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Twentieth Anniversary

To Kill A Mockingbird               

or,

Flipping The South The Bird

Preface

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.

Bitch Please!

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.

Prescription

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”

Postscript:

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)

4 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Frank James

    My mother bought the book and I read it at age 12 or 13. While it didn’t bore me to death at the time, it certainly had zero influence on my adolescent thinking about race, sex, OR The Real South, as I grew up on the Elizabeth River in the Norfolk, VA area. I even had a black nanny for awhile because my mother worked in the Naval Shipyard, as did my father back in those days. Nanny Beatrice (Bea) even attended my dear mother’s funeral in 1987 and remembered me well, as I did her.

    However, given the bullshit from (((them))) about the book, and its nobody author, I don’t disagree in any way with your caveat to Burn The SHIT out of it!!!

  2. Psykosity
    Psykosity

    Having lived for a while in Georgia, and being one who has traveled extensively through the South, I can say that the South is not bland, nor is it without a certain kind of magic in the “South’s greatest charm – steam; dewy, sticky, steam – terrestrial clouds of breath defying steam.”

    Being a Traditionalist myself, I developed a very deep appreciation for the respect Southerners had/ have for tradition; something we are sadly lacking in our nation today.

    Proof positive that the War Between The States continues to be fought…

  3. Avatar
    Frank James

    My deer brudder, Psyk… Down heer amung de gentry, we reefers to it as “The Late Unpleasantness”, jus’ so’s ya knos de reel scoop!!

  4. Modesty
    Modesty

    George…thought provoking as always. I read TKAM long ago; I was more familiar with the movie, which I’ve not seen in years. Truth is, the book didn’t have much of an impact on me. I felt sorry for Boo Radley, and I thought whoever named “Scout” should be shot…the racial implications were lost on me for many years. And when I did recognize what it was trying to do, I believe I just shrugged.

    I (who have no novel, novella, or much of anything in me) grew weary of Ms Lee’s portrayal as the Greta Garbo of the literary world. She should have been left alone….

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