Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Go Set a Watchman

As just about everyone in the world knows, Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee is published today, 14 July.

To get in the mood, and to prepare for reading it, I thought I’d speed re-read To Kill a Mockingbird. I found I didn’t want to do that – speed-read it, I mean. I wanted to take it slowly, no skimming. 

There is nothing original I can add to the massive weight of words that have been written about this book since its publication over fifty years ago. For me, as for millions of others, the character/voice of Scout, the sense of place, the story and the way it’s told, all come together as more than the sum of their parts.

Can Go Set A Watchman repeat the experience? Its UK editor has said, 'There will be those who'll say: you have spoiled Mockingbird for me by publishing this book.'

I hope that's not the case. I don’t intend to read any more about it before I read it for myself.

A few weeks ago when I went into the West End branch of Waterstone’s in Edinburgh to order my copy I saw that they had planned an event for the night of the 13th – a showing of the film of To Kill a Mocking Bird, preceded by refreshments and followed, at midnight, by picking up book orders. I put my name down.

It was a lovely idea – I remember the terrific atmosphere around the midnight launch parties for Harry Potter.

This wasn't on that scale of course but the second floor had a cinema screen; about sixty people squished into the space and although my view of the screen wasn't terrific I was quickly engrossed. Oreo cookies and mint juleps were served (bourbon, sugar syrup, crushed ice and lots of mint). I kept my paper cup.

There was a countdown to midnight and then we were able to pick up our copies.
As someone who (so far) has written serial-length stories but not an ackshull book, I don't know whether I would rather (if it was possible to have the choice …) write just one that becomes much beloved, critically acclaimed and stands the test of time, or several that – don’t.

The jury's out on that one.

Now, excuse me, I have a book to read.

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