I've had several reading surprises this week:
--I finally got around to reading Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman. In ways, I liked it better than To Kill a Mockingbird. It's not as unsophisticated as I thought it might be, and when Jean Louise, grown up Scout, offers a passionate defense of states' rights, I was impressed with the nuance. I don't feel as betrayed by the discovery that Atticus is not as progressive on the subject of race as we might have thought. In fact, he reminds me of my maternal grandfather, a Lutheran minister who served in South Carolina during the contentious time depicted in this novel. Like Atticus, he had strong notions of justice, even if he didn't live them as fully as I might have hoped. The novel could have done more to explore how Scout continues on with that knowledge, but we see her in the early stages of discovery.
--More on what I mean by that last sentence: I'd like to see Scout/Jean Louise at midlife, when all of these issues which are presented in such starkness in Go Set a Watchman, may seem murkier. But that would be a different book.
--I'd still like an answer to one of the modern mysteries of writers: why did Harper Lee stop writing? When she dies, will we find a stash of unpublished manuscripts?
--One of the aspects of the book that gets lost in the furor over the depiction of the aged Atticus is the gender issues--Jean Louise is also trying to figure out how to live her life in a world that gives her very few options. And there are class issues too--what separates white trash from the upper class from the negro?
--I also read this compelling piece, the only essay ever to convince me that we should make the first 2 years of college free and just be done with it. I have thought that we should make students pay something, a small something, just so they're invested. Researcher Sara Goldrick-Rab calls the current financial aid system both unwieldy and meager, and she uses the word betrayal when describing the outcome: "From the student's eyes, it's like you bought a Groupon that when you read it you got the impression it paid for 75 percent of whatever you were buying. You went to a nice restaurant you would never go to. And once you ate dinner you find out it only pays for 30 percent."
--Collin Kelley has decided to be more intentional in using social media to release poetry. In this blog post, he explains: "The question I kept asking myself is how many publication credits are enough? Over the last 20+ years, I've had poetry published in countless journals, magazines and online. Without a doubt, most people have discovered my work thanks to the Internet. I've grown accustomed to waiting weeks, months and longer for new work to appear in journals, but there is some work I want to put out right now. I don't want to wait."
--I read Jeannine Hall Gailey's latest collection of poems, Field Guide to the End of the World. It was a delight in ways that are surprising and what I've come to expect from this talented poet. I'm posting a more detailed review of this book on Thursday--stay tuned!