Canadian authors weigh in on release of Harper Lee's 'Go Set a Watchman' | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Canadian authors weigh in on release of Harper Lee's 'Go Set a Watchman'

This book cover released by Harper shows "Go Set A Watchman," a follow-up to Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird." As Harper Lee's highly anticipated novel "Go Set a Watchman" hits shelves, some Canadian authors are expressing reservations about its release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Harper
July 14, 2015 - 3:30 PM

TORONTO - As Harper Lee's highly anticipated novel "Go Set a Watchman" hits shelves, some Canadian authors are expressing reservations about its release.

The story was written before Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning classic "To Kill a Mockingbird" from 1960, but wasn't discovered until decades later.

Featured are the same characters of Scout and her father, Atticus Finch, 20 years after the events of "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Before "Go Set a Watchman" hit shelves, The Canadian Press asked several authors via email for their thoughts on the publication.

Victoria-based novelist Esi Edugyan noted that although it's being marketed as a sequel, it isn't.

"It's an early draft of the story which grew into 'To Kill A Mockingbird,' and that novel, so iconic today, seems the sort of wholly realized fiction that neither wants nor needs expanding," said the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner for "Half-Blood Blues."

"We all wonder what becomes of Scout, of Atticus, of Jem, so real do they seem to us (or at least they did to me, at the time). That wondering is part of the novel's mysterious power.

"But I'm not sure we really should be told.... Something about it doesn't seem right. And yet I hope the novel is a success, and my misgivings prove unfounded."

Montreal-born Alix Ohlin, a 2012 Giller finalist for her novel "Inside," said she feels the circumstances under which "Go Set a Watchman" came to be published "seem pretty dubious."

"'To Kill a Mockingbird' has historically been such an important book because although it's quite simply written it has provided a way for people to engage with some of the biggest, most difficult questions in American culture. That's why it has endured.

"If this new book takes away from Harper Lee's great achievement in that regard, then I think it's a shame."

Edmonton-based Marina Endicott, a Commonwealth Writers' Prize winner and Giller finalist for 2008's "Good to a Fault," recalled watching the 1962 "To Kill A Mockingbird" film in her pyjamas in the back of her family's station wagon at a drive-in theatre in Fernie, B.C.

"I remember the ham costume running through the terrifying darkness. It was a long time before I got to the book, and realized how skillful and deep-rooted and generous it is."

That said, she probably won't read "Go Set a Watchman," added Endicott, noting she wouldn't want anyone reading her first drafts.

"I expect the book will demonstrate that when we rewrite, it gets better," said Endicott.

"I haven't read 'GSAW' yet, but it sounds like a classic first draft — the pouring out of a sudden epiphany of rage and disappointment, a young woman's experience and memory and understanding all flashing into a great NO!

"That's what rewriting is for: to go beneath the anger and self-righteousness of a first draft, to push deeper beyond petulance and force yourself to find out what the truth is."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2015
The Canadian Press

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