New Harper Lee Novel!

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

  1. KokoTele

    KokoTele Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    When I was a kid it was tough to sell any book to me, but TKAM was one of the few that I read all the way through and remembered. That's saying something, because that did not happen very often in my k-12 education. (Gatsby didn't make that list. I tried to read it later in life and found both the story and the writing style unengaging.)

    I loved teaching the book when I became a high school teacher, but in the 21st century I think that its most valuable aspects are not about race. There are probably more relevant books for race discussions today. But it values education and intelligence in a way that I don't think denigrates the uneducated. It provides strong role models for both men and women, as well as lots of fodder for discussion about gender roles.

    I had an interview for an English teaching position in the last year that I was still trying to find work in the field and we talked about this extensively. Those discussions damned near got me the job, too. In fact, the principal called and almost apologized for hiring the candidate who had a dual certification in English and Special Ed.

    TKAM is not the most polished or sophisticated work, but a lot of the music I like is not that polished or sophisticated either.
     
  2. getbent

    getbent Telefied Silver Supporter

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    Maya Angelou is dead.
     
  3. Gautfrid

    Gautfrid Banned

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    So are a lot of authors. Is their work not readable after they've pegged it?

    I must throw away all my H P Lovecraft paperbacks...
     
  4. getbent

    getbent Telefied Silver Supporter

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    Pay attention and quit sleeping in the back of class.

    The question was "Greatest LIVING authors"

    I would like a graphic apology to your negligence to reading the entire thread. I expect creativity, humor and some dark sarcasm. No profanity or nude bodies please.

    Besides, you only bought lovecraft because you thought it would include pictorial examples of improving your own brand of onanism.
     
  5. AirBagTester

    AirBagTester Friend of Leo's

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    That's a good point; there are other teachable topics in Mockingbird besides race. I still think it's a great book to read and learn.

    Do you think it might still be due diligence for a teacher to at least mention some of the more common criticisms of the book's portrayal of 1930's Alabama, and its controversial portrayal (or... non-portrayal) of black people in general, especially if - for example - the book is being taught to inner city school children? It's hard to ignore the elephant in the room.

    I just found this old LA Times piece that suggests a great way to teach this point IMO:

     
  6. Gautfrid

    Gautfrid Banned

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    You'll have to excuse the lack of creativity, humour, dark sarcasm or even intelligence, I had a late night.

    I bought Lovecraft because it suited my juvenile reading tastes. Not all 14 year olds keep the works of Proust handy. I tried but, even abridged, Swann's Way wouldn't fit in the arse pocket of my Levis. Lord knows where I could have stowed the other six volumes...

    In my defence, I didn't have to look up 'onanism'.
     
  7. bblumentritt

    bblumentritt Tele-Afflicted Platinum Supporter

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    My credentials:
    I read a lot, almost all non-fiction.
    I'm not a professor of anything, and don't have a college degree, although a band mate referred to me as doctor of thoracic surgery in reference to my guitar playing.

    I enjoyed TKAM when I read it as a kid. I thought the movie was too heavy handed.

    I've yet to get excited about a "new" Harper Lee novel.
     
  8. getbent

    getbent Telefied Silver Supporter

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    you made me laugh aloud! NICE!
     
  9. KokoTele

    KokoTele Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    I did teach in the inner city, as a matter of fact. Race issues weren't the elephant in the room, they were the room. I never tiptoed around race issues or tried extra hard to be politically correct, and I think it helped me connect with the kids in ways that a lot of my colleagues struggled with. If someone had something relevant to say and it was about race, that became part of the class discussion, but it was that way with any topic.

    Honestly, I always felt that the way race issues are typically approached was awkward at best, and I know a lot of my students (majority black or mixed-race) felt it was condescending. Students would tell me things like "We don't need a book to tell us about this stuff, we live this," and they were right. Fortunately, they were mostly complaining about other teachers because I was dumb enough to let them.


    That's probably a good approach, though in the schools where I taught there was typically one book in each grade to teach race issues. TKAM in one grade, Black Boy or Native Son in other, etc. I hated Roll of Thunder, which was in the curriculum as well. The kids couldn't get in to it on their own, and I found very little extraordinary in the book to help them out. We just trudged through it.

