Saturday, September 21, 2019

TCCDM Dig and Flip: "Go Set The Watchman" (2015)

"Go Set A Watchman"...Harper Lee (2015)
277 pages

Jean Louise (Scout) is all grown up now, in her twenties anyway, and living in the big city.  But she returns to her small town for a visit with her father, Atticus Finch and a few of her friends and family.  I was hoping this was going to be all warmy and feelie, but as someone once said...”You can't go home again.”  The writing is still in that familiar Harper Lee rhythm, though.  There are a few flashbacks of Scout when she was still tomboy-ing around, enjoying the summer freedom with her brother Jem and neighbor, Dill.  Dill, you remember, was the kid with the classic line, “I'm little but I'm old.”  But sadly, those moments are few.  Mostly, the story is about Scout seeing Atticus through different eyes.  Not as the knight in shining armor who once...shot a rabid dog coming down the street toward her.  Or the man who staunchly defended a wrongly accused black man of a terrible crime.  Or even the one person who sat alone in the darkness to protect the very same man from an angry white lynch mob.  No, in this story, Harper Lee has Scout learn that Atticus is more of a racist than we would ever have believed.  And she tears into Atticus a new asshole.  Metaphorically speaking.  Not wrongly, but I thought Scout's meltdown was too much, too fast.

Someone in the story reproaches Scout telling her, ”The time your friends need you is when they’re wrong.  They don’t need you when they’re right."  That's a pretty good word-up.  But here's another one.  "First remove the speck from your own eye before trying to remove the dust in your brother's eye."  That was from a cat name of Matthew.  It went something like that anyway.  The strange phrase and title “ Go Set a Watchman” means, 'that somebody needs to be the moral compass.”  But I don't think that means just somebody...but each one of us.  I felt a lot of negative energy in Harper Lee's story with nothing much to off-set it.  By the time I was nearing the last few pages, I was wishing Boo Radley would come out from behind a tree and burn the whole town down.  He doesn't.  Boo is not even mentioned in the story.  The smartest one of all of 'em.

"Nightwatchman" - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers / "Hard Promises" (1981) 

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers

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