Set a Watchman To Keep You From Reading This Book

"...before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience. " - the Atticus Finch of To Kill A Mockingbird

Don't mess with my beloved literary father figures. It's hard enough in real life to grow up and realize your own father is human...even if he is the beautiful human kind that my dad was. It still robs you of your innocence—your notion that every little thing can be conquered as long your dad is beside you. To realize that this stronger than all, fearful of nothing man indeed has fears, heartaches, and sorrow can be unnerving. You adapt. You find your footing and learn to love the man he truly is, perhaps as in my case, even more than you did before. But a little part of you still yearns for that larger than life version you once knew if only for the safety net it provided. Thankfully, you think, I still have Atticus Finch and Mr. March. But no, apparently you don't. Forgive me if I sound melodramatic, I take these things quite personally. I still haven't forgiven Geraldine Brooks for "humanizing" Jo's dad in March, and I won't soon forgive the lawyers responsible for releasing this book either. If you loved the Atticus Finch of Scout's youth, do yourself a favor and leave this book on the shelf. If for no other reason, do it for Harper Lee who never wanted this book published.

The one good thing I will say about having read this book is it deepened my appreciation for the power of a great editor. For editor Tay Hohoff to have found within Go Set a Watchman, which was Lee's first submission, the potential for what would go on to become To Kill a Mockingbird, pays homage to gifted editors everywhere. In an article for The New York Times entitled The Invisible Hand Behind Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, Jonathan Mahler writes:

...this week’s publication of “Go Set a Watchman” offers a rare glimpse at the before and after of a book widely regarded as a masterpiece. The main characters may be the same, but “Watchman” is an entirely different book in both shape and tone from “Mockingbird.” Scout is not an impressionable child in Maycomb, Ala., looking up to her heroic father, but a young woman from Maycomb living in New York. Her father, the great Atticus Finch, is a bigot.

The release of “Watchman,” which has been only lightly copy-edited, also leads inevitably to the question: Who was the invisible hand guiding Ms. Lee as she transformed this book into “Mockingbird”? Maybe more to the point, how big a role did she play in reconceiving the story from a dark tale of a young woman’s disillusionment with her father’s racist views, to a redemptive one of moral courage and human decency?

Both the editor and the writer in me wants to go back in time and hug Tay Hohoff for helping Lee bring to life the Atticus we all love, and the one we needed at the time of the book's release, and perhaps even more so, now.