12 6 mins 9 yrs

Chatting with David last night, I sought his approval on a piece of writing  I thought might brook British hate speech norms. Jaunty as ever, he gave it a green light but I decided to hold back when I saw the docket was full to the brim with muslim screeds. While I love a good theme, it seemed a little excessive to add another layer to that particular pile.

In the same vein of decrying religious, social and politically ingrained ignorance, I thought a short sprint on how a certain American segment views and consumes literature a worthy segue. Most populist and religious conservatives, donning the latest fashion in tea party hair coats, limit their consumption of books, art and music based solely on their strange brand of political purity or weird interpretations of biblical bullshit.

Terrified by the influence contained in the power of words well written, they’ve closed themselves off from the gorgeous wide, world of beauty, imagination and provocative thought.

Narrow channels breed narrow minds. 

I wrote this two years ago and find it more apt than I ever could have predicted. I had a short conversation today with a seemingly sane woman who runs a well-attended, tony neighborhood book club, when I mentioned Barbara Kingsolver’s great novel, The Lacuna, she straight faced told me they don’t read that sort of socialist, pro-gay, marxist trash.

Feel free to run wild in the comments if the topic strikes a chord.

 

Reading another site today, I was surprised to find so many people who despise Harper Lee’s, To Kill A Mockingbird. Their intense dislike mostly focused on the book’s theme as full of racially liberal, stick it to the Southern white man, politically correct hogwash.

Needless to say I disagree with their petty Lee bashing, it’s simply a great little book. Hunting for insidious liberal monsters in the works of pure fiction would yield a bonanza for those inclined to find ideological fault between the covers of books. I think that’s a ridiculous way to approach fiction and it’s pure nonsense to discount this particular author’s real life experiences in the rural South or assert that she intentionally meant to besmirch white men or glorify blacks to further her liberal agenda.

But, if she actually did write a piece of pure political propaganda, good on her. The South needed some changing at the time and her singular work would definitely win kudos as the best insidious, undercover novel ever written in the history of fiction.

The blog shall remain nameless because the man who runs it can be a tad thin-skinned and prone to angry outbursts when his opinions are brooked. Unpleasant doesn’t begin to describe his personality when he’s not been properly stroked, so I choose to dispense with another internet pissing contest. There seems to be enough of that mess going around the ‘sphere for your amusement elsewhere.

I found the topic interesting because I would place To Kill A Mockingbird on a list of the most influential books that I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. As a young teenager, it was the first time I came across a book that smelled and sounded like home. I loved every line of that well written story, the politics of the book never entered my mind until an hour ago, I simply fell in love with the quiet brilliance of the world that Harper Lee brought to life on those pages.

I was reading Kahlil Gibran’s, The Prophet at the same time, another significant book that shaped my thoughts on how to distill the essence of beauty and thought into a few perfect words.

The three other books I delved into during that same stretch were William Faulkner’s, Absalom, Absalom!, Ernest Hemingway’s, The Old Man And The Sea and J.D. Salinger’s, Catcher In The Rye. I didn’t finish Salinger’s pivotal piece of work until last year, the story never caught my ear or my soul. It didn’t last year either, but I gave it another shot because a West coast man, whose writing I admire, loves the book so.

I remember these titles not only because they were excellent works that shaped my appreciation for the power of the written word, but because they were given to me by a family friend, a man who loved books and thought they could help me during my first term of confinement in a mental ward as a girl of thirteen. He was right, they helped enormously. I didn’t belong in that low, awful place and his gifts gave me a firm island of great words to anchor my sanity and nurture my soul.

I love To Kill A Mockingbird to this day and I couldn’t give a damn about the politics of the thing, it’s a wonderful story.

 

 

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12 thoughts on “To Hang An Author

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird was a great book. I also read it at a time when I didn’t look for the innuendoes of politics in a book,

    I never read William Faulkner’s, Absalom, Absalom!, but both Ernest Hemingway’s, The Old Man And The Sea and J.D. Salinger’s, Catcher In The Rye. I loved. I still have a soft spot for Hemingway.

    The first real books to cause an addiction for me were actually a series of Short stories. Conan Doyles Sherlock Holmes tales were among the first things I read for the sake of reading not for school or because my mother or father told me too.

    I also fell deeply into Moby Dick. and Jules Verne. Modern day I would say Ludlum and Clancy.

    My all time favorite fantasy would be Stephen R Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I enjoyed them much more than Tolkien.

  2. Books have made a major impact on my life and it boggles my mind when people use fictional literature as a political cudgel.

  3. I love to read, and can find enjoyment in almost any novel. I tend though to be drawn to writers that have varied story lines that all eventually intertwine.

    Shit when I was reading the Clancy’s Jack Ryan books I had to take a break, I kept running plots in my sleep…lol

  4. To Kill a Mockingbird would be in my top 20 all-time favourite books. I don’t think I could list a top 10, as the top 20 are fluid and constantly change. TKaM was on the English syllabus at school when I was around 13 years old, but the book had been in our house for as long as I could remember. I can still remember the first time I finished it. I started re-reading it straight away. It’s one of those books I never tire of reading. When I first got my Kindle, I was so annoyed to discover it wasn’t available in digital form (though I have managed to get it since). Because we were studying it at school, the politics of the book were well known to us at time of reading, but we were also fortunate to have an English teacher who told us to understand the politics, but more importantly, to enjoy the beautiful use of language and the simple, brilliant storyline.

    I love The Old Man and the Sea. It is so simple, yet so brilliant.

    I haven’t read Catcher in the Rye, though there’s a copy on the bookshelf upstairs. I must take it down some day.

    Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown Trilogy is amazing, Daphne. Moving in its harsh simplicity, and laugh out loud funny.

    Troll, have you managed to get started on Bill Bryson yet? Not fiction, I know, but very good reading.

  5. no Haven’t picked one up yet, but I did put it on my Christmas list, my sister always gets everyone a book. If not it will be off to the library to see what they have of his.

  6. I’ve written about the book before on this site. I loved it (an the movie is a masterpiece). I blame Atticus Finch for my vocation.

    Harper Lee’s only novel. If you are going to only write one thing make it special.

    And those who don’t should know that while it takes on the racism of the day that it isn’t a hate piece against the South (quite the opposite). In addition to the noble Atticus, the sheriff Tate is a good man (she avoids the stereotype of a Southern sheriff), the Judge, and even Mr. Cunningham who recognizes his own decency and helps to disperse a lynch mob that he first was part off. And of course the simple but brave Boo Radley.

    And child characters – Scout, Jem and Dill – who are so real you feel you grew up with them.

  7. I agree. The best novels, the only ones worth reading, are those that bring you right there; in this case, so that you can smell the smells of the south, feel the sun and hear the melody of the people’s voices.

    I think it was Polanski (or Woody Allen?) who said: “What’s the message of my movies? Look, when I want to send a message I write a postcard”
    True words, the most politically potent films or books are songs are not those with an overt politcal message, but those that speak directly to our emotions, where all opinion begins.
    Even without any political story or “message”, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those works that makes you fall in love with all humanity; it would change the hardest of hearts.

    One of only 2 books that I read on an ATW recommendation (from that lad Alan who lived in Boston or someplace, alas no longer here). The other was a book by Richard Feynmann recommended by O’Dwyer, of which I’m proud to say I actually managed the first quarter.

  8. I absolutely LOVED the film and my taste in films is normally pretty shallow. I like a bit of escapism unless it is a subject that I have an interest in.

    Because of the film I read the book but it didn’t hold my attention. Although I do remember identifying with the thought process’s of the child.

    I might try it again, perhaps via the film again.

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