Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’ sets record

16 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Data Miners Dig for Answers About Harper Lee, Truman Capote and ‘Go Set a Watchman’.

Harper Lee’s much-anticipated second novel, “Go Set a Watchman,” has set a first-day sales record at Barnes & Noble and is the nation’s top selling book on Amazon.com. Is it strange that the book we primarily use to teach about race is a novel by a white woman, from the perspective of a young white girl who is in awe of her heroic white father? The book has generated outsized attention for a novel as it is the first from Lee since 1960’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ a Pulitzer Prize winning novel that is considered a classic piece of American literature. The findings, which attempt to shed light on a book that has sparked world-wide attention by an author who has famously declined to discuss her work, show Lee as the undisputed author of both novels but suggest that her style as a writer was more consistent in “Watchman” than “Mockingbird.” “‘Watchman’ is more her than ‘Mockingbird’ is,” said Jan Rybicki, who with fellow literature scholar Maciej Eder studied the texts and wrote up their analysis for The Wall Street Journal. The retailer didn’t release the number of books sold, but a spokeswoman said the record tally includes digital sales and preorders paid for before July 14, when it went on sale.

Earlier in the evening, she had noted that people of color don’t have the luxury of being able to forget about issues of race – that, from birth, they’re confronted with those issues on a daily basis. In the new book, Atticus Finch, a much revered lawyer and father figure in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” is portrayed as a segregationist, a revelation that sparked outrage and contributed to the intrigue surrounding the novel when initial reviews were published last week. She voiced a merited criticism that To Kill a Mockingbird doesn’t provide insight into the African-American experience and it shouldn’t be taught as such. Their creative interplay continued into adulthood: Lee, a research assistant for Capote’s book “In Cold Blood,” modeled the character of Dill in “Mockingbird” after Capote.

The researchers used a computer program to tally the frequency of common words—“the,” “a,” “he,” “she”—and other “function” words that they said typically make up 50% of a novel. Both Lee and Capote sent out clear signals of authorship based on how often they used such words—a result that scholars in the growing field of digital humanities have found with other novelists, too.

Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” “Mockingbird” sales have seen a jolt since February, when the news of the second novel based on characters that were featured in that original work was first announced. Atticus Finch has a wonderful piece of advice for his daughter:” you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.” This novel is about accepting that advice, but learning the story of Atticus and Scout isn’t the same as considering things from Tom Robinson’s point of view. HarperCollins said it printed a tad more than 2 million hardcover copies of “Watchman.” By comparison, Scholastic Corp. printed 14 million copies of J.K. Her editor, Tay Hohoff, liked the childhood flashbacks in “Watchman” and encouraged Lee to write a story about her protagonist’s childhood using many of the same characters. Sales results at children’s book publisher Scholastic SCHL -0.13% have seesawed on the past successes of the “Harry Potter” and “Hunger Games” series.

Here, near the end of the book, when Scout and her brother Jem are attacked and the racist villain Bob Ewell is killed with a kitchen knife, Lee’s writing style has more in common with Capote’s than her own, they said. Such findings make sense for a first submission, the academics said, since many authors submit manuscripts that are a raw initial account in their own voice. A comparable work by an African-American author, Roll of Thunder presents a visceral look at racism and terror in southern Mississippi from the viewpoint of a little girl.

Tyrell – A contemporary young adult novel, Tyrell is a coming of age story about a young African-American living a homeless shelter, struggling to define himself as a man. Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison attended Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute, but his novel follows an unnamed black protagonist from the South to Harlem in the 1930s. Shields describes Lee rereading a page in her typewriter again and again before throwing her entire draft out her apartment window on a cold winter night in Manhattan.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Beloved writer and poet Maya Angelou, shares the challenges of growing up as a black woman in society dominated by white males, chronicling her journey from a place of insecurity to a position of strength and self-possession. Between the World and Me – As luck would have it, the launch day of Go Set a Watchman also saw the launch of a new work by Ta-Nehisi Coates, one of the country’s most celebrated columnists on race relations. Using the framework of advice to his son, Coates explores the history and legacy of slavery, segregation, incarceration and poverty through a deeply personal lens.

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