Flashback: Pre-Release Thoughts on Go Set a Watchman

Two years ago, we were all hyped-up about the release of Go Set a Watchman — I just stumbled onto something I wrote just before the release and got to thinking about the book. I was — and remain — very mixed about it. There are some people who’ve refused to read it because of the way it was released — and I sort of wish I was one of those. But my greed for more Harper Lee got the better of me.

Anyway, I was too busy to come up with anything fresh, so I thought I’d take another look at this, see if anyone else had some memories about this (then) much-anticipated release?

Go Set a WatchmanDoing my weekly grocery shopping today, I noticed that some eager-beaver stockperson had put out Go Set a Watchman already. Now, I don’t normally buy food and books at the same place — but, c’mon! A day early, a few bucks off, how could I not?

Well, pretty easily, it turns out. The sales system wouldn’t let me purchase the book. It kept saying, “Do Not Sell.” The clerk tried every trick she knew, the manager who was innocently passing by only to get roped into helping her did, too. I asked, “Is it maybe because the book is being released tomorrow?” Light bulbs went off over their heads — yeah, that was it. Probably. It was as good a guess as any.

So, I thanked them for their efforts and went away with just the food I was supposed to get.

Still, having it in my cart — in my hot little hands got me thinking for a minute. More than a minute, actually. I don’t remember the last time I thought that much about a book before I actually, you know, read it. This was the literary equivalent to being a ticket holder to The Phantom Menace pre-release showing (yup, I had one, and I missed the show — don’t ask, it’s a long, embarrassing story with the punchline of me buying two sets of tickets to that letdown). As formative as the book was for me (and many), there’s just as many ways this could go wrong as…well, The Phantom Menace. Except, this time we’re all braced for it not being that good.

Right? I mean, no one expects another To Kill a Mockingbird, do they? It’s mostly a question of how big a let down is this going to be. Are we going to end up wishing that Lee had been dead for a few decades before this saw the light of day, so she wouldn’t have to witness the backlash? Or is it just going to be mildly disappointing? A “close, but no cigar” kind of thing.

But with it there in my shopping cart, I started to wonder. . . Dare I hope? Is there a chance that it’s actually good? After all of us wishing for decades that she’d put out a body of work as good/almost as good as Mockingbird, but resigned to reality — are we now going to be lamenting anew her small literary output?

I know reviews are starting to come in — I’ve managed to avoid them all so far (but it’s getting harder). I never bother with preview chapters of anything — they’re never enough. So all of this may be moot — I don’t know, and probably won’t until sometime Wednesday at this rate. But, I gotta tell ya, I’m nervous — with just a hint of eager anticipation.

What about you? Are you going to read it? Are you going to jump on it, or take a wait and see approach? Do you expect a big disappointment?

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