Go Set A Watchman: There and Should We Really Have Gone Back Again?

For months now Go Set A Watchman is all it seems readers can talk about. Although, with the juggernaut of marketing behind it, it isn’t too hard to believe. Part of me really wants to read it. I am all caught up in the hoopla and want to be part of the herd. The more purist and respectful side of me keeps those actions at bay though. I mean, there is an overwhelming situation. She wrote this book before To Kill a Mockingbird, she never published it or any other book. Do you think at eighty-nine she was like, “Shit I need more money, I should publish that first draft of my classic and only published book that has sat somewhere for the last fifty plus years?” There was even a court case where her mental capacity was scrutinized, in order to see if she did possess the mental faculties to actually put this whole publishing whirlwind in order.

I really want to read it, but I don’t think I can. I remember when I was little watching the Wizard of Oz. As a resident Kansasan who lived thirty minutes away from one of the Wizard of Oz museums, I was a big fan. Then Return to Oz came out and fucked my shit right up. I have only seen that movie once in my life and that was probably enough.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have known the movie was screwed from the beginning when usually angry and creepy Fairuza Balk was cast as Dorothy. The story itself was a mash-up of the some of the books and overall much, much darker than the original.

Everything is destroyed, from the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City. Instead of flying monkeys, there are Wheelers, humanoids with wheels instead of hands and feet. In the place of the Wicked Witch of the West, there is Princess Mombi. Who, not even a minute, after meeting Dorothy is like Hey you wanna go check my hallway full of female heads? followed by Check out my cool trick, I just swap my head out like some women change shoes! Not to mention that all the characters I loved from the first movie are either no shows or too different from the original. I was five or six at the time. Maybe if I had had a double of Jack with my popcorn I could have processed the whole thing better.

Even though I can have a drink now, I don’t want the same thing to happen to me again. She didn’t publish that book for some reason. Mostly because her editor apparently asked for a re-write that would become To Kill A Mockingbird. Basically, Go Set A Watch is a first draft that was almost completely rewritten. It isn’t canonical, it is a time travelling paradoxical mishap. A subtitle could be To Kill A Mockingbird: The Darkest Timeline. Characters are completely different, things that happen in To Kill A Mockingbird haven’t necessarily happened in Go Set A Watchman.

Why she never picked it back up and wrote it as a true sequel, we may never know. Whether it be that she wanted to avoid the sophomore slump or because it just wasn’t as good as the first, it doesn’t matter. Our perspectives of Atticus and Scout are about to change. Something seems fishy, but with the amount of money being thrown into the marketing of this book none of us seem to smell it or can at least tolerate it.

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Good Will Spoiler Alert

  I know these two guys, Hairdevil Pennysworth and Hairdevil Norington. I know, I thought it was weird too that they had the same first name. A name that I am not entirely certain of the origins of. Nor am I truly confident that it isn’t hyphenated or doesn’t have an umlaut. The irony that both of these men have shaved pates while having the name Hairdevil is not lost on me. For the sake of avoiding confusion and rambling any further, I will refer to them as Pennysworth and Norington.

   It was morning, we were drinking coffee. The sad puppies debacle had given us something to talk about. When the conversation began to veer like a great drunken baby. Soon after the quippy quote “Best Old-Fashioned SF the Way It Used to Be,” Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock were topics of conversation. From there it was all a blur, at least for a moment. I remember there were several points about the representation of the racial divide in Howard’s works. Look, it was the early 1900’s when he wrote the bulk of his work, society was different then. Although, judging by the news, not much different. Maybe he would still be a jerk, I digress.

  Maybe Pennysworth coffee was irish, maybe he just has a blatant disregard for spoiler alerts. For in the blink of an eye, he spilled the beans about the ending of a Moorcock story. I looked at Norington and said, “Well I guess we won’t have to read that one. Thanks for saving us three hundred pages, Pennysworth.” I finished.

  Before I get into what Pennysworth did next I would like to offer you, the reader, a way out. Assuming you have come this far. If you, for some reason have not read To Kill a Mockingbird or if you chased the events of it out of your head with booze, this is your chance to stop. I won’t be offended if you stop, but you may be disappointed.

  Pennysworth laughed deep from his belly as he absent-mindedly tightened the lid on metal coffee mug to the point that I thought it would shatter. He hid the search for his rebuttal behind a veil of a normal ambiguously late twenties, early thirty-somethings man. Once he had decided his intent with his next phrase, his laughter transformed into a cackle. Spittle frothed at the corners of his mouth and insanity gleamed in his eyes. A drop of blood welled at the edge of the canal of his right ear, “Yes! The world basically ends and they kill Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird!”

  Cat’s out of the bag now, if you didn’t know and you didn’t stop reading, that is on you. The big coincidence here is, unknowingly to Pennysworth I am reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I – mostly – read when I was a kid for the big book report, skipping pages, skimming for the plot points. I’ve wanted to read it in its entirety for years. I know what happens. I know what is coming. As of the night before this conversation, I just happen to be on page two seventy eight. Atticus has just sent the kids home with Calpurnia. The jury is heading to deliberations. I am at the exact point where a spoiler like this is most damaging. I have put in the time only to have the reward ripped from my hands at the very end. I could imagine what it would be like if I didn’t know and gave Pennysworth the business about it.

  Pennysworth and I are on amicable terms. I am going to finish reading To Kill A Mockingbird. Perhaps everyone should read it, whether they have done so before or not. As I previously stated, society doesn’t seem to have changed that much. If it has, it still has a long way to go. There doesn’t seem to be enough Finches and far too many Ewells.