidated me daily until one morning when someone pushed me on a bus and I pushed back. After I pushed back I realized I’d become a part of it.”
“Pushing, that’s what they are. They have no manners up there,” said Claudine. “They have manners, Claudine. They’re just different from ours. The person who pushed me on the bus expected to be pushed back. That’s what I was supposed to do; it’s just a game. You won’t find better people than in New York.”
“You’re color blind, Jean Louise,” he said. “You always have been, you always will be. The only difference you see between one human and another are differences in looks and intelligence and character and the like. You’ve never been prodded to look at people as a race, and now that race is the burning issue of the day, you’re still unable to think racially. You see only people.
Lastly, the reason why I think that, though racist, Atticus is still a good father:
“Well, I certainly hoped a daughter of mine’d hold her ground for what she thinks is right–stand up to me first of all”
Dear publishers, here’s the subtitle I would have used: To Set a Watchman: Battle of the Generations.