Monday, July 20, 2015

Go Set A Watchman is right up there with Fifty Shades of Grey

In HarperCollins’s press release of Go Set A Watchman, Michael Morrison states, “…that in lines that manage to be both tautological and cliché-sodden, that ‘Watchman’ is a ‘brilliant book’ and a ‘masterpiece’ that will be ‘revered for generations to come.’ Jonathan Burnham, Senior Vice President and publisher of Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins believes that ‘Watchman’ “is a remarkable literary event,” although he obviously means publishing event: big difference.

And isn’t this also true of Fifty Shades of Grey, that it was a tautological and cliché-sodden publishing event? The novel by E.L.James was first self-published on Kindle and reviewed mostly on Goodreads where it went viral on social media and garnered a phenomenally high average rating and sold ten million copies in the first six weeks. The novel placed second in the Best Romance Award in the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards. A year later, Vintage Books a part of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group and a subsidiary of Random House, won the publishing rights in a bidding war. The war didn’t seem to be about great literature as much as financial gains. To date Fifty Shades has sold over 100 million copies and remained on the New York Times Best Seller List for 100 weeks as of February 2014.

  Yes, I did what I said I’d never do. I read Fifty Shades—well, I actually skimmed it. Both books (Go Set A Watchman and Fifty Shades of Grey) apparently read like comic books, Fifty Shades surely does but I must admit that I only read the first chapter of Watchman and am basing my opinion on the hundreds of articles and reviews online.

The premise of Fifty Shades of Grey is a coming of age erotic romance between Anastasia Steele, an innocent /naïve young woman, and Christian Grey, a psychologically injured young billionaire who are unable to give the other what they need. Anastasia wants to love and be loved while Christian needs to inflict sexual pain on submissive women (BDSM). Anastasia wants to help Christian recover from a childhood trauma yet the story is shallow. Can you imagine what a gifted writer or an insightful publisher could do to make this story worthy of say, a Pulitzer Prize?

The shallow story holds true for Harper Lee’s original manuscript of To Kill A Mockingbird. Fortunately, Tay Hohoff encouraged Lee to turn a rough draft into a beloved masterpiece. Go Set A Watchman, that rough draft, should never havebeen printed. An astute editor could have at least changed the name of the girl, the name of the father, the name of the town, and the name of the accused defendant. Then all we’d have to worry about would be the bad grammar and not the fall of one of American’s greatest literary heroes.

An Amazon review of Go Set A Watchman by VANESSA, titled I WISH I HADN’T READ IT on July 14, 2015states, “GSAW is just not a very good book. This book can only be of interest to writers and literary scholars as it illustrates how a very poor first draft can be reworked to become a masterpiece.”

An Amazon review of Fifty Shades of Grey by meymoon, titled, DID A TEENAGER WRITE THIS? on April 15, 2012 stated: “Then there’s the writing. If you take out the parts where the female character is blushing or chewing her lips, the book will be down to about 50 pages. Almost on every single page, there is a whole section devoted to her blushing, chewing her lips, or wondering, “Jeez” about something or another.”

As for Go Set A Watchman, William Giraldi stated that, "Ponderous and lurching, haltingly confected, the novel plods along in search of plot, tranquilizes you with vast fallow patches, with deadening dead zones, with onslaughts of cliché and dialogue made of pamphleteering monologue or else eye-rolling chit-chat. You are confronted by entire pages of her Uncle Jack's oracular babble, and you must machete through the bracken of listless, throw-away prose in order to get a memorable turn of phrase. 'Jean Louise smiled to herself' and 'Jean Louise laughed aloud' and then 'Jean Louise shook her head' before 'Jean Louise's eyebrows flickered.' Someone has 'green envy' and someone else 'worked night and day,' while someone 'dropped dead in his tracks' and someone was 'bored stiff.'

"For once, none of those flaws in the novel can be blamed on the author. She was learning how to write when she composed Watchman and wasn't able to ready this draft to publication. In the two and a half years it took her to turn this mess into To Kill A mockingbird, she evolved beautifully as a stylist and storyteller, helped along by an astute editor." 

I'll end my rant with one more Amazon review. A TESTAMENT TO THE POWER OF A GOOD EDITOR by RosieDee753 on July 14, 2015: "The short version of this review is, if nothing else, Go Set A Watchman, especially compared to the brilliance of, To Kill A Mockingbird, is a testament to the power of a good editor."

And to that I say, "Amen!"


  1. Amen. Thanks for sharing, Shelia.

  2. You're welcome Judy and Charmaine. Thanks for visiting!

  3. Amen is right. Nothing is worse than bad writing. I guess some people don't care?

    1. Too true, Marianne. For every 15 or 16 articles (or reviews) panning the writing of both 'Watchman' and 'Fifty Shades' there is one able to read through the bad writing and find something to love! Sad that 'Fifty Shades' made the author a billionaire...guess that's better than a Pulitzer in most minds. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.

  4. I just started and it does seem choppy! The book doesn't flow right.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Ginger! Someday, I'll read it for myself but I'm just not ready.