New Harper Lee Novel!

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by freejamesbrown, Feb 3, 2015.

  1. getbent

    getbent Telefied Silver Supporter

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    Ahh, Dixie State, I stand corrected!

    A couple of flaws in what you state: 1) I work for a very large educational institution in the San Jose area of California... the texts you cite as being ignored because the authors are african american and poor are very much part of the well used reading list and most definitely taught in our classrooms.

    I'd love to see actual evidence that what you are saying is factual rather than impression.

    Scout is the daughter of a man who has wisdom in a memorable way. She has been raised in an environment that is unique in every fashion to nearly any other child. Her childhood is extraordinary in the events of it (the loss of her mother at a very early age, Her father's 'place' in the town's culture, the way her father has helped her acculturate and the type of education she has received.

    I have worked with thousands and thousands of students in my life. Scout does not exist in great numbers, but Scout exists. (take a look at this story)

    The news and great characters are extraordinary, that is why they are news and that is why we create to draw out that greatness... You don't buy Scout because she is too precocious.... okay... that may just be tied to limited experience and that you see the author as overextending our willful suspension of disbelief....

    As you can see in this thread (and in overall book sales) most didn't find it going too far.

    I think, by now, we all know that simply because we have never seen things with our own eyes or in the wide experiences we may have... that doesn't mean that they don't exist... and we read so that we can learn and experience them rather than simply reject them....

    There is much to like about Mockingbird... I suspect it may have its challenges too (not unlike... hmmm, say, Huckleberry Finn) it would be too bad to throw the baby out with the bathwater...
     
  2. dsutton24

    dsutton24 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I grew up in the dark ages when we macheted our way through Jane Eyre, Silas Marner, Wuthering Heights, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Cannery Row, and all the dark, dismal, dense prose that those works imply. Every once in a while there would be a brief ray of hope, Mockingbird, Huck Finn, White Fang. Things that were relatable, or at least endurable to a ten or twelve year old boy.

    Way too many students are forcibly turned away from literature and reading by teachers and professors who must insist that literature be unobtainable to only a chosen few, that their point of view is the only intelligent one, that our motives are base and to be pitied. What a great waste.
     
  3. P Thought

    P Thought Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I think TKM is on the list for middle- and high-schoolers more because it's a coming-of-age novel, than because it's great literature.

    Also, its impact was huge when it first came out, because of the time, 1960, and its story and setting. I can't imagine any "new" Lee novel having any such impact.
     
  4. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's

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    I don't know a single professor who thinks that, and I know a lot of professors. You'd find a lot of people who would say it takes work and thought though. It's analogous to music: the hard work is rewarding, no? The more you know about guitar playing, the more you appreciate a good guitar player, and the less impressed you often are by something flashy but not necessarily hard. I don't care what kids in my classes conclude, as long as they think hard and argue well. Nothing makes me happier than when a student shows me an idea or an observation I've never seen before. I LIVE for that moment.

    You should maybe look at some of those books again--you might be surprised
     
  5. Mjark

    Mjark Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I have no memory of reading this book in school. I think I have read it but probably as a kid. I guess I should read it again. I don't recall ever seeing this passionate a discussion about a book here before.
     
  6. dsutton24

    dsutton24 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Your experience and mine differ, then.

    I've read the classics throughout my life. My point, probably poorly expressed, is that much of this stuff is not easily digestible by kids, and force feeding them Bronte or Eliot can drive them away from literature. There's no need to do so when there's a world of work out there that's intelligent without being dense. What I read and enjoy as an adult is very different than what I did in grade school. That's the way it should be.

    My point, however, is probably moot since I doubt very many students in recent years have been educated in the classics anyway.
     
  7. stnmtthw

    stnmtthw Friend of Leo's

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    I don't think it's ever stated as baldly as Dsutton did, but that is the message that many high school and college students take away. Some teachers want to teach, but some just want to indoctrinate.

    Mockingbird is popular because it tells a human story with realistic characters about a subject that has defined American history and continues to do so. And it's pretty damned funny, even with the dark subject matter. We can nitpick all day about the point of view it's told from, but I believe that book has done a lot of good by forcing the people who read it to look at prejudice in their society- and in themselves.

    By 2015 standards, it seems quaint, but by 1960 standards, the thinking expressed in the book was revolutionary.
     
  8. dsutton24

    dsutton24 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Sorry, misread.
     
