(Not So) Goldfinch
Well, more than 50 years after the release of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee’s long-rumored sequel, “Go Set a Watchman,” was “found” and released this past summer. The book, actually written before Mockingbird, is a you-can’t-go-home-again treatment that casts the heroic Atticus Finch in a less-than-favorable light.
That’s putting it mildly. Apparently, the man who famously defended Tom Robinson in the original tale is a closet racist who attended a Ku Klux Klan rally. Perhaps if you judge the man by the period in which he lived ... nah, still doesn’t work. Atticus was supposed to be a bastion of enlightenment.
Anyway, this reporter (in an effort to save twenty bucks) read about a half-dozen pages while in the bookstore. Quite frankly, it wasn’t Lee’s voice, or at least it wasn’t the
one I remember. I’m not saying the publisher hired some wannabe team to imitate Lee’s style and utterly failed. That’s for you, gentle readers, to decide.
Further tainting this train wreck was the revelation that an untold number of copies printed in the United Kingdom and sold through Amazon U.K. were missing lines of copy at one of the more controversial junctures in the story. In all, six pages were each minus two lines of text.
Publisher Penguin Random House (PRH) attributed the gaffe to a printing error by its vendor, Clays. Normally, publisher screw ups are written off nebulously as “printing errors” without exactly explaining the details of how the printer botched the job. Call it being thrown under the bus or asked to fall on the sword ... the publisher just doesn’t want to look bad.
At any rate, PRH mobilized quickly to get replacements to Amazon, which went the extra step and emailed the text to readers so that they wouldn’t have to wait for the new copies to arrive.
No such errors have been reported by HarperCollins, the novel’s U.S. publisher.
Early returns show that “Go Set a Watchman” is a hit with readers and critics alike, presumably people who have read more than six pages. Some have suggested that Atticus’ revelation shines a light beneath the surface and into privately-held beliefs regarding how whites truly feel about African-Americans. The book is as relevant as ever, given the police relations narrative that has garnered much mainstream attention in recent years. PI