Thursday, July 16, 2015

Go Set a Watchman - Part III

For the past two nights I have had dreams of death.  I looked up what that means - the theme of death means the end of something or the beginning of profound change.  When I shared this with Hubby this morning, we both said, "(I'm/You're) killing Atticus!"  I was.  I did. 

I just finished the book.

I read that this draft is just that - it's another draft.  This article fleshes that theory out:

But I must say that a Harper Lee draft is still head and shoulders above many novels that have made it to the publishing stage.  The book is very well written.  The characters are believable.  The story flows.  It's very, very good.  It's not To Kill a Mockingbird good in terms of prose and flow, but it's very good.  I was not disappointed.

Nor was I disappointed in the story or the character arcs.  The characters are true.  They are true to themselves and to the times, I believe.  As difficult as it is to reconcile some of the choices made, I am not surprised nor am I as dismayed as I thought I would be.   

It's interesting that it's come to light at this point in history - at another crossroads in racial relations.  I hope that it will spark many, many conversations.  Honest conversations.  We have way too few of those.

The book takes place in the 1950s when race relations and civil rights were SO new, SO raw.  It takes place when people were still figuring out where they stood and where they were going to stand.  It asks of its characters, "Who are you?" and "What do you want your world to be?"  These are incredibly difficult themes.  These are themes that we are still wrestling with today.

I will read this again.  I will study it.  I think it is difficult and important and relevant.

And to Atticus, I will say, "I think I love you very much."  

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Go Set a Watchman - Part II


I am now on page 168 - over halfway through the novel.  I have been weeping off and on for the last 60 pages.

It's my own baggage.  It really is.  Or is it?  My reaction to the revelation that Atticus is . . . not what I thought him to be (I can't type it, I just can't), is very similar to Jean Louise's.  My stomach turned.  I didn't throw up, but I was rattled to my core.  I wept.  My mascara actually ran.  And I had another revelation that we should all consider. 

To Kill a Mockingbird is told from Scout's point of view.  During the course of the book, she only ages from six years old to nine years old.  Those are still the ages at which we are idolizing our elders.  So . . . Atticus defending Tom Robinson is the noble act of a flawless man who is ahead of his time - to the Scout who is in grammar school.  We all know that real people are more complex.  Should I be surprised that Atticus has flaws?  No.  Am I?  I'm as surprised (and scarred) as I was when I found out that my own parents had/have flaws.  It sucks. 

But it's real. 

I'm going to wipe my eyes, wash my face and go to bed.  I'll settle in with Jean Louise again tomorrow evening. 

Go Set a Watchman - Part I

I didn't realize that I'd be this emotional about a book.  Yes, I've cried as I've read pieces of literature, felt invested in the lives of fictional characters, had my day made or broken by the fate of a hero/heroine.  But this goes deeper.  It's a little unsettling.

There are many articles bemoaning the fact that Atticus is a racist in this book.  I have barely gotten to the part in the book when that starts to surface.  I'm worried that I won't like Atticus anymore.  I'm worried that the grown-up Jean Louise will not be Scout.  I'm worried that this book - this story of these characters - will cast a shadow over To Kill a Mockingbird and all I feel toward that book.

I voiced my fears to my husband who had some very wise thoughts.  This book was written BEFORE To Kill a Mockingbird.  Harper Lee knew where it was all going to wind up.  She had the character arcs cemented.  None of this is new.  We can certainly take To Kill a Mockingbird and set it alone.  We can block out Go Set a Watchman and pretend that it has never been found.  But it has.  And now we know what Harper Lee has known for these past 55 years - for better or for worse.  She knows how life has treated Atticus and Macomb.  She knows what Jean Loise is been up to.  She went back and filled in the story and THAT was Mockingbird.  The original story was Watchman.  

This whole experience is unique and almost surreal.  For 55 years, To Kill a Mockingbird has stood head and shoulders above most other literature.  Most of the reason for that is because it's just THAT good.  But also because it is an only child.  There is nothing else to which you can compare it.  It was Harper Lee's only baby.

