Unknown-2I managed to avoid most of the reviews of this book – a sequel (in case you didn’t know, but, of course you did), to the wonderful To Kill A Mockingbird – instead saving it as a treat to myself to be purchased at the airport and read on a sun lounger in Greece during my recent sojourn.

Of course, I wasn’t completely in the dark, I hadn’t managed to avoid the controversy that surrounded the decision to publish the novel in the first place, and the apparent transformation of the seminal character Atticus Finch from the superb liberal lawyer who, in Mockingbird, defends the young black man charged with rape with the clarion call, that ‘all men are born equal’ condemning the ‘maddog of racism that changes the humanity of a man,’ into a defender of Southern racism and the disgusting views of the Klan and all those who opposed the Civil Rights Movement.

But, despite the rumours, I had hoped that much of what I’d heard had been exaggerated. I hoped that Atticus Finch would once again take on the small minds and the bigots and that I would, in my mind, once more hear the voice of Gregory Peck speaking the wonderful words of Harper Lee.

There was no exaggeration.

In Go Set A Watchman, Atticus Finch, a character who has inspired three generations, has been changed into an apologist for the worst, most insidious racism imaginable – the type that believes undeniably in the superiority of one race over another, the type that mocks people it believes to be inferior in a way that is utterly feeble. In Mockingbird, Finch was strong and heroic, whereas in Watchman, he is weak and confused. And, it left me feeling miserable.

The story was based twenty years after Mockingbird and the trial of Tom Robinson, Scout, now living in New York, returns to Maycomb for a two week holiday to see her father (who is now 72 and struggling with arthritis) and her would be fiancee, Hank, who is a lawyer in Atticus’ firm.

At first, the narrative is based around Scout coming to turns with the way in which her home town has changed and how she finds the parochialism of the people she grew up both reassuring and frustrating. She acknowledges the tension between the ‘negroes’ and the rest, but, at first, doesn’t give it much thought, as far as she is aware, she and her family are better than that, she is comfortable in the way she believes she was brought up, to see everyone and treat everyone the same, regardless of their colour.

Then, a couple of things happen to shatter her view of her world, first, a black youth is arrested after running over and killing an old white man. To her horror, Scouts listens to her father and ‘boyfriend’ discuss the suspect with contempt; then, she finds a pamphlet entitled ‘black plague’ which spells out in the crudest way the case for racial separation. Scout, now rushes to the Town Hall where there is a meeting of the ‘Citizens Council’ where her father introduces the racist O’Grady, who gives a vile speech about the ‘negro threat.’

Scout is so shocked by what she hears that she is physically sick – she vows to leave the South immediately and cut all ties with the father she once adored.

The rest of the family now do their best to reassure Scout that actually she is the one who is in the wrong and that actually, the racism that they are condoning is perfectly acceptable as it is an articulation of the traditional Southern view that being dictated to by Federal Government is unconstitutional and unethical – it is rubbish and confused defence of racial intolerance wrapped up in semantics and weasle words.

At the end of it, you just want Scout to say, ‘well bollocks to that,’ and get on her train back to New York and leave them all behind. In fact as I sat there on my lounger, afternoon lager in hand, I yearned for this – but, alas, it doesn’t happen.

Did I enjoy this book? Yes. The prose is great, and it is without doubt, a book of historical and literary import.
But did I wish that it was written – no.

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A few weekends back Jackie South and I went to see the Jesus and Mary Chain at the Roundhouse performing their seminal 1985 debut album Psychocandy.   The Reid brothers (particularly William) are a bit larger around the waste from their heroin-skinniness back in the day and the drum set up is more than pre-Primals Bobby Gillespie with a couple of floor drums, but my my have they still got it.

The gig consisting of two sets was fantastic through out– a greatest hits package and then Psychocandy had as its highlight  in my view this absolute rock ribbed classic from 1986 (closely followed by an ear splitting version of their debut single, Upside Down – it was the first release after Psychocandy (on a beautiful double vinyl EP, which I still have) and marked a move away from the Phil Spector girl group meets sculpted feedback of that album.   I think it may be the greatest heroin song since, well since Heroin. And it sounded absolutely extraordinary live.

Before the gig the crowd were swapping Jesus and Mary Chain war stories – ‘when I saw them they did one song and played for 20 minutes and then went off’ etc. Indeed to add to that when I first saw them back in 1985 there was a sign up on the way into the gig in felt tip marker which said: ‘The Jesus and Mary Chain play for 30 minutes. The Jesus and Mary Chain don’t do encores’.   That Jesus and Mary Chain – deliberately provocative towards its audience has long gone. And a little bit of me is sad that that is so. However, if they’d stuck to their brief, I wouldn’t have got to hear the genius of Some Candy Talking live that night at all.

