By Frank Dabbs

Go Set A Watchman. By Harper Lee. Harper. 278 pp. US$27.99, Canada $34
Surely to say that Harper Lee ought not to have published Go Set A Watchman or it should not be read  is the censorship of political and literary correctness.
Perhaps it should be withdrawn from circulation altogether and burned?
The backstory is that book editor Therese von Hohoff Torrey read this manuscript in 1957 and used it as the starting point to coach an uncertain and insecure Harper Lee in a rewrite that became known as To Kill A Mockingbird.
In 1960, J. B. Lippincott Company published the 40-million copy best seller and Tay Hohoff persuaded Lee to file the original manuscript in her underwear drawer, or some such place.
Go Set A Watchman was published on July 14 and has been reviewed widely by critics many of whom are deficient in basic English literature comprehension, and intellectually impatient as only the Internet Age breeds impatience.
In Go Set A Watchman, 24-year-old Jean Louise Finch, known as "Scout" during her girlhood in To Kill A Mockingbird, returns for a vacation to Maycomb Junction, Alabama to visit her father Atticus, his sister Alexandra, brother John and his law partner Harry Clinton who wants to marry Jean Louise.
Spoiler alert: Atticus is a segregationist and racist – something Scout did not know but Jean Louis discovers.
However he is not "a bitter racist" as several reviews of this book state.
Atticus is compassionate – and condescending – to the Negros close to him, but believes they have not had the life experiences they need to be fully adult.
He is hostile to the NAACP and the Supreme Court because he us a staunch Southern states rights advocate.
He traffics with the dark extremism of some of his fellow citizens as a preventive measure to safeguard the values he holds dear: order, probity, the law and decency.
The book deals with the subtle twists and turns of the same politics that led to the American Civil War, not slavery per se but the Constitutional rights of the Southern States to govern themselves and their way of life.
You won't get the gist or purpose of this novel unless you also read the 10th, 13th and 14th amendments of the United States Constitution.
However, Go Set A Watchman is not a polemic or a political screed.
It is a brilliant character study of the five principle members of the book's cast and it is a coming of age novel
The racial and constitutional lynchpins of the book are literary devices to understand the relationship between a father and a daughter and the moment when the daughter first sees her father's feet of clay and enters into adulthood.
Their reconciliation at the end of the book is made possible by the love they have for each other in spite of their differences.
It is a better, more subtle resolution than a bloody civil war.
Harper Lee was born in Munroe County Alabama in 1926, and wrote Go Set A Watchman and To Kill A Mockingbird between 1956 and 1960, when Mockingbird was published.
An equally brilliant woman, an African American named Lorraine Hansberry, was born in 1930 in Chicago Illinois and published her first play, A Raisin in the Sun, in 1958.
These women were members of the same generation.
A Raisin in the Sun is about a poor Negro family in Chicago; the father has died and left $10,000 in life insurance.
The play is about the argument they have over the use of the money to realize their differing but defining dreams.
Like Mockingbird, Raisin was a prize-winning best seller made into a classic movie.
Like Harper Lee, Lorraine Hansberry was the toast of her circle and her circle was Black Chicago and New York and included rich families, racial activists such as Paul Robson and the best artists and intellectuals of the Black North.
Hansberry died at age 34 of cancer.
Her epitaph includes this speech from Raisin in the Sun: "It takes too much energy not to care.
"The why of why we are here is an intrigue for adolescents; the how is what must command living.
"Which is why I have lately become an insurgent again."
Not a bad joint review for To Kill A Mockingbird and Go Set A Watchman.



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