BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - On the eve of the public release of "Go Set a Watchman" by Harper Lee, the much-heralded sequel to "To Kill a Mockingbird," Barnes and Noble Citiplace in Baton Rouge held a marathon reading of the beloved classic already in everyone's hands.
I had signed up to read between 2 and 2:30 p.m. and climbed out of my steamy car into the air conditioning of the bookstore. As I approached the public reading area, Barnes and Noble had placed one of its comfy leather chairs for the reader to sit in. Somehow, the pretty large gathering of listeners were all gone as I held the paperback and picked up the reading mid-page from the previous reader.
Connie Bernard, the prior reader took her book with her, because she had brought her own. Bernard said she had found the book with its original book jacket at a garage sale for 25 cents and more recently found the year of its publishing online and discovered it's worth almost $400!
"It's an unexpected treasure," she said.
I picked up the reading and joined the story in time for one of my favorite scenes. It's when Tom Robinson, the black man facing trial, has been transferred to the Maycomb jail house. Atticus, the hero lawyer in the story, is sitting outside the jailhouse because he expects a lynch mob, and sure enough one appears. Atticus's daughter, Jean Louise, better known as "Scout," charms the pants off the angry white men, and they go away. Basically she reminds them of how well they know each other and they cease to be an angry mob.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you our family dog at home is named "Scout."
Well I get the reading crowd through that close call and then it's time to give up my seat. I have some regrets because I know the story so well, I want to read more. But Andre Augustus had shown up early and he took over.
I thanked Patricia Kisamore with Barnes and Noble for including me in the festivities. She told me they plan to open at 7 a.m. Tuesday, July 13 to accommodate anyone who wants to pick up their "Go Set A Watchman" before heading to work.
She said Warren Drake, the new East Baton Rouge school superintendent had come in earlier in the day and read "Mockingbird." I convinced her to show me the list of 18 people who took part in the marathon reading. It's possible that Kisamore has sat through all the readers.
I asked her what does a chain of readers add to the listening?
"It's very interesting to hear different inflections and different accents. Some people are a little more Southern, and it adds a little more realism to it," Kisamore said. "We've had a lot of different readers today. It's all very interesting."
I whispered when I asked her about what I've read in book reviews about "Go Set a Watchman." That it takes place when Scout is older and Atticus, her father, is a racist. We will learn in the sequel that her father took the Tom Robinson case because the court forced him to and because of the letter of the law, he fought hard for Tom Robinson's innocence. It could tarnish one of the heroes of Great American literature.
"Are you giving anyone a warning about the sequel?" I whispered to Kisamore.
"No." she answers. "They'll have to decide for themselves."