    I had better luck with Myers' Monster, which has a contemporary urban setting, and a mixed media structure so there are a lot of ways to frame it so that you're talking about race in a way that you're not talking about race.
     
  10. getbent

    getbent Telefied Silver Supporter

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    I think that the assumption that MOST schools AREN'T doing this is a head scratcher. Go to your local high school and meet with the principal or English Department Head and ask them which titles they are teaching, what their strategy is... I think you'll find that you will learn a lot in the process.

    Due diligence is such an interesting term... and I truly think a formal visit to an actual school that teaches students would be a great experience. If you have a school near you that has a diverse population, that would be an even better experience and I think you'd have a better understanding of what great things are going on in the public schools AND the very real challenges they face.

    As Kokotele stated so well, it isn't an elephant, it is the whole room, whole school, whole community... and I can guarantee you that what he wrote was spot on.

    I'm lucky, in the division that I manage, it is a mini united nations of backgrounds, races, cultures, nationalities, religions, genders and add in the spectrum of behavior disorders etc... I say I'm lucky because every single day I see a different reflection of what is real versus what we assume and think.

    one memory to share... in my sophomore english class (as a student) I remember reading Sonny's Blues and that one story transformed a whole bunch of things for me.. and that was in an age where I think most folks assume that would never happen... In that same class (taught by a doughy old white dude) we read the invisible man and though it was lost on most of the students... I dug it... but, unfortunately, at the time, I was deep into the Solzhenitsyn stuff and Turgenev's Hunting Sketches... I was thinking human suffering in a different way... than, say a specific social issue.
     
  11. AirBagTester

    AirBagTester Friend of Leo's

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    You're a head scratcher.
     
  12. AirBagTester

    AirBagTester Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks for your point of view; I remember reading "Native Son" as an independent reading assignment and wishing we could have discussed it in class.

    I guess I had the idea (based on some comments here that maybe I misunderstood) that people wanted to talk around the issue of race and focus on other themes in the book like you mentioned (Atticus or Scout as a role model, Scout's gender identity, tough moral decisions, etc.) but it looks like I was mistaken.

    (It was an honest question BTW; I did not mean for it to sound so accusatory, like "Hey you better do your due diligence!" Probably a poor choice of words on my part.)
     
  13. Tele-Caster

    Tele-Caster Tele-Holic

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    I've read To Kill a Mockingbird more times than I count, and I've never gotten the "mythology" out if that the quoted poster mentions.

    What I get out of it every time is that Mr. Finch's idealism ultimately wasn't very helpful to Mr. Robinson's cause.

    Mr. Finch says he's "no idealist" but he comes across as exactly that, having unbridled faith in a criminal justice system that isn't perfect now, wasn't in in the U,S.A of the 1930's, and wasn't at any point in history. His idealism and the steadfast manner in which he clings to it is demonstrated when he surmises that Jem will have to be put on trial for shanking Bob Ewell but seems to reckon it'll be okay because Jem's case would be a clear-cut matter of self defense. The Sheriff is more pragmatic when he tells Mr. Finch that he may not be much, but he's still the Sheriff, and Bob Ewell fell on his knife.....

    Mr. Finch isn't just an idealist, but also something of a hypocrite. He forbids Scout from fighting, yet he makes his living doing exactly that, in a sense. He may well believe that violence is never a solution, yet he applied that very thing to solve the problem of the "mad dog" in the street, and seemed willing to rationalize it as he entertianed the possibility that Jem might have shanked Bob Ewell in self defense....

    I know a lot of people read the book and come away with the view that Mr. Finch is somehow representative of perfection. He comes across as being human to me, albeit perhaps a bit more idealistic than some but no more hypocritical than most.

    It's often said that children are good at knowing hypocricy when they see it. I think I was around 10 years old or so when I first read the book, and I suppose that has colored my vision of Mr. Finch ever sense.

    What I've always gotten out of it isn't that the southern U.S.A. of the 1930's needed more people like Atticus Finch, but rather that our system of justice works best, and has always worked best, when people have enough honor to tell the truth and enough wisdom and enough of a sense of civic duty and justice to leave their predjudices -whatever they are- outside of a court of law.

    In the main, I've never seen the book as being specifically about racial predjudice, but more about the broader theme of intolerance generally. and how intolerance in its manifold forms can be, and sadly often is, its own unique brand of cruelty.
     
