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4.8.15

À mon chevet: 'Go Set a Watchman'

À mon chevet is a series of posts featuring a quote from whatever book is on my nightstand at the moment.

book cover
Mr. Stone had pronounced the benediction and was on his way to the front door when she went down the aisle to corner Herbert, who had remained behind to shut the windows. Dr. Finch was faster on the draw:

"--shouldn't sing it like that, Herbert," he was saying. "We are Methodists after all, D.V."

"Don't look at me, Dr. Finch." Herbert threw up his hands as if to ward off whatever was coming. "It's the way they told us to sing it at Camp Charles Wesley."

"You aren't going to take something like that lying down, are you? Who told you to do that?" Dr. Finch screwed up his under lip until it was almost invisible and released it with a snap.

"The music instructor. He taught a course in what was wrong with Southern church music. He was from New Jersey," said Herbert. [...] "He said we might as well be singing 'Stick your snout under the spout where the Gospel comes out' as most of the hymns we sing. Said they ought to ban Fanny Crosby by church law and that Rock of Ages was an abomination unto the Lord."

"Indeed?"

"He said we ought to pep up the Doxology."

"Pep it up? How?"

"Like we sang it today."

Dr. Finch sat down in the front pew. He slung his arm across the back and moved his fingers meditatively. He looked up at Herbert.

"Apparently," he said, "apparently our brethren in the Northland are not content merely with the Supreme Court's activities. They are now trying to change our hymns on us."

-- Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman, pp. 96-97
Anyone who had written a debut novel as good as To Kill a Mockingbird would be understandably reticent to try to follow it up with anything else. It took over fifty years, but Harper Lee did it. This book is a sort of companion volume to her first novel, involving the return of Scout to Maycomb, as an adult in the 1960s. If you enjoyed the characters and setting of Mockingbird, this book adds some dimensions to them; indeed it duplicates a few passages verbatim. On its own merits, it is not a great book.

The best fleshing out is in Scout's uncle, Dr. Finch, shown here as he dresses down the music director at the Finches' Methodist church, who has ordered the organist to play the Doxology ("Old 100th") with a different rhythm than how the congregation has always sung it. Dr. Finch has an inordinate love for English literature, which seems to have had a literary influence on Scout. At one point, Scout cuts her father's lawn with the lawnmower: "She glanced with satisfaction at the neat swath behind her. The grass lay crisply cut and smelled like a creek bank. The course of English Literature would have been decidedly different had Mr. Wordsworth owned a power mower, she thought."

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