All Along The Watchtower

The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass through; so it cometh from the desert, from a terrible land. 
A grievous vision is declared unto me; the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, and the spoiler spoileth. Go up, O Elam: besiege, O Media; all the sighing thereof have I made to cease. 
Therefore are my loins filled with pain: pangs have taken hold upon me, as the pangs of a woman that travaileth: I was bowed down at the hearing of it; I was dismayed at the seeing of it. 
My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me. 
Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield. 
For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.
— Isaiah 21:1-6 KJV


According to Amazon.com, the book I pre-ordered months ago is set to be on my doorstep July 14, 2015. I’m like a kid on Christmas morning. The anticipation is higher than in the days leading up to a new season of Downton Abbey.

The book is Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee. It is a manuscript reportedly written years ago, even before To Kill A Mockingbird, but unpublished until now. I’ve tried not to read too much of the advance speculation about the book, wanting to savor it on my own. But, I do know that it is written in the voice of Scout (probably my all-time favorite literary character) from the story To Kill A Mockingbird (probably my all-time favorite literary work).

If you haven’t read the book, maybe you’ve seen the movie. If not, stop what you’re doing and read it and watch it now. It may be more timely and important today than the day Ms. Lee wrote it.

Speaking of the South, moral dilemmas, justice, judgements, history, politics, traditions, and the like; you know how the adults in the Charlie Brown TV specials talk? Well, I was listening to Neil Young’s “Southern Man” song the other day, you know the one that starts:

Southern man
better keep your head
Don’t forget
what your good book said

For years I had listened to the song and heard this arrangement: Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Verse.

Today I heard it differently. I think it goes (and Neil, if I’m mistaken, give me a call and let’s talk it through):
Chorus, Verse, Verse in a Charlie Brown adult voice
Chorus, Verse, Verse in a Charlie Brown adult voice

I don’t know what the Charlie Brown adult voice is saying, but I’m imagining it is answering Neil’s question at the end of each verse: “How long, how long?”

[DISCLAIMER: It’s not actually a Charlie Brown adult voice. It’s actually a Neil Young guitar solo. But I’m confident he’s playing it as if to say something. But what?]

Maybe the voice is saying… “A grievous vision is declared unto me; the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, and the spoiler spoileth… Therefore are my loins filled with pain: pangs have taken hold upon me, as the pangs of a woman that travaileth: I was bowed down at the hearing of it; I was dismayed at the seeing of it… Go, set a watchman!”

Back to Monroeville, Alabama, home of the very reclusive Harper Lee. Big celebrations are planned in town for the release of this new (old) book. Apparently Ms. Lee who lives in an assisted living center in Monroeville is sort of cranky and not expected to make any public appearance whatsoever. 

“Charming second-hand anecdotes about Lee circulate through the town. A HarperCollins employee told the story of how Lee was given a mock-up of the forthcoming book’s cover earlier this year. ‘She (Ms. Lee) looked at it and said, “There should be no comma after the word ‘Go’.” It was then pointed out to her by one of the editors that in the King James Version of Isaiah 21:6 there is a comma.” Lee responded, ‘That’s the Lord’s Book. This is my book. And there is no comma.’ 

“In To Kill A Mockingbird, Scout remarks of a tea party: ‘Ladies in bunches always filled me with vague apprehension and a firm desire to be elsewhere,’ — and the feeling in town is a little like that tea party, according to local Crissy Nettles, ‘Everyone from here who has ever met Miss Lee is sure she won’t be in the public eye.’” (LA Times)

I’m wondering if, in this new book, Scout and Neil Young might meet, maybe in a coffee shop in Monroeville. Neil would say, “Scout, you’re a Watchperson, aren’t you?” And Scout would reply, “I hope so Neil. Atticus certainly was. I hope both of us are.”

By the way, and speaking of coffee shops, there’s a great little place I know of that would be the perfect setting to meet and talk about these two Harper Lee books, once we’ve all read them. Let me know if you would be interested in that.

 POPS AND KARLEE PLAYING SOME BACKGAMMON IN A COFFEE JOINT PERFECT FOR A BOOK DISCUSSION

POPS AND KARLEE PLAYING SOME BACKGAMMON IN A COFFEE JOINT PERFECT FOR A BOOK DISCUSSION