Monday, July 13, 2015

Review: ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ by Harper Lee - SFGate

When Lee submitted the manuscript of “Watchman” to publisher J.B. Lippincott in 1957, her editor, Tay Hohoff, astutely saw the germ of a better book in the childhood passages and suggested Lee rewrite the novel from young Scout’s point of view, set 20 years earlier, during the Depression. Comparing “Mockingbird” — the result of two years of arduous revisions — with “Watchman” demonstrates clearly just how important a good editor can be. Put simply, where “Mockingbird” beguiles, dazzles and moves to tears as it conveys core values of empathy and human decency, “Watchman” horrifies with its ugly racism, even as it emotes and moralizes didactically, clunkily and shrilly.

It is hard not to wonder whether this manuscript made it into print after all these years because of a genuine late-life change of heart by its infirm, 89-year-old author, or because of the new gatekeeper who succeeded her sister (and longtime lawyer) Alice, who died in 2014.

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