What's It All About?

What's It All About?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Mockingbird Will Never Die


Dear Readers, it's no secret that I'm an avid classic movie lover as well as an avid reader of great books.  To Kill A Mockingbird, movie and book, have a permanent place in my mind and heart.  I had to make a decision for myself about all the hoopla with the publication of Harper Lee's first draft idea for Mockingbird.  In my opinion, about which I don't really feel humble, is that it was irresponsible and unethical to make money by outing "Go Set a Watchman," Harper Lee's first draft idea.

Mockingbird is a superb book that inspired a superb movie, a treasure for both movie lovers and lovers of literature who know greatness when they see it.  Harper Lee's first story idea was bad, as they so often are. Her publisher suggested something different, as they so often do. So she eventually wrote a great book; maybe then was when she got some help from her friend Truman Capote.  I've never believed the old rumor that he actually wrote it.  It's not his style at all.  He may have given valuable advice, but if I had such a writer for a friend and I was stuck on my writing, I would welcome his help too.

I don't know all the facts about how "Watchman" came to be published; I don't know what Harper Lee had to do with it or what advice she was given.  With the greatest respect, Miss Lee is a very old lady, eccentric in many ways, and someone should have had the heart to squelch the idea of publishing that draft, which was squelched in the first place because it was bad.  I would die if anybody saw some of the first drafts I've written! Most writers would.  

I'm sure many of you know more about the events leading up to the "Watchman" release, and I'm not averse to learning facts.  I guess after I first read some of the articles about it and got a look at the story, I was just suspicious about Miss Lee's involvement and, frankly, just didn't care about the draft.  It was just that ... a draft.  Now so many people are terribly upset, re-thinking the real Mockingbird, and that is very sad.  It's especially sad for the generations of kids who will get to know this novel and book that Oprah Winfrey called our national book.  It is likely that their experience will be tinged by knowing from the start about the backlash against the idea of Atticus Finch being a racist, the most important issue being discussed.  That word, used however carefully or with whatever back-pedaling, is immediate cultural death to anyone or anything involved.  That would indeed be a tragedy, one which is up to us to avert by teaching our children and grandchildren how to understand and what to ignore in the case of Mockingbird.

For us, Atticus Finch will always be a loving father and decent, caring and educated man, in a time and place in which some of those virtues were not prevalent.  That is how Harper Lee offered him to us.  That is who he is.  To Kill A Mockingbird will never disappear as long as we adults make a firm decision to teach our children just as Atticus taught his own.


A decent man and the innocence of children change, for
a moment, their corner of the world.

This will never be goodbye, Atticus ... it will always be our tribute.

15 comments:

  1. There was such ballyhoo about what they called a "prequel", but when you dig deep and find the truth it seemed like such a mistake. Simply the wrong thing to do. Perhaps some scholars would be interested, but it is not the way to create new fans of a great work.

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    1. Thanks for stopping in, CW...of course I feel that way too. Hey, I don't know why my text above posted with the white around it....I tried to fix it, but it just wouldn't change! Do you know anything about what might have happened. I just used my regular new post thing.

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    2. This is where we do our Frank Morgan impression when the balloon takes off: "I don't know how it works!"

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    3. Oh man, CW, you made me laugh with that one. I could hear precisely Frank Morgan's voice and delivery of that line! I'm going to have to remember that one!

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  2. Speaking as a woman whose favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird:
    As a writer, I think it'd be great to compare Go Set a Watchman with Mockingbird. The draft could come as part of a kit: you buy Mockingbird and get Watchman.
    The problem is: not everybody is a writer, and not everybody can see Watchman as a draft. I hope the perception of Atticus won't change drastically. I see it would be more realistic if he was a man of his time and place, with a bit of prejudice lying deep down inside... but then he wouldn't be the great hero of American Literature!
    Nice to see you back to blogging!
    Kisses!
    Le

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    1. Hi, Le! I feel that way, too. Educated writers, yes. Young kids and not so educated adults, not good. I'm so glad to see you!

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  3. Hey Becky - I know how you feel, but I am going to reserve judgment until I read it. After all, it is written by Harper Lee, not like those faux Gone With the Wind extensions. And you know, how many young people grow more rigid as they get older? It's just a shame that it happened to Gregory - I mean Atticus Finch. But, I ordered it, so I'll let you know how I feel about it.

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    1. Oh boy, those GWTW things were horrible! Yes, it's by Harper Lee, but sometimes I just don't want anything to screw with something I've loved. Le made a good point above, and in that respect I probably should be more open-minded. I just worry what will happen to one of the greatest pieces of writing ever. (Gregory? Ugh.) I would be really interested to know how you feel. Let me know!

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    2. For Pete's sake, Chick -- I had a DUH moment. Somehow I thought you meant that the first drafting of the book had Atticus named Gregory. I didn't like that idea. How could I have been so clueless? Brain drain!

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  4. Ultimatey, I don't think that GO SET A WATCHMAN will have any impact on the iconic status of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Too much time has passed. Besides, after the initial hoopla dies down, it will just be a footnote alongside a great American novel.

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    1. That's my hope, Rick. I just worry about the all-encompassing social media reaction to anything with the word racist in it, particularly young people. But then again, I've been known to worry too much! Thanks so much for stopping by and giving your usual thoughtful comments.

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  5. I'm in agreement. PS I've seen that white background show up on some other blogs too; I think it has something to do with the images and could be a bug. I would try this: when you are in Edit mode, click on "Compose" and highlight all of the text...then "cut" the text, and "paste" it into Notepad or Word (this will strip away the extra coding. Then once you do that, highlight the text and "cut"....then "paste" it back while in "Compose" mode...see if that works.

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    1. Tom, those are great ideas! Thanks so much! Hope you are well...

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  6. I'm not going to read the 'new book' so I won't worry about it. It's the only way to survive 'hoopla' these days. People stare when you say you no interest in the latest thing, and that gives me a sort of satisfaction. :) Atticus Finch is too well embedded in the American reader's affection, psyche and imagination to be dislodged now by something which sounds as if - as you say, Becky - is nothing but a bad first or second draft. But maybe Harper Lee needed the money? Hey, it happens.

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    1. Yvette, like you, I don't follow-up hoopla much anymore -- I see it and sometimes comment on it, but I don't buy it, read it or go to see it. I tend to be a big worrier about things I love, but I'm sure you are right about this being a flash in the pan. Atticus is indeed embedded, and we need to keep it that way with out kids. And, as far as the great Harper Lee needing money, well, Michael Caine is one of the great actors of the modern era, and he made all those horrible Jaws movies because he needed the money! I think he said one of those sequels paid for a house for his mother! LOL!

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