The tone of Harvard Coop’s release party for Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” has changed over the past few days. Originally, it was expected to be an upbeat occasion. Now, with reviews out that say Lee’s beloved character Atticus Finch is depicted as a racist in the new work, fans are more inquisitive than celebratory. They’re lining up to get the book so they can figure out what it all means.
“That’s kind of our take on it,” said Harvard Coop’s trade book manager Nancie Scheirer, as the store prepared for the Tuesday release of Lee’s much-anticipated new book, which follows characters from “To Kill a Mockingbird” 20 years later. “People need to read it and judge for themselves.”
Harvard Coop, which closes at 10 p.m., had plans to reopen at 10:30 on Monday night for a “Watchman”- themed release event that would include a scavenger hunt, a trivia contest, and a midnight sale of the novel. Scheirer expected strong attendance; the store had 200 people at its outdoor screening of “To Kill a Mockingbird” on Saturday.
“I never expected to see such a quiet crowd. People didn’t go to the bathroom. They didn’t talk.”
Down the street, Harvard Book Store also planned to be open at midnight to sell the novel.
“We have over a hundred pre-orders,” events manager Alex Meriwether said, adding, of the controversy surrounding the book, “I think what little Lee has said about the book makes the story that much more intriguing.”
Harvard Book Store is used to hosting late-night events for big releases; the store welcomed midnight crowds for the Harry Potter series. “This launch is pretty different from the Harry Potter launches though,” Meriwether said. “This is such a different kind of book, with such a different demographic. Also, not to mention, it’s been nearly 60 years since Lee has put out anything.”
“Go Set a Watchman” isn’t the only big release for local bookstores on Tuesday. Also out for public consumption is Patriot Rob Gronkowski’s book, “It’s Good to Be Gronk.” That one will be available at 12:01 a.m. too.
“Yes, we will have Gronkowski’s new book for sale as well,” Meriwether said with a laugh Monday afternoon.Names can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Meredith Goldstein on Twitter @MeredithGoldste.