Category Archives: Reviews

Facing the Changing Father Figure in Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman

During the glorious summer weeks leading up to the July 14th release date of Go Set A Watchman, Harper Lee’s second novel and sequel to every 11th grader’s favorite, To Kill A Mockingbird, I’d heard everything. From admonitions from those who descried a sequel, to controversies about Ms. Lee’s mental state, there was no shortage of opinions or speculation about the relative merit and eventual  legacy of Ms. Lee’s follow-up to the coming-of-agWatchmane story of Scout, Jem, Dill (remembering these names yet?), and Boo Radley.

Thanks to my student membership in Amazon Prime (highly recommended), my crisp copy of the book arrived on release day.

I was all set to write a simple review, with a tongue-in-cheek, under-qualified “thumbs up/thumbs down” at its conclusion, but then I felt I would be doing the book a disservice in comparison to the deep cultural reactions from my friends as well as those folks covered in the press.

I wondered, perhaps even aloud, “What could I do to make my reading of the book meaningful to others?” I decided that I would take up as my audience an imagined version of my students, themselves bound to wonder if their instructors actually practice what they (t)each when it comes to doing critical reading.

They do . . .Watchman 2

The story itself features but a handful of characters, few of whom can be found in Mockingbird. I was unprepared to learn quite early on that Jem, Scout’s older brother, had dropped dead. Yes, he just dropped dead (this knowledge becomes more significant later on, but as I read it the first time I found myself writing a NSFW response in the margin of the text), so I wouldn’t be reading about a successful cannery that he and Dill incorporated, or about his exploits playing football for the Methodists.

No, this read what going to be much different from what I expected. Jem had been killed off so that we might focus more closely on Miss Jean Louise Finch, still referred to as “Scout” by family members and the other inhabitants of Maycomb, Alabama.

As I read, I made copious notes in my journal…Watchman 3

The events in Watchman take place twenty years after those of Mockingbird, although at points in the book we get brief snapshots of other time-bound events (without reference to the actual times to which the events are bound, of course). I later realized that this bit of foreshadowing allows us to better apprehend the import of Scout’s fragmented memory. It, much like the self-consciousness and conscience about which she was so proud, is not consistent. This is not really a surprise, though, since twenty years have passed.

However, what is surprising is that Scout has received a college education. The fact itself is not surprising, but as the story reaches its climax we are presented with reactions and thoughts from Scout that belie this education. This might be seized upon as a way to read the text against itself, but that paper would really belong in a different forum with an amazingly smaller readership.

The climax of which I speak is Scout’s clandestine attendance at a town meeting called to debate and discuss potential NAACP actions in Maycomb. At the same time as Scout does, we learn that Atticus Finch is not as perfect as our memories would like. One of the admonitions that stuck with me as I began the book concerned Atticus. In essence, many readers of Mockingbird did not want what their idealized father, Atticus, to be shown as anything “less than,” and they swore off reading Watchman to keep that ideal father alive. Continue reading

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Another Media Shout Out!

The Central Pen received another media shout-out on Central Penn Live‘s Cheers/Jeers Opinion section.   Here’s the blurb:

Considering the uneasy state of the printed word, now would seem the wrong time to launch a new publication. Writers at Central Penn College disagree. They are at work right now polishing up their new literary magazine The Central Pen and hope to roll their inaugural model on(to the showroom floor this fall. Curiously, small presses, micro-presses, ephemera and hand-posted screeds are everywhere and the more underground and obscure the better. A snap survey shows more than 150 small presses in English alone. With all this writing there must be reading. Nothing wrong with that.

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We couldn’t agree more!  Check out our article by Kari Larsen here.

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[Image from Penn Live]

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City Centered: A History

nmp5500If you are a new student at Central Pennsylvania College, I bet you have been told that the original campus was in downtown Harrisburg.  If you’ve been with Central Penn for a while now, that little tidbit of information has probably drilled itself into your skull through repetition and from retelling it to every person who has asked you about the college.  Have you had classes or meetings in the old room of Milano Hall that looks like it came from straight out of a 1920’s crime noire?  Maybe you’ve passed by it so many times now that you don’t even remember what side of Milano it is on.  Or maybe you are on the other end of the fulcrum and you have spent days digging up the history of the college and you practically live in old newsprint.  Wherever you fall on the issue, we are part of the same story.

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Marilyn Kallet’s 6th Poetry Collection Moves Readers Through Mountains of Emotion

{April 2013} Love in its many forms moves through Marilyn Kallet’s latest collection, The Love that Moves Me published by Black Widow Press. Love, from the sensual and romantic to the unconditional and courageous, moves freely through her narrative verses. Some, so vivid that the reader can taste and smell them, others wrapped like a gift in the mystery of surrealism.

Many of the poems in this collection stand as tribute to those that selflessly resisted the power of hate during World War II, and in her telling of their stories, she resuscitates these heroes in a world that threatens to forget them.
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