Much Ado About Nothing?


With all the controversy swirling around I can’t say I want to read this any more than I did when I pre-ordered it weeks ago.  I mean, I’ve always wanted to read another book by Harper Lee, and so, from the initial “discovery” of the manuscript to this copy held in my hands, I’m happy.  Right now, anyway.  If I am perhaps more anxious to hurry up and read, it’s only so I can form my own opinion, particularly now that I know I’ll read about a different Atticus Finch.  From what I understand, he won’t be the upstanding man portrayed in MOCKINGBIRD.  He’s stood on the pedestal of justice we built for him with righteousness and one could imagine even, conviction.  What a huge burden he’s carried all these fifty some years, what with living under false pretenses.  I guess that’s the issue.  I don’t really know other than what I’ve seen on TV or read in the paper.

But, with all that aside, the truth is, this IS the book Harper Lee originally wrote, the book that became TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.  MOCKINGBIRD is the result of an editor reading the GO SET A WATCHMAN (GSAW) manuscript and perhaps, with her editing pen tapping on her desk, she picked up the phone and called Ms. Lee and said, “I think the story needs to start earlier.  By twenty or thirty years.  Maybe a story about a young girl who reveres her father, and even more so after he shows her the true meaning right and wrong, patience and the complexities of living in a Jim Crow South.”

The editor did right by Harper Lee.  She gave her the advice any writer would want – the ability to look at a manuscript and see the story that was needed for that point in time.

You know what I’m most fascinated by?  That index card I saw, the one with the typed notes about GSAW and the fifty or so page increments brought in to the publisher, those notes that stated something like, “brought in by author” with the date, etc.  What an artifact!  The index card was shown on CBS morning news the day of the book’s release and I was SO hoping someone would flip that thing over so I could pause my TV and read the rest of what it said.

That is, in my opinion, a real piece of history, something that shouldn’t be lost.  They should have made bookmarks out of it and provided one to all us readers who’ve bought the book!

Anyway, I’m currently reading COMING OF AGE IN MISSISSIPPI by Ann Moody which is another eye opener, and I’m only about halfway done.  Whenever I get into GSAW and finish, I’ll be sure to throw in my two cents worth here.  After all, I’ve only read MOCKINGBIRD about five times now, the last time when the 50th Anniversary edition came out and I bought it, remembering it as one of my favorite all time reads as a child, not to mention the movie with Gregory Peck.

I hope I’m not disappointed by WATCHMAN.  I plan to steer clear of reading too much more about all of it beforehand.  In some small way, I’m a bit stupefied by the “shock” of the press over the so called “plot twist” about Atticus’ true nature.  At this point in time it sounds a lot like the typical path taken by a writer who worked with an editor to produce the best book she possibly could.  Newsflash, this still happens today – except we don’t drop into a publisher, we email our work.  The rest is the same.

We write.

Editors help us produce a better book.

And excuse the pun, but, end of story, right?

Doesn’t that make all this really much ado about nothing?




I finally read Mockingbird a few years ago. I thought it was an excellent book, though I’m still not sure why writers deify it. There are so many excellent books…

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    I don’t get that either, but I suppose it’s because of the racial component mostly – it was considered brave for a southern writer to “go there,” in that day and age. She had the nerve to write a story that displayed for all the world to see, the imbalance, unfairness, inequality and injustice of the south.

    Back then, many probably said “How dare she!” It didn’t shine a favorable light on old Dixie.


