Should We Be Reading Go Set A Watchman?

I loved To Kill A Mockingbird, as I think most people do. Even people who aren’t avid readers seem to love that book. Most of us had to read it at some point in school. For me it was Pre-AP English II during my freshman year of high school (humble brag, I tested at out of English I). My youngest sister just had to read the same book for the same class. For me, it was one of those books that I was theoretically forced to read but that also solidified my love of reading. The two others were The Old Man and the Sea, and The Great Gatsby. (My deep love of frienemies Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald, and their whole generation of writers is something for a later time).

Not only did TKAM help me love reading more, it also strengthened my desire to go into the legal field. Atticus Finch to me is (or was, depending on your interpretation of him in GSAW) the purest character in modern American literature. His character and compassion were two things to be admired and applied in my own life.I felt so strongly about him that Grayson John was almost named Atticus John. That was the first name I settled on after the gender reveal sonogram. I decided against it for two reasons: First, I understand how cruel kids are. Growing up with the last name Derr you understand how terrible kids can be about names. And while I owned mine, most people who know me from high school or earlier still call me Derr, not by my first name, I didn’t want to put the teasing I went through on another child. First graders don’t know TKAM, and to them Atticus would just be a weird name to make fun of. My second reason was my mom HATED it. She hasn’t read TKAM, and also just thought it was a weird name. So, Grayson, if you one day decide you would have rather been Atticus John not Grayson John, you can at least half blame your Ya-Ya.

Atticus Finch, brought majestically to life in the film adaptation by the masterful Gregory Peck, and Tom Robinson.
Atticus Finch, brought majestically to life in the film adaptation by the masterful Gregory Peck, and Tom Robinson.

I’ve read so many reviews of GSAW, and almost all include one thing: Atticus, our sweet, pure, kindhearted super dad is now a racist. Well, shit. I mean, I don’t think we should all be that surprised. He was a white man who lived his life in the Jim Crow south, almost everyone who fit that description was a racist. Not the “completely unaware of their biases, sometimes say things they really shouldn’t” kind of racist. Most were bonafide, in your face, didn’t like black people, didn’t want anything to do with them, saw them as less than are, racists. But that is part of what made him so special to most, I believe, is that the Atticus Finch in TKAM wasn’t like his peers. He was different. He stood up for the oppressed, and didn’t really care who disagreed.  Now we are told that he was a confederate apologist (how timely), and thought of the black population as truly less than his own.

Sigh. I know I’m not the only one who has given second thought to reading this book due to these revelations. We don’t want our lovely Atticus tainted in our minds. We want to remember him just as we knew him. There is also the other theory that even if he is portrayed as this person with more flaws than his original character, that isn’t a reason to not read the book. Maybe the reality is that he was this racist person, and we are doing ourselves a disservice by abstaining from the book for that reason. After all, Atticus isn’t ours, he is someone that Harper Lee gave to us, shouldn’t she be the one who gets to interpret him as she knew him?

That brings me to the second, and really the most important reason I’m waiving on whether or not I should read the book. Is this really how Harper Lee defined him? Does she even want us reading this book. I remember how heartbroken I was for first time I read she was adamant about never ever publishing another book, and she was very adamant for a very long time. In fact, this is a quote directly from Ms. Lee on the subject:

 “Rest assured, as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood.”

Well there you have it folks, and in case you wonder that maybe this quote was taken out of context, rest assured you can find dozens more that reflect the same sentiment. So why the sudden change of heart? Some believe the change of heart isn’t hers, but that the change of heart lies with her lawyer and publisher suddenly deciding to stop respecting her wishes. For those who don’t know, Harper Lee has been in declining health for years. Mentally and physically. Not only that, but her sister, who had been her protector for decades, recently died. You can see why I think the timing is suspicious. Her entire life she told us we weren’t getting anything more from her in the way of books. Her sister was her number one “guard”, protecting her privacy and from people who would take advantage, and seemingly immediately after she’s out of the picture, Harper Lee decides to go against her own statements from the past and release this book.

In the interest of fairness I should share that many people saw Ms. Lee’s sister as more prison guard than guardian. Controlling her, and through her, her finances. It also should be noted that she has been adjudicated by the State of Alabama as in control of her mental faculties and fully capable of her making her own decisions. (Though I know from personal experience with relatives that the standard for getting someone declared incompetent is extremely high.)

I don’t doubt for a second that the original manuscript of GSAW was written by Harper Lee. I don’t think her lawyer and publisher got together, wrote a book and are defrauding us with the notion that Ms. Lee wrote it. I do however wonder what things they may have changed. Things they may have added or altered or removed for the sake of making the book more likely to sell, in their minds.

I have zero interest in reading a work that isn’t entirely a creation of Harper Lee. I have zero interest in reading a book that the author never wanted to be given to the public. A book is a work of art, something the author puts their heart and soul into. It should never be made public unless the creator wants it so. I really don’t care to read a book that may ruin Atticus Finch for me forever, but that one I could probably get past if I knew that it was Harper Lee, Scout herself, who wanted us to see her father in a different light.

Should you read the book? I don’t know, that is a decision we should all make for ourselves. I’d planned to read it the day it was released, which was Tuesday. I haven’t even bought a copy yet. Will I read the book? I honestly don’t know.