  9. J-man

    J-man Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Correct me if I'm wrong, but a novel dealing with race that featured a non-white protagonist probably wouldn't have been anywhere near as successful at the time TKAM was published.. Maybe it would've been more PC by modern standards if the protagonist was black, but I doubt it would've had anywhere near as much of an impact on so many people. Moral tales have to establish relatability between the protagonist and audience.
     
  10. stnmtthw

    stnmtthw Friend of Leo's

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    Your post here is what I was referring to. Sorry I didn't make that clear.
     
  11. freejamesbrown

    freejamesbrown Tele-Meister

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    I disagree. In 1960 there were and had been a lot of revolutionary thinkers on race in America--MLK, Malcom X, Richard Wright, etc etc--but Harper Lee wasn't one of them. What she did was write an accessible, likable novel about race that many Americans read. And then Gregory Peck did a masterful job of it on film. So its part of our cultural DNA. But it was never revolutionary.
     
  12. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    Lately the point has been made how long it took to create a film like "Selma". The industry didn't think they would get a return on their investment until they saw how well "12 years a slave" had done.
     
  13. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's

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    ??I really don't understand what point you are trying to make here. If you are arguing that the book should only be judged by the standards in place at the time it came out, and that it's an artifact of racism, then aren't you more or less agreeing with me? This is kind of the point I made. A more interesting book would maybe tell the story from Tom Robinson's point of view? And Atticus Finch would die? Its worth discussing the choices an author makes--it's part of the basic process of thinking about literature

    And if you're arguing that white people can't "relate" to a black character than I think once again you are making my initial point of criticism, that this is a book from the "heroic white person" school of literature. And this would be part of the argument for why it's over-rated--it tells white people flattering stuff.

    And so no, it's not at all ironic to point out the race of the narrator/hero--because you just argued that the narrator's race is in fact central to the way the book works.

    That in itself doesn't make it a bad book, any more than pointing out that BB King uses a solid state amp means he has bad tone. In music, we try to understand the underlying structure: we try to get at how music works its effects, what it draws on, what it references.
     
  14. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's

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    I made a bunch of blog posts about twelve years a slave. it's such a weird choice to make a movie about slavery. There are 100s of slave narratives, many of them pretty stunning, and of course Hollywood picks the ONE slave narrative where a guy is born in freedom.

    Lot of other historians disagreed with my blog post--it was kind of an interesting debate.


    Click if interested



    If I had to pick a good movie about American history it would be Blazing Saddles, because it doesn't pretend to be telling the truth and it forces you to rethink familiar cliches
     
  15. J-man

    J-man Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I'm pointing out that the book would have possibly had less of a beneficial impact on less people if the protagonist was black.. I guess I'm not thinking in terms of great literature so much as social impact, which should not be overlooked.


    My first comment on the irony was 99% a joke, I apologise if it ruffled feathers.
     
  16. stnmtthw

    stnmtthw Friend of Leo's

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    I think that writing a likable novel about race in America at the end of the 1950s that white people actually read was revolutionary. All of the people you listed were leaders in the civil rights movement, and were black, and I'm pretty sure black people of the time didn't need to be told that institutionalized racism wasn't a good thing. I'm surprised that Harper Lee didn't face more of a backlash from some of the anti-civil rights groups out there at the time.

    The book might not have as much of a visual impact as, say, the I Have a Dream speech, or the march from Selma to Montgomery, but I think that it's quietly had a hand in shaping how a couple of generations of Americans have thought about racism.

    Also, thanks to everyone for keeping it civil in here. This forum is cool.
     
  17. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's

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    It's certainly possible. I like the book, I think it's had mostly positive effects. But the time it was written, black Americans were conducting their own movement for social justice, doing it themselves, demanding equality, finding effective political tactics, standing up to tyrannical violent majorities, forcing American society to confront basic injustice. In Mockingbird all the action is white people. It inverts that actual direction of history in 1962. The real irony is that the most famous novel about the civil right era puts white people at the center of that struggle. Now that's an ironic outcome, no?
     
  18. dsutton24

    dsutton24 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    The book paints Tom Robinson, his family, and all the black people in the story in a pretty flattering light. Calpurnia was certainly a rock. Bob Ewell and his cohorts don't fare so well.
     
  19. Guitarzan

    Guitarzan Poster Extraordinaire

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    OK, I'll stir the pot. Because Truman Capote saw her as his muse and wrote the stories and gave them too her. :twisted::)
     
  20. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    I was just reading the synopsis for TKM in Wikipedia. I didn't realize that one of the children was modelled on Capote.
     
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