I must also confess to not having read Mockingbird, or seen the movie.
And am I the only one who thinks the ‘mocking jay’ reference from the Hunger Games series an ill-disguised attempt to associate with something greater than it is? One needn’t have read a book to have absorbed some of its themes, and to see where others are borrowing.
But I digress.
I find it amazing that the southern education I was ‘subjected’ to left out things like Mockingbird, or Catcher, or things like the names of the generals for the Union, in that “War of Northern Aggression.” It was, as I long ago realized, one huge example of missed opportunities and outright censorship, of a kind that isn’t often acknowledged, or given the attention it deserves.
They didn’t need to ban books, back in my day.
They simply ignored them out of existence.
But a part of the problem with the entire exercise is that when I do discover the classics I was ‘denied’ as a child, the sneaking suspicion arises that I might not be up to the challenge I’m told these books present. I often come away with the feeling of ‘what was the fuss all about?’
It all comes down to the ability to be swept up in the tsunami of literary fashion, I suppose. And I was never the most fashionable guy.
EL James releases (basically) porn, and the world loses its mind. I tried reading it, but the are so poorly written that even I can write better than that.
Sorry EL…
I won’t read GSAW, until I’ve read Mockingbird.
And, I’m sorry to say, I don’t hold out any hope for that happening any time soon.
There are only so many hours in a given day.
And some things must simply be dismissed with regret, and with, as CS Lewis once said, the terribly sad feeling of ‘no time for that.’

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    You know, that’s interesting about MOCKINGJAY. I did think it was strange because all I could think of was MOCKINGBIRD. I saw HUNGER GAMES, but haven’t read any of the books or seen any more of the movies.

    And yes, how right you are about censorship – as you say, back then the school systems adhered to certain offerings and I remember there was this big “to do” over a book called RUN BABY RUN about drugs and gangs. I had to find someone who knew someone who had the book so I could read it – even though it had a great message.

    A lot of what you say also resonates with me in respect to other works/literary fiction and the adoration doled out for some. For example, I went on a Cormac McCarthy kick a while back and got pretty disgusted by some of what he wrote simply because it was SO repetitive. I read CHILD OF GOD – so different from THE ROAD, so that style for me was fresh and that’s when I decided “He’s AWESOME! I’m reading EVERYTHING!” But then, I read SUTTREE and OUTER DARK, and there was so much in both of those just like in COG that I became disillusioned by his writing style and had another book – BLOOD MERIDIAN – that is still waiting. Of course he took the publishing world by storm, and after CHILD could probably write something like EL James and it would be praised to high heaven. And I DO see why with some of it, I do, yet after a while, the same old same old gets just old.

    But that’s the thing. Harper Lee never gets to redeem herself if you come away not caring for MOCKINGBIRD, and even less GSAW. Still, as mentioned by Teri above, she’s made her mark with two books and as we all know, it’s an achievement beyond most of our dreams. And then like a kick in the pants – so did EL James. And what are we to make of that?


I’m 60 pages in. Not sure what to think just yet. I thought Joyce Carol Oates said it best (and I’m paraphrasing here), that Harper Lee published a classic with her first book and a best seller with her last, and even with nothing in between that would be considered a successful career.

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    That’s so true – no matter what any of us, or anyone else thinks. With TWO books, she’s achieved so much- like winning an Oscar for your very first and very last performance.


Well, I’m going to take off my clothes and bare my ever lovin’ (fleshy) soul right here, right now, I’ve never read Mockingbird. And, I don’t think I ever watched the movie all the way through.

Does this mean I’m going to writer’s-hell? I love Gregory Peck though.

I bought the book about two years ago because Jennine G told me it was her favorite book and I promised her I’d read it. I started, I promised, I read some more, promised again and I never finished it.

Now, with all the hub-bub, all I feel is a kind of sadness for Lee because so many people say she was taken advantage of. A pox upon them if that is true.

While standing at the periphery of reader’s mayhem it seems like chipping away at the goodness of Atticus is very much like what truth and media has done to Bill Cosby, Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods. They were never the nice guys we thought they were. I so admired all three. Like they say “reality sucks”.

Oh, but Finch was fiction. To many he was real. I guess he has turned out as flawed as Lee’s first book made him.

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    It doesn’t surprise me – not really. I wish I could recollect the very first time I read MOCKINGBIRD. I can’t – for some reason – yet I can distinctly remember reading THE YEARLING, and crying on the braided rug by my bed, overcome with grief at that one scene we all know so well. (if you read it, that is) I also clearly remember reading CATCHER IN THE RYE, all of the LITTLE HOUSE books, and many others. Why don’t I remember my first read of MOCKINGBIRD?

    This is going to bug me.

    But. Yeah. Ole Atticus might have been a real piece of work in the original ms. I suppose I’m going to find out – like everyone else.


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