Critical Linking for July 14th, 2015: Harper Lee Edition

A special Harper Lee-themed Critical Linking today as Book Riot celebrates Harper Lee with a whole day of posts dedicated to her and her work. Check out the full line-up here.

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If you haven’t ever read To Kill a Mockingbird, it goes without saying that you should drop whatever you’re doing and sit down with a copy, now. And if you have read it? Go back to it again. You’ll discover things you missed the first time, and your experience of reading Go Set a Watchman will be all the richer for it.

Of these Seven Things You’ll Discover While Re-Reading To Kill a Mockingbird, it is indeed Lee’s sense of humor that jumps out.

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In an op-ed piece in today’s Wall Street Journal (which you can only read, in full, if you have a subscription), Tonja Carter, Lee’s attorney, defends herself, sets the record straight (or makes it even more meandering than it has been), and reveals the bombshell that there might be yet another manuscript out there, a third book that bridges the gap between “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Go Set a Watchman” (which pubs tomorrow).

A second previously unknown manuscript? Setting the carousel spinning again….

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What better time to revisit the lessons and impressions of To Kill a Mockingbird than while we wait for Harper Lee’s new novel, Go Set a Watchman – coming out this Tuesday, in case you missed it. Here is a selection of our readers’ memories and stories about the classic – you can see them all, and contribute your own, here.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about To Kill a Mockingbird‘s popularity is that most readers have a story about reading To Kill a Mockingbird

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At Lippincott, the novel fell into the hands of Therese von Hohoff Torrey — known professionally as Tay Hohoff — a small, wiry veteran editor in her late 50s. Ms. Hohoff was impressed. “[T]he spark of the true writer flashed in every line,” she would later recount in a corporate history of Lippincott.

Great profile of Harper Lee’s first editor, of whom I think we will all think well of after reading Go Set a Watchman.

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After the initial shock, some writers and literary critics see added value in a more complex, and flawed, version of Atticus. If “Mockingbird” sugarcoats racial divisions by depicting a white man as the model for justice in an unjust world, then “Watchman” may be like bitter medicine that more accurately reflects the times.

As I set here waiting for my copy to arrive, I am holding onto the hope that this might be true for me.

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If Finch were a civil-rights hero, he would be brimming with rage at the unjust verdict. But he isn’t. He’s not Thurgood Marshall looking for racial salvation through the law. He’s Jim Folsom, looking for racial salvation through hearts and minds.

It also seems that the moment is ripe to see the original Atticus with clear eyes as well.

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And herein lies the paradox at the heart of “Watchman” that many white Americans still cannot or will not comprehend: that one can at once believe in the ideal of “justice for all” — as Atticus once purported to — and yet maintain a deeply ingrained and unexamined notion of racial difference now based in culture as opposed to biology, a milder yet novel version of white supremacy manifest in, for example, racial profiling, unfair and predatory lending practices, disparate incarceration rates, residential and school segregation, discriminatory employment practices and medical racism.

This Washington Post review is the most thoughtful of the early reviews of Go Set a Watchman. 

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