  14. Drubbing

    Drubbing Friend of Leo's

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    That's probably a fair POV about Atticus. But readers and fans of Gregory Peck embraced that Idealism. Lee created him as an ideal, and an uncomfortable one for many, even in the 60s.

    I don't see the way he tried to raise his kids as any sort of hypocrisy. He was trying to teach them to stand up for what is right, even if it means being a target. The rabid dog is a soft argument. How else was that to be solved? The point of the scene was to demonstrate to Scout that her father was capable of more than she thought, and for the reader to see him as having a strength and skill, which he had chosen to subvert.

    It may not be the the best literary work, but it is perennially popular across age groups, which few books have ever managed. I can't see how that makes it overrated, as some suggest.
     
  15. freejamesbrown

    freejamesbrown Tele-Meister

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    that's a cool perspective. Ive never really thought about it through the lens of a flawed criminal justice system; and especially to think about it in the context of our present system, which incarcerates black men in a wildly disproportionate way.
     
  16. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's

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    The other thing about this new book is the really odd and preposterous circumstances of its publication. Lee sat on this MS for FIFTY FIVE YEARS. She had fifty five years in which to publish it and chose not to. According to the people managing her affairs--she is 88, blind and mostly deaf--the ms was lost and was suddenly found, wow, it's a miracle. The publisher has not spoken to Lee at all, all communications have been through her lawyers.

    Does anyone think that story makes any sense?

    Here's one that does make sense: Lee does not want to publish that novel, and sticks to that decision for fifty five years. Now that she's elderly and infirm and has limited capacity to communicate, people around her have decided to cash in. Which one seems more likely?
     
  17. GuitOp81

    GuitOp81 Tele-Holic

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    yeah, and another odd coincidence is that her sister and lawyer, who shielded her for all these years, passed just last year. Anyway, it's a book, how much harm can it do?

    http://jezebel.com/be-suspicious-of-the-new-harper-lee-novel-1683488258
     
  18. MGibson

    MGibson Tele-Meister

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    It's the principle involved. It's her work and when she was lucid and competent she did not want it published. Her sister honored and protected her wishes, now her sister is dead and the vultures can't wait to start stripping the flesh.

    Big publishers are as sleazy as major labels.
     
  19. P Thought

    P Thought Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Hmm, yeah. I think there's truth here. Maybe I won't read the "new" book after all. Same thing with the posthumous Salinger books? Did those ever come out?

    I think it's a hazard for new authors, when a first book hits so hard, that it might be impossible to follow their own success. That happened to Joseph Heller, who supposedly said, when asked why he hadn't afterward written anything so successful as Catch-22, "Well, who has?"
     
  20. getbent

    getbent Telefied Silver Supporter

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    your last paragraph saves you from the rest. You should keep the last paragraph and toss the rest.

    Advocating in a court of law is not fist fighting. It is the peaceful alternative to fist fighting. It is what thoughtful and lawful people do rather than turn to mob justice.

    You use the word unbridled without qualification. It is a gross overstatement of what the text supports. The text simply does not support that Finch is hypocritical in any capacity.

    Finch states he is not an idealist and he supports it with actions. He follows an existing process and exercises it to benefit those who he defends. In his interpersonal dealings he frequently chooses expedience over the windmills of idealism. You'll recall he doesn't seek to defend Tom... he is relegated to doing it.

    When people hold the character of Atticus Finch in high esteem, it is not that he is christ like, it is that he is HUMAN. Broken like the rest of us, challenged like the rest of us, faced with the realities of a criminal court system that is only 'the most fair' that we have and what we is the best path for civilized people to use.

    I have NEVER heard that children are the best detectors for hypocrisy and I'd challenge you on that... I don't think that it is true and I don't think it is a commonly held belief.

    That you see the dispatching of a dog with rabies as the same as Scout being in a fistfight is not a sign of hypocrisy but a demonstration of the complexity of what is right and how ethics work, maturity and doing the right thing and how that perception is going to be different for a child vs. a responsible adult.

    You have maintained that childlike view, but I think if you read the book again today, you'd see that Lee is contrasting the perceptions of the idealism and moral simplicity of childhood with the more complex, measured and thoughtful morality of adulthood.
     
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