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Week 30: Prat – The Parliamentary Labour Party

July 31, 2015

The very belated Prat Award for Last Week goes to the Parliamentary Labour Party My my it has been a busy time – hence the lateness of this post, but better late than never… Oh dear. George Osborne sets a trap with the reduction in the benefits cap and sadly but predictably the Labour Party […]

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The Political Battle Between Principles and Power

July 27, 2015

What would you rather have? A political party in opposition that believes in something or a political party in government that believes in nothing? For me – principles must come first, ideally then followed by power. We have seen too many political parties completely ignoring principles for power. The current surge towards Jeremy Corbyn in […]

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Week 30: Villain – George Osborne

July 26, 2015

George Osborne is a political villain. He could realistically make a credible claim to win this award every week. But, after proposing up to 40% in government departmental spending cuts, he has once again romped away with this infamous award. George Osborne is a clever villain. For all of his political skulduggery and win at […]

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Week 30: Hero – the 48 Labour Rebels

July 26, 2015

This week, our regular Hero award is bestowed on the 48 Labour MPs who broke the party whip on Monday How ever you look at it, the Parliamentary Labour Party screwed up massively last Monday in its decision to abstain on the first reading of the government’s Welfare and Work Bill, instigating an eye-watering £12bn […]

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#1035: 1984, Kraftwerk, Tour de France

July 25, 2015

I’ve finally warmed to Chris Froome during this Tour. While I would have cheered had Quintana managed to pull off the last minute steal on today’s fantastic stage, I was happy to see Froome hold his lead and seal his overall win. Thoroughly deserved and all that’s left is the roll into Paris. As for […]

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Why Jeremy Corbyn Must Win The Labour Leadership Contest

July 22, 2015

The Labour Party is in an absolute mess. This once proud political organisation currently faces a greater existential crisis than either the Lib Dems or UKIP. It is disheartening for loyal Labour supporters and for any left-leaning voter in the UK. The country urgently needs an opposition with real clout and heft. As the Tories […]

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Will Last Night’s Welfare Vote Make Corbyn Labour’s Leader?

July 21, 2015

Labour’s leadership got it disastrously wrong yesterday. In choosing to abstain at the first reading of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, they decided that it was more important to chase the phantom promise of votes they think they might be able to win from the Tories by agreeing to punish the poor whilst forgetting […]

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Week 29: Hero – Mhairi Black & The SNP

July 19, 2015

This week’s hero award goes to Mhairi Black for delivering one of the finest and most memorable House of Commons maiden speeches in recent times, and to the SNP for forcing the Tories into scrapping a vote to bring back fox hunting and also announcing that all of their MPs would give their £7,000 pay […]

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Week 29: Prat – Tim Farron

July 19, 2015

The Liberal Democrats’ new leader wins our weekly award for being the biggest prat of the last seven days Now, that didn’t take long, did it? Just one day into his new job as Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron managed to make a complete hash of his appearance on Channel 4 News, coming across as […]

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Week 29: Villain – Michael Fallon MP

July 19, 2015

This Week’s Villain of the Week is the Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon MP Since the events of 2003 and the second Iraq war a convention has grown up that parliamentary approval is sought for the participation of British forces in military action. Indeed this may have been the only good thing to […]

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Ten things currently making me angry!

July 18, 2015

I’m quite angry at the moment Yes, angry and more than a little confused. Pressures of work and other stuff has meant that, annoyingly, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to properly vent my considerable spleen on these pages and I now need to get a few things off my chest. So, here’s […]

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An open letter to Tim Farron

July 18, 2015

Tim Farron has been elected as the new Leader of the Lib-Dems. Personally, I wish him well. If I had had a vote I would have voted for Farron too – not saying he is flawless, he isn’t, but he clearly has enough about him to make a good fist of leading a national party. […]

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Week 28: Prat – Alexis Tsipras

July 16, 2015

This week’s prat of the week is the Allthatsleft favourite and Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear – a week ago, Tsipras could do no wrong – as far as we were concerned on these pages, he was a hero: he had taken on the IMF and the ECB, […]

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First Picture of Pluto

July 15, 2015

The first NASA Pluto flyby picture has been released. It clearly reveals that Pluto Labour has been wiped out by the SNP. Plutocracy has been replaced with progressive democracy. Picture courtesy of NASA/Herald Newspapers/SNP

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Week 28: Villain – George Osborne

July 12, 2015

This week, the Chancellor of the Exchequer walks away with the regular award for our greatest villain There was an evil genius to George Osborne’s budget on Wednesday – what should of course have been an entirely unnecessary budget given that he was Chancellor of the Exchequer four months ago when the last budget was agreed. […]

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Week 28: Heroes – Novak Djokovic & Roger Federer

July 12, 2015

This week’s hero (or heroes) award goes to Novak Djokovic for winning his third Wimbledon title and to Roger Federer for reminding everyone once again that he is an absolute genius at playing tennis. The Hero/Prat/Villain judging committee were going to give this award to Roger Federer after he produced one of the all time […]

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So what will Osborne’s ‘One Nation’ look like?