Now we've found a long lost sibling - a fraternal twin, even.  NOW what do we do?  For an entire lifetime we've had a stand alone work and now . . . it's not an "only" any more.  Cue the sibling rivalry!

I know there will now be camps - Team Mockingbird and Team Watchman.  TM will be purists and want to forget that TW even exists.  But TW does exist.  And I'm so conflicted.  I don't want to like TW.  I don't want to even admit that there is a TW.  But I love and trust Harper Lee enough to try - to give it a chance.

I am now on page 107.  So far my favorite part has been a flashback to the days when Jem, Scout and Dill were terrorizing the neighborhood.  There is a charming account of a boring summer day that ends with Dill in a sheet, Scout completely naked and all three of them in Ms. Rachel's pond.  I laughed out loud and embraced my friends again. 

I can understand why Harper Lee's editor requested more flashbacks.  The rest of the story is written well.  Jean Louise is a complex and likable woman.  Henry is charming and the two have chemistry.  The "modern" Macomb is written lovingly, but with a tinge of bittersweet loss of the old ways.  It's nice.  It's engaging.  I want to continue reading and know more.  But the flashbacks really come alive.  They are written with heart.  With vibrancy.  It feels as if the words flowed from Ms. Lee effortlessly.  For that portion of the book (so far), I was home.       

To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book.  I go back and read it every few years - whether I need to or not!  I feel like I grew up with Scout, Jem and Dill.  In a way, I did.  As a child, summers at Cabin 77 shaped my character.  I spent the months between grades roaming the dusty dirt roads of White River Lake, catching minnows and tadpoles, jumping off the dock when we got too hot, and worrying the adults by wandering too far.  I could identify with Scout on more than a few levels. 

My Bigdaddy was my Atticus.  Bigdaddy was my moral compass, in a way.  He taught me that family was the most important thing on this earth.  He taught me that silence is as important as a well timed word of wisdom.  He taught me practical things like how to bait my own fishing hook and take a fish off the line.  And he taught me the value of a good practical joke. 

But . . . Bigdaddy grew up in a time when racism was the norm.  And Bigdaddy was not immune to that mindset.  I don't believe that I ever heard him speak hate (if I did, I must have blocked it out), but I did hear him speak to the inferiority of other races.  He used the "n" word freely, but it was cultural, not a moniker loaded with ire.*  As the times changed, his use of that word diminished.  I'm not sure that he ever accepted full racial equality, but I know that he did mellow with age and with the times.  Or, at least he did around me.

I haven't reached the point in the story where it's evident that Atticus is racist.  As I have titled this post "Part I", I shall promise to address my emotions surrounding that revelation when it arises.

Now, it's late and I have to get up and read more tomorrow!   

*I'm not defending the use of that word.  Nor am I defending the mindset of white superiority.  I am trying to make a distinction between ignorantly following the culture and taking the racial divide to a violent and hate filled level.  Bigdaddy was racist.  That hurts me to write, but he was.  However, he was a cultural racist and as the times changed and he became at least a little more educated, he tempered his view.  I never saw him be mean to anyone nor treat anyone rudely or with disrespect - black or white. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

So . . . What's Up?

I’ve been busy performing (two plays in 12 months!), serving (1 board of directors, 1 committee), teaching (5th-12th grades) and going to Colorado with my family.

But I haven’t been blogging.

I compose blog posts in my head all the time.  I have things to say about so much – gay marriage, the Confederate flag, health care, Celiac disease, Harper Lee, El Nino and many, many other things.
But I can’t sit down and write.  My brain is going ninety miles an hour and I can’t stop it.  Which topic do I pick?  What do I have to say?  Does anyone care what I think?  Why do I want to blog?

I look at my writer’s dam (I don’t see it really as a block – I can see the ideas on the other side, there is also a tiny trickle making its way out now and again, I just can’t knock the whole dam down and get that beautiful, steady flow) and . . . well, I can actually tell you when it appeared.  I can tell you what was the final straw/branch/limb placed there by the busy little beavers in my mind.

