Ursula LeGuin on Go Set a Watchman

“Jean Louise Finch always made this journey by air…”

To_Kill_a_MockingbirdLet me be clear. I am one of those who fell in love years ago with To Kill a Mockingbird. I read the 1960 edition about ten years after its publication. I wore it to shreds from reading and rereading. And then I saw the movie. From faraway India, a land racked by its own history of inequity and communal conflicts, it seemed to me that Gregory Peck and Atticus Finch were one and the same and neither could do any wrong. And young Scout was me! I hid secret messages in the knotholes of trees. I eavesdropped on grownups. I wondered about justice in the world. Who else could she be?

Now I’m several decades older and have had to learn to live with the complexities of human existence, the many shadings between right and wrong, the tussle between loyalty and truth and above all the uselessness of self-righteousness. This week, I’m reading Harper Lee’s old/new book and it’s making me think about the role that fiction can play in society and how much nostalgia can blind us. I love this post from another of my favorite writers on the questions the new book raises and above all on the tragedy of a gifted writer’s lifelong silence.