July 9, 2015

The phrase made me want to hurl: ‘One Nation’. In Tory world that is supposed to make you a caring honourable person, someone who really cares about his fellow man, someone who is actually kind and gentle and genuinely ‘on your side.’ They have no idea. As Charlie said earlier, the ‘living wage’ is a […]

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Something About England: Welcome to the Tory Reich

July 9, 2015

They say immigrants steal the hubcaps Of respected gentlemen They say it would be wine an’ roses If England were for Englishmen again There was masters an’ servants an’ servants an’ dogs They taught you how to touch your cap But through strikes an’ famine an’ war an’ peace England never closed this gap The […]

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Budget 2015: Failed Osbornomics & Failed Opposition

July 8, 2015

George Osborne stands up in Parliament to announce his additional 2015 Budget today. This is a budget for the affulent elderly, Middle England and hefty inheritance beneficiaries. It isn’t a budget for those struggling on welfare. In essence, it is a classic Tory budget. Tax cuts for those who don’t really need it, and screw […]

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Week 27: Villain – Greece’s Creditors (The Troika)

July 7, 2015

This Week’s Villains are the Troika of creditors who have plunged Greece into more chaos, the IMF, the ECB and the EU. I listened to a young Greek teacher talking on the radio last week – she was explaining how, in the last five austere years, her journey to work has been so regularly disrupted […]

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#1034: 2015, FFS, Piss Off

July 7, 2015

One of the most exciting developments in the world of arty-farty post-punk is the supergroup collaboration between Franz Ferdinand and Sparks. The result is the production of an album that is bizarrely both coherent and crazily creative. FFS is an album that is a hell of a lot of fun to listen to. It pretty […]

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Great Political Speeches #4: Ken Livingstone Responds To The 7/7 Attacks

July 7, 2015

Ten years ago today terrorists attacked the London transport system in the middle of the morning rush hour with four separate suicide bombs, killing 52 people. Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister was at the G8 summit at Gleneagles.   His reaction was platitudinous and has been rightly wholly forgotten by history. The then Mayor of London, […]

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Week 27: Prat – the IMF

July 6, 2015

Last Week’s Prat of the Week goes to the International Monetary Fund for belatedly accepting that Greece needs debt relief if it is to recover The Syriza government in Greece was elected in January. Its mandate from the Greek people was to renegotiate the terms of the bail out package with the Troika. This is […]

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Week 27: Hero – Oxi voters in Greece

July 5, 2015

This week’s hero award goes to the 61% of Greek voters who have said “Oxi” to accepting the terms of a potential bailout deal from Eurozone creditors. Well there we have it. Once again, we should learn to never trust the polls. Despite a narrowing of the polls between the Yes and No on the […]

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#1033: 1971, Led Zeppelin, The Battle of Evermore

July 2, 2015

Regular readers of our blog will know that we often mark the deaths of musicians by posting one of their songs. Regular readers might also have anticipated that one musical demise that we were likely to overlook was yesterday’s death of Val Doonican. Relaxed crooning, comedy songs, rocking chairs and colourful jumpers are not quite […]

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Left Wing Reasons for Leaving the EU

July 1, 2015

Should Britain remain in the EU? Yes or No? Pretty soon we will be asked that question in a referendum. As someone who feels European and is proud of the fact that we live on this wonderful continent of huge diversity and culture, my heart will always be towards as Yes vote. Increasingly however, I […]

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#1032: 2003, The Handsome Family, Far From Any Road

June 30, 2015

I suppose you get to a certain age, and you take your new music whenever and wherever you can get it – long gone, alas, are the days, when I would crave new band and new sounds and try to impress my mates with some great new sound that I had discovered (to be honest, […]

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Allthatsleft Book Club #12 – Tibur Vermes, Look Who’s Back

June 30, 2015

This is a really, really troubling book – as hilarious as it is edgy and dangerous, as clever as it is crass and worrying. The premise is this: Adolf Hitler hasn’t actually died he’s been asleep, in a field in Berlin, and one day, in 2012, he wakes up. And, having been asleep for nigh […]

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