I just can’t write about it.

I have written a couple of semi-private posts and shared them with an inner circle.  But still, two years later, I’m not really ready to open up and tell more.  As much as I have healed (or as much as I think I’ve healed), the wound is still too tender, too easily opened up again.

To continue the wound analogy, I don’t believe that I have developed an infection.  I don’t feel that there is something festering, taking hold and eating away.  As a Christian, I honestly feel too grounded in the Word of God for that.  But I still feel pain.  I feel the pain, the tenderness around the wound site and, like a paper cut on a joint, the flesh keeps opening at the most inopportune times.  A song, a joke, the way an adjective is used – all of these things can cause the bleeding to start again.  Sometimes I actually find myself putting my hand over my heart and pressing in on my chest.

But, like a flesh wound, my wound is slowly diminishing.  Each time it is opened, it’s less deep.  There is less blood.  The routine of it has taught me how to tend to it.  Well, for the most part.  Sometimes it stops bleeding instantly.  Sometimes it weeps for a few days.  But it’s healing.  Slowly.


Some days I don’t even remember that it’s there.  Happily, those days are becoming more frequent.  I don’t know if there will ever come a day when I will boast a scar that never opens.  I may.  But I doubt that the pain will ever take its leave. I’m not sure that I want it to.  If there is no pain, then that means that I don’t remember the loss.  And if I don’t remember the loss, then I don’t remember the good.  And there was good.  Because when it was gone, there was loss.  And then pain.

Why has this wound dammed up my writing?  I don’t know fully.  I have a feeling, as I’ve been analyzing the snot out of it, that it has to do with identity.  So much of my identity was formed because of the cause of this wound.  (I’m still not even ready to put a name/face with it publicly.)  As a result, whenever I try to write a blog post that is an opinion/commentary piece, I question who I really am.  Are these my views or am I a puppet – a ventriloquist’s dummy spouting views that may not be my own?  Was I formed or did I really find my true self because of this experience?  Was I showed freedom that I didn’t know I had, or was I molded slowly into a shape that was comfortable, but really not me?  Are my words, my writing style, my “voice” really mine?  I think I know.  But then . . . maybe I don’t.

So that’s where I am right now.  I have a lot to say, but I don’t know if I’m saying it.  I try to write, but then another branch slips into the opening and stifles the flow.  I have tried to start posts online and I have tried to start posts with pencil on paper.  This is as far as I’ve gotten.

One last wound reference.  When I was a kid, I had a screen door close on my foot.  It left a large scrape on the back of my foot/leg just above my heel.  The scar that formed was very keloid-like.  For years it stuck out at least a quarter inch from my normal skin.  Certain shoes rubbed it so that it would itch or become inflamed.  I never told my parents about it because I could manage it.  I just put band-aids on it or chose shoes that wouldn’t rub it wrong.

I managed it.  I told no one.

I don’t remember when it resolved.  I don’t remember when I stopped noticing it.  When I went to look at it just now, I even looked on the wrong foot first!  Now it has faded to a small square that is about half a shade lighter than the skin around it.  It looks like a small, normal scar.  The only reason it entered my mind was that last week my nephew showed me a scar on his knee that has turned into a keloid.  I was able to tell him that it’s not permanent.  It will fade.  It will never go away completely, but it will look almost completely normal again.  And eventually, he won’t notice it for years.


I know that at some point I will need to tell my story – fully and (possibly) with names.  And I know that it will be because I want others who have similar scars and wounds to know that it’s not permanent.  It will fade.  And eventually, they won’t notice it for years.


Update 1/15/16
Going back and looking at past blog posts on the ridiculous amount of platforms I have going (and I'm Cabin77 on every one of them), I noticed this one written in February of 2014 is eerily similar.  I am still progressing one day at a time and I've noticed that there are days when the words flow again.

I am approaching "Eventually".