Was Atticus Finch Really Not Gregory Peck?

9780446310789_p0_v6_s192x300Like many who grew up analyzing To Kill A mockingbird in English class, and mesmerized by the9780062409850_p0_v9_s118x184 famous movie with Gregory Peck, my impressions of Atticus Finch had him as a tolerant man who was also the icon for fairness and justice in a disparate legal system.  Nelle Harper Lee’s novel, Go Set A Watchman, attracted my interest when it was first discovered, but I had not thought much about it until I read the article this morning in the New York Times – Amid Shock, Readers Also find Reality in Bigoted Atticus Finch.

What?  Atticus Finch a bigot?  Could editing of a first draft from a first-time author really have changed the character so much to produce the revered lawyer in To Kill A Mockingbird?

By now, most readers have heard of Harper Lee’s rewrite, at the suggestion of her editor, transforming her original book to the now famous coming-of-age story with Scout and her father Atticus Finch.  In interviews, the eighty-eight year-old – now living back in her Alabama hometown, after years in New York City – claims she “did as she was told,” and rewrote the story into the classic known today as To Kill A Mockingbird.

I had not intended to read Go Set A Watchman.  Most first novels, especially first drafts, are often not as good as the author’s later work.  The initial controversy over the authorship stirred my interest, but I wondered if the spin was just another publicity ploy, meant to increase sales of the newly discovered book.  Oprah Winfrey recalled from her informal discussion with Lee (Oprah was never able to convince Lee to submit to an on air interview):

“One of the things that struck me: she {Lee} said, ‘If I had a dime for every book that was sold…” And I {Oprah} was thinking, “I hope you have more than a dime, because nobody expected this.’ “

Was this about the money?

Interestingly, Lee, who worked with her friend Truman Capote on research for In Cold Blood, has not written another book (that we know of) since the Pulitzer prize-winning novel was published. A self-described recluse, Lee has worked on another non-fiction book  about an Alabama serial killer, which had the working title “The Reverend” – maybe that book will be next to be “discovered” and published.

Megan Garber in her article – Harper Lee – The Sadness of a Sequel  – for the Atlantic said:

“All we will have, in the end, is a book, a thing that will raise as many questions as it answers. And, for better or for worse, that is probably just how Harper Lee—Nelle to the small collection of people who really know her—would prefer things.”

Guess I’ll read the book after all and decide for myself, but not soon – I am 258 on the library reserve list.

Do you plan to read Go Set A Watchman?  What do you think about it?

Bob Greene’s 20 Years Younger

After hearing Jennifer Hudson sing her ballad to Weight Watchers and Marie Osmond smiling her way through Nutrisystem, both in stiletto heels and svelte skin-hugging outfits, the not so subliminal message is clear – especially when the same commercial is broadcast three times in five minutes. Dieting is pervasive, and from the marketing standpoint, the only way to happiness. In his latest book, 20 Years Younger, the youthful looking Bob Greene touts four pillars of health – but diet is not the focus.

Offering no big surprises or magic pills, Greene suggests common sense – what we all know to do – move, eat well, get some sleep, and stay out of the sun – his four pillars for the good life. Greene adds a chapter on “Recapturing Your Skin’s Youth,” that most diet-health books ignore. Although his system of “polish-cleanse-nourish” is not unique, it’s a good reminder to not neglect your skin.

No one wants to age, but Greene has a chapter on “The Art of Aging Gracefully,” which boils down to – change your attitude; join groups; make friends, some younger, so they won’t drop off before you do. The last chapter offers a “Meal Plan and Recipes” – the Acai popsicle looks like a good alternative to the pricey bowl you can buy at a juice bar, but most of the offerings are standard fare – baked apple, zucchini cake, baked penne with shrimp. Greene ends with a daily timetable, recommending a routine from 7:00 a.m. wake-up to 11:00 p.m. sleep that might be appealing to anyone who needs to be told how to get through the day.

With scientific studies supporting his recommendations, charts to tell you activity levels and serving amounts, even diagrams to demonstrate easy alternative exercises, Green covers the spectrum of health. You could skip the narrative, skim the headings and concentrate on the charts and pictures – a book to borrow from the library, not one to buy.

Even Oprah Knows April is Poetry Month

What does it take to appreciate poetry? An English professor who inspires? Experiences in angst, joy, love, sorrow? According to Oprah, a sense of fashion helps.

In his New York Times essay, O! Poetry David Orr takes on the diva with an irreverent reaction to the feature article, “Spring Fashion Modeled by Rising Young Poets” in the April issue of O: the Oprah Magazine.

Orr, who writes poetry and has a new poetry appreciation book just out, sounds a little snobby when he criticizes O’s picks for critiques on rhyme – Ashton Kutcher, Bono, Maria Shriver. Everyone knows that you don’t have to know what you’re talking about to be an expert.

Orr reminds us that…

“any critic knows there are dozens of poetry collections…less culturally valuable than Winfrey’s many enterprises and that could only be improved by pencil skirts, preferably by being wrapped in several of them and chucked in the East River.”

Although you may not always agree with her literary tastes, Oprah used her influence to create readers with her book picks. Now, more will read poetry – and have a reason to shop.

What does one wear while reading Shakespeare or Yeats? Not to worry; they did not make Oprah’s list of poets to read.