The Beauty of Baseball and Why I Fell In Love With It.

I have been told by friends, many of who aren’t baseball fans themselves, that I should try to write for some sort of baseball site or blog, or start my own. I think most of them say that because they wish I’d just shut up about it every once in a while and if I had other outlets, I’d leave them alone. I wouldn’t bring up as many anecdotal stories of some nineteenth century player who they could not care less about. I wouldn’t tell them stories of teams and leagues that have long since folded. Their hope probably is that they wouldn’t have to listen to me yammer on about whatever baseball book I just read and the very interesting things I learned from it, things that to them are the very opposite of interesting. Well to that I say hell no, thank you.

I know just how awful baseball fans are. We are terrible people. If someone doesn’t agree with us about a player or team or the best way to evaluate performance, they are a stupid idiot bandwagon fan who knows nothing and obviously just hates the game and wants to see it ruined. I know how y’all are, okay, how WE are, and I don’t need that in my life. Though it is in my life to a point, through connecting with other fans via social media and occasionally (pretty much everyday) debating with them. However, when we agree or are united behind our team we are a family and love each other…so it makes up for the bickering. I’m still not ready to put my opinions out there only to be mocked by those who always know better than everyone. Nope. No. Nein.

I will, however share that I am a cranklet. A die hard, crazy, obsessive fan of baseball. Not just of my team, but of the sport and it’s beautiful history. If you have never watched Ken Burns’ Baseball, you’re missing out. Even if you aren’t a huge baseball crazy, it is a must see at least once. (Most everything Burns puts to film is, really.) I watch it at least once a year. I normally start the offseason with it. To soften the hangover that begins the day after the World Series ends and doesn’t let up much until Spring Training begins. If the game itself isn’t poetry (which it is, and anyone who says otherwise is a stupid idiot ban…), it’s history definitely is.

The way many Americans feel about football today is the way most of our great-grandparents, their parents, and their parents felt about baseball. It truly was America’s pastime, and because of that its history is glorious. Its history is honestly why, besides the greatness of the game itself, I love it as much as I do. Not only the history of the professional game, but the history of the neighborhood games, the town teams, the personal relationship that was available to its fans. The fact that millions of American boys and girls, men and women have loved and played the sport decade after decade, year after year for over 170 years. For nearly three quarters of country’s existence baseball as been part of the lives of it’s citizens, and part of our national identity. Hard as they try, football nor basketball can beat that.

Despite the heartbreak my team has put me through (you really couldn’t catch that ball, Nelson Cruz?), baseball is something that, whether reading about it or watching it, brings me great joy and comfort. I can go on and on about the reason’s I love the history of baseball so much, (and the lord knows I probably will in future posts) and how that makes me love the game itself even more, but the feelings I get from watching a game isn’t something so easily described. Nor are the reasons behind those feelings. All I know is they are there, and I don’t ever want to find myself in a time or place where they aren’t.

Two of my favorite baseball players. My grandpa in his little league uniform in 1953 at age 11. And my son in his at age 8.
Two of my favorite baseball players. My son in his little league uniform at age 8 and my grandpa in his at age 11.

Grandpa in his baseball uniform

Unstructured Ramblings.

I’ve made a few (failed, or maybe just short-lived) attempts at blogging before. Maybe because they were always around certain themes which limited what I felt I could, or should, post. For someone like me who is constantly running off at the mouth about one thing or another, that leads to boredom. And quick. I’ve decided to take another hack at it. I need an outlet to save my friends on social media who may or may not care to hear my self-righteous opinions day in and day out from my near continuous ranting about various topics.

Whether it is about sports, literature, my cats, my ongoing genealogical research, my personal battle with epilepsy, the raising of my son, or just the latest political topic, I seemingly always have something to say. My views on many issues are constantly evolving. I may be strongly opinionated, but I do listen to others. From time to time others make more sense than my thinking, and though I’d probably never admit to them that they were right, on more than one occasion casual (and many times heated) debate has changed my mind. I refuse to call myself a conservative or a liberal. To me those are just divisive labels. You can be the judge of that yourself as you read what I have to say. I honestly don’t care which you think I am. I’ve been called both, with both being used as a compliment and an insult depending on who the label was coming from. I believe what I believe and if you don’t agree, that is fine. I wholeheartedly welcome differing opinions (going back to the listening to others), however if you don’t have anything constructive to add, just keep it to yourself.

I welcome anyone and everyone to read along. I’m not conceited enough to actually believe that anyone will give a second thought of caring about my point of view or the latest goings on in my life, and that is perfectly fine. I’m also aware that only in today’s narcissistic society would it be remotely acceptable to journal online for all to see. However, I know that I have come across posts of all sorts online which have done a multitude of different things. One is show me that someone else feels the way I do. Everyone enjoys feeling understood, so maybe the things that I have to say can provide that to someone out there in cyber space. The other thing that I have found in my internet explorations is things that I didn’t know before. Including points of view, that while maybe I knew they existed, I didn’t understand until I saw them explained in a certain way.

We are all on this journey called life together, even the people we disagree with, we are in it together. We can choose to help each other or we can choose to fight each other or simply ignore each other, but we cannot escape each other. For that reason attempting to understand each other helps everyone in the end.

Annoying the masses one post at a time.