Archive for June, 2018

bookmark: go set a watchman

Go Set a Watchman: A Novel – by Harper Lee

I recall that there was some controversy when this book was published, but I was not particularly interested in reading it, so paid little attention to it. I recently received an email offering books that I might be interested in, and it included Go Set a Watchman. Ready for a bit of fiction after reading a biography of Jim Henson, I decided to check the book out of the library. It was definitely worth it.

The first thing I was struck with, and I even commented upon this to my wife, was the easiness I felt reading the book. For some reason, I just felt very comfortable with the author’s style. Now, part of the controversy of this book is that it is supposedly the first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird. It may read as such, but Ms. Lee’s style is, to me, easy to read and if I were the publisher first receiving this novel, I would definitely have followed up on it, too.

I think that I have read To Kill a Mockingbird, but I don’t have it on the list of books I have read, and having previewed a bit of it, I don’t recall the passages I read at all (though I have, of course, seen the movie). It is on my list of books to read (again?) now, so that I can compare it to Go Set a Watchman.

I felt that Go Set a Watchman was an insightful bit of cultural history. It has always been hard for me to understand how this country was established as a “free” country when slavery was allowed to continue. I know not all people at the time supported slavery, but that it wasn’t disallowed by our very constitution has always seemed to have been a great lapse of principle.

Still, slavery existed, and even the Civil War did not, and could not, entirely eliminate the idea of the negro as an inferior race from all minds. This story illustrates the mental gymnastics that some people had to perform to be able to support their views of black people at the time. It is interesting how strongly those mental gymnastics resemble the attitudes of those in government today who still maintain that blacks (and, for that matter, native Americans) are incapable of taking care of themselves and must have “protected” status conferred on them by the government.

This book was enlightening to me as it presented a time, place and culture with which I have had no personal experience. While it certainly needed refinement to achieve a final product, I think the novel has merits of its own. It serves as an expansion of some of the ideas expressed in To Kill a Mockingbird. I recommend it as a way to broaden your understanding of the racial tensions that existed, and still exist, in our country.

Finished 6/29/18

Jim Henson: The Biography – by Brian Jay Jones

I have always admired Jim Henson. He always seemed to be a person who was doing what he enjoyed doing, and making a living at it. This biography of Mr. Henson supports that assessment.

I, like much of the world, was shocked when Jim Henson died suddenly in 1990 at the age of 53. I was one with the millions who said that he died much too young, and knew that the world was diminished by his passing.

Many people decry the constant barrage of advertisements one receives through the multitudes of avenues available to marketers today, but I am always happy to be exposed to books which I have not read, and often not even aware of. Such was this biography of Jim Henson. After admiring his work for so long, I thought it was time to read about his actual life, and an interesting life it was.

I have always admired people who find their path and pursue it to the end. I am not one of those people, so perhaps there is a bit of envy of those who have that capability. Jim Henson had it in spades. As much as I admire that quality, this book also reveals that there is a cost for that quality, and that no individual is flawless. Still, other than dying young, Henson’s life on the whole had more fun and excitement in it than I will ever have in my more extended lifetime.

While revealing Jim’s quirks and personal idiosyncrasies, this book was not a critique of his life as much as a report of it. It did nothing to diminish my respect for Jim Henson. The only criticism I have of the book is perhaps that it is too detailed, but I guess if you want a complete biography, it is hard to leave out anything out.

I suppose biographies are not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you, like me, find value in the insights into the people you admire or who have affected the course of human kind, then this book may be for you, too.

Finished 6/12/18