‘Go Set a Watchman’: Customer Voices at the Counter

Kenny Brechner - July 15, 2015

Two customers taking care of business.

In recent memory, nothing has brought the power of editing more sharply into focus than the complex relationship between To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman. As early reviewers have pointed out, Go Set a Watchman must modify our understanding of its predecessor, most particularly in our understanding of Atticus Finch. Complicating that notion, however, is the fact that Go Set a Watchman was not edited into a state of continuity with To Kill a Mockingbird. Inhabitants of alternate universes, they are intimately related and yet filled with discontinuities. The degree and nature of their connection to one another is nuanced, to say the least.

atticusAs DDG customers streamed in to pick up their pre-orders Tuesday morning I spoke with them about their expectations and feeling regarding the matter at hand. Mary Sue Hayden, the first customer to pick up her pre-order, commented that, “I hope that it won’t discourage me as to how I feel about Atticus. Actually, it might be more Gregory Peck than Atticus I’m worried about!” The same sentiment was echoed widely throughout the store, and one person took the very firm stance that “Atticus was too good a man to be a mean-spirited racist, but there’s no way at all that Gregory Peck could be.” Store regular Larry Kuening chimed in revealing that To Kill a Mockingbird was “the only book my mother ever told me that she loved the movie more than the book.”
“I’m concerned a bit about Atticus but I’m excited just because it’s Harper Lee.” gushed Leslie Thistle. Veronica Penniman agreed: “I read it in high school and fell in love with the book and the characters and I’m just excited to see what happens. It was so unexpected to have another book come from this author.”

DDG staffer and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ super fan Sam Oppenheim clutches a box of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ with great force.Sam’s take on the book…Good or bad, To Kill a Mockingbird will not be tarnished by a sequel/prequel. Its historical weight and literary triumphs will always be here. Truly, it would be a sin to think that a sequel could kill a mockingbird.

One loving customer of To Kill a Mockingbird steamed in announcing, “Give it to me, oh I’m so excited,” and shared the sentiments that “I won’t believe that Atticus was really a racist. He was such a thoughtful and intellectual person that he realized things had to go slowly in the culture he lived in. Going to Klan meetings he was just seeing what the culture around him was doing. He was such a good man. I’m going to hold onto him that way.”
Two of our first pick-ups were middle school English teachers. One told me that “To Kill a Mockingbird has always been my favorite book, both to teach and to read. I’m very curious about all the changes I’m reading about.” Melissa Audy declared that “I’ve read online that the expectations for the book are low so I’m intrigued to find out for myself. If I’m disappointed in it I’m going to choose to think about it as a kind of fan fiction written by Harper Lee and try not to let it affect the way I feel about To Kill a Mockingbird.” Melissa’s thoughts about finding out for herself were seconded by Lisa Panori. “I am excited. Some people are encouraging me (to read the book) and some are not, but I need to see for myself.”
Lisa has a point there. ‘Thinking for yourself’  isn’t that what To Kill a Mockingbird is all about?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *