To Kill A Mockingbird
Flipping The South The Bird
Twenty years ago, a significant portion of the population of this country, in a collective act of communal ’bulimia virtuosa’, purged themselves of common sense and went on a ‘feel good’ binge.’ It was a portent of what was the beginning of the beginning of the decline of a great nation.
Anyone Holdin’ RITALIN
Repeated attempts at finishing “To Kill A Mockingbird” ended in reflex blackouts. Desperation! Asked Spon “What does “mockingbirds are made for singing” and “to kill a mockingbird is a sin” mean? “It means”, he said, “if you kill black people soon there won’t be any singers left”. Spon had a different angle on the world.
Remember getting an ‘F’, with notation – DNR (Did Not Read).
‘A’ for effort’ had not yet made inroads into pedagogic theory.
I remember not being bitter. Took full responsibility for the “F,” but not the sudden onset comas.
All personal experiences and resulting animus aside… (no, really), I continue – coldly, dispassionately.
In Judeo-Yiddish traditions, so I’m told, chutzpah is: “everyone has a novel in them” or “every Southerner can write.” And meshugah is publishing chutzpah by Harper Lee, who didn’t and couldn’t. Miss Lee took one year writing To Kill A Mockingbird (hereafter TKAM) and three more years rewriting, with battalion level editorial support (unreconstructed truth) and still the Muse refused to show. At one point, the Southern belle, in frustration, gave the manuscript its wings and chucked it out a window (unreconstructed truth) leaving it to make it on its own. The thing would not fly and dropped like a dead duck done in by buckshot. A literary agent, on the spot (protecting his cut) made Miss Lee retrieve it. And that’s not tall tales of sour grapes; it’s unreconstructed truth, it happened.
Finally published in 1960, TKAM became a best seller and went from publishing phenomenon to regnant exemplum of what went wrong in America. That’s right, regnant exemplum.
Flipping The South Bird
Now, there’s no need for a litany of TKAM’s shortcomings (I haven’t a book in me, either). Prospective rabble need only know this one thing; Miss Lee’s most egregious misprision, i.e., her characterization of the South. The author’s South is barely warm, and then in all the wrong places. More notable, and most inexcusable, is the absence of the South’s greatest charm – steam; dewy, sticky, steam – terrestrial clouds of breath defying steam. And where were the chilled mimosas, sultry nights amid scents of fragrant chocolate vines intermingling with night blooming jasmine, and the rustling of crinoline and taffeta, moonlit torsos, passiona……………… uhhhh… …sorry about that!
If Ms Lee was intent on doing this, she would better have had it done in New Jersey.
Had she had it done it in the real Dixie, I’d have at least managed to stay awake skimming the steamy bits.
And all that is the least of it. The most of it is the insidious moral kitsch oozing from this bildungsroman leading to – get this – a Library of Congress book study, finding ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ the second most influential book readers had ever experienced.
The worst of it – THIS (swallow that coffee or bourbon now) a 1999 Library Journal poll chose ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ as best novel of the century. That’s right – the entire one hundred years of 20th Century American literature (That there is the greatest WTF?! Moment in my lifetime… so far)
Somebody, please make it stop! In 2006, British librarians ranked the book ahead of the Bible as one “every adult should read before they die”
Now… now there’s just no getting around all that! There’s no getting from here to there, from “TKAM is a novel” to “TKAM is the greatest novel of the Twentieth Century” without a long layover in dementia. If to kill a mockingbird is a sin, to kill ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ should be worth a plenary indulgence.
Rouse The Rabble, Gather The MOB, Seize The Book, Ignite The Pyre, and Remand To The Flames “To Kill A Mockingbird”.
(Musical accompaniment: the stirring “Der Königgrätzer Marsch”
1Flannery O’Connor – a writer:
“It’s interesting that all the folks that are buying it (TKAM)don’t know they are buying a children’s book.”
WildMan: Go ahead, wonder at the demise of America.
2Both TKAM and RITALIN were developed in the 1950s. Both became prescriptive in the 1960s.
WildMan: Read into that what you will.
THE END (in more ways than one)