My comments on “Go Set a Watchman” come from a place of near-total ignorance of the text itself. I read the reviews and the first chapter online, and that’s it. So that’s your serving of salt grains with this, and here goes:
The only reason to read this book is as a case study in the power of a good editor. It’s not a lesson every reader wants to learn, or even cares about. Of all the movie fans in the world, how many want to learn about depth of field, how different lenses and film stocks work, the director’s art, or the color timer’s? They just want to enjoy the story unfolding in the dark. But in the case of these two books, all the evidence points to a single truth: This publication is an object lesson in the need for rock-solid estate planning and the need to appoint trustworthy guardians who will carry out your wishes, wishes you express when you still have the vigor to do so.
So when I hear Jeff say that lots of older people grow rigid and crabbed in their beliefs, and this is not a ridiculous turn of events for Atticus Finch, it makes me sad. Of course it’s true. But the Atticus of Watchman is not the same man of Mockingbird, for a very good reason: He’s a fictional character, and in her rewrite, Lee essentially crumpled up the paper she was sketching him on and started from scratch. Just because he has the same name doesn’t make him the same person, because he isn’t a person at all.
Although I will admit chuckling over a tweet I saw earlier today (and didn’t note the provenance of, sorry) something about of course Atticus is a bitter old racist 20 years after Mockingbird, because he’s been watching Fox News.
Speaking of estate planning… or rather, not speaking of it, because this story has nothing to do with it. Rather, it’s one of those stories we should all read from time to time, because it drives home just what real poverty is, how many poor families live in Detroit. And everywhere:
Oscar Edwards was born mentally disabled. He’s gentle, speaks only to his family and has the mind of a child.
For his whole life, the 68-year-old has had relatives taking care of him — feeding him, bathing him, keeping him company. And for most of that life he’s lived in an old house on Petoskey Street on the city’s west side; first with his parents, who died long ago, then with his two brothers, who both passed away recently.
Now, the house is falling apart. The warm air inside reeks of mold. The ceiling in his bedroom collapsed. The repair estimates are skyrocketing. And nobody in the family has any money to fix any of it.
So the family set up a GoFundMe site, hoping to raise enough money to make the repairs. It included a video of the interior of the house. Which is not pretty:
Evans was invited on an AM talk radio show, where the host called her a scammer and urged listeners to report the family to the state. A local TV station did a couple of stories about Uncle Oscar, and viewers posted comments online accusing the family of being negligent. A racist website stumbled on the fund-raising page and posted an unflattering photo of Uncle Oscar and mocked him and the family.
“They called us ‘silverbacks’ and ‘gorillas,’ things like that,” Evans said.
The family sought $30,000 in donations. In three months only $2,787 came in.
Another great, nuanced look by John Carlisle.
Now, back to reading the scariest article I’ve read in a long damn while. I bid farewell to our readers in Seattle, Portland and other places in the Pacific Northwest, should the big one, or the really big one, hit before we speak again.