I would rather be a disembodied head pulsing my lonely into the void than swipe right on this book.
I would rather be a disembodied head pulsing my loneliness into the void than swipe right on this book. Kelly O

I just finished writing my Big Serious Piece that Earnestly Engages With Themes in Go Set a Watchman, which will come out in a day or two, but, in the meantime, I have to get this off my chest. Last week I wrote with some level of passion about the first chapter of the Harper Lee book. I believe I described the first chapter excerpted in The Guardian as “so fucking good.” I still think the first chapter is great. As for the next 18 chapters…

…Are you going to eat all that crow or do you want me to finish it?

After reading Go Set a Watchman, I walked around all day trying not to feel the one thing that I was feeling: It's a big, blue, $30 trap. The confusions and disappointments it stirs within me so outnumber the joys that I wish it would have stayed in that damn safety deposit box/coffin in Alabama.

While I was trying to figure out what to say about it, I called up a friend to ask how her day was going. She claimed to have recently returned from the World’s Most Boring Tinder Date. As she told me her story, I couldn’t help but notice the parallels, beat for beat, between my experience of reading GSAW and her boring date.

My friend said about her Tinder date: “I spent an hour thinking I was going to cancel but I went anyway because I wanted to become a person who says ‘yes’ to things.”

All the warning signs were there. Reports said GSAW was a first draft. It was being published without an editor crossing out a single comma. Lee may or may not have been pushed into publication by people with who-knows-what motivations. But To Kill a Mockingbird was an act of genius (as I reconfirmed right before reading GSAW). GSAW would at least have some virtues, too, right?

My friend said about her Tinder date: “I met the guy and he looked the same as he looked in his profile photo, which is promising…”

Most of the good things about GSAW are in that first chapter. Jean Louise’s (aka Scout’s) back-and-forth with her maybe-suitor Hank contained a spark of Lee’s brilliant guile. Here's a line that made me smile: “Hank, I agree with everything you said. You are the most perspicacious individual I’ve met in years, you are six feet five, and may I light your cigarette?” That's some mighty fine mocking. Subtle, tonally perfect, biting, and yet somehow inviting: You'd only be like that with someone you basically love and trust. Ten more moments like that, I thought, and this book might be a classic.

My friend said about her Tinder date: “His attractiveness began to wobble when he wouldn’t stop talking about gentrification.”

As in Seattle, so in Maycomb, the fictional town in which the book is set. After the first chapter, the narrator spends 80 pages huffing about the changes in her old neighborhood. Woe is me my old home is an ice cream shop run by a semi-distant relative of mine because we’re an incestuous people. Wah, I want to live in the past exactly as it was but without the bad parts.

My friend said about her Tinder date: “In an attempt to save the date, he started trying for these grand pronouncements that didn’t make any sense.”

Lee does this a lot too. Take the beginning of Chapter 9: “Integrity, humor, and patience were the three words for Atticus Finch.” 
I wish this example represented one of only a few false notes or strings of clichéd phrases in the book, but it doesn't. There are so many.

My friend said about her Tinder date: "And then I just waited around for the date to end.”

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There were many good places for GSAW to end, but then each one just passed on by.

My friend said about her Tinder date: “And then there was the fear of the awkward hug. I imagined that the date would end with sparks, some sort of making out, but I knew it was going to end with me having to reject him and go back home, too early to just go to bed, but too late to commiserate with a friend about it.”

I didn’t want to not like GSAW. I wanted to go on several more reading dates with it, to live with it as long as I lived. But now all I can do is hope that the Watchman forgets my number.