Monday, July 05, 2010

Book Burning: Not Always A Bad Thing

Well said, Sir!

Hey, if it's great literature, why are liberals so keen to ram it down the throat of schoolkids?

Actually, I've always thought of it as the literary equivalent of the old line about Stephen Fry: it's what stupid people think of as an intelligent book. AB puts it right in the X-ring:
In all great novels there is some quality of moral ambiguity, some potentially controversial element that keeps the book from being easily grasped or explained. One hundred years from now, critics will still be arguing about the real nature of the relationship between Tom and Huck, or why Gatsby gazed at that green light at the end of the dock across the harbor. There is no ambiguity in "To Kill a Mockingbird"; at the end of the book, we know exactly what we knew at the beginning: that Atticus Finch is a good man, that Tom Robinson was an innocent victim of racism, and that lynching is bad. As Thomas Mallon wrote in a 2006 story in The New Yorker, the book acts as "an ungainsayable endorser of the obvious."
For extra credit, he could also have pointed out the humbuggery inherent in a book stuffed full of absurd caricatures where one of the leads opines that 'You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view'. Huh?

Indeed, at one point, Good Ol' Atticus takes time out to explain to Scout the difference between the fine, upstanding, (i.e. liberal) town dwellers, and the barely human rural folks.

It's noticeable that for a book supposedly about race, blacks barely feature at all, and when they do, it's purely as powerless victims of the system, rather than actual, fully-rounded characters. The racial theme is merely a pretext for ostentatious liberal moral preening combined with class hatred of the white working class. Then again, isn't that modern liberalism in a nutshell?


A drive-by lib offered this in the comments..
this is the dumbest thing i've read today.
...thereby refuting the argument that Harper Lee's main stroke of genius was realising just how much filthy lucre there was in working out a way for none too sharp liberals to feel smart without the inconvenience of actual thought.

Still, it set me thinking. There's a whole extra layer of humbuggery over here. You just know that in any British (alleged) classic, the narrator would be one of the poor (but proud) folks and the middle classes would be depicted as brutes, hypocrites and the like. All of which is by way of saying that the rise of the Cult of TKAMB in the UK might just be a useful barometer of the British left's slow switch from representing the workers to representing the social workers.


Anonymous said...

this is the dumbest thing i've read today.

TDK said...

The blacks do feature in the court room. The black clergyman says to Scout. "Stand up. Your father is passing". That's a critical part. It shows that whilst he may be fighting the popular prejudice he is respected by the right people.

Thus we have the oddity of a book that tells us "the elite are the saviours" contrasted with leftist idea that the proletariat liberate themselves or they are not liberated at all. Do Afro-Americans like this message in the book?

Compare this with the guilty silence that greets the idea that the British Empire suppressed the slave trade. The narrative that black people ended slavery requires the elevation of dozens of obscure black people to the point of absurdity.

Something must have happened to the rural poor between The Grapes of Wrath and Mockingbird. They seem to have morphed. Must be a different country.

My biggest problem with the book (and I actually do like it) is that it gets the establishment on the side of the enlightened values. The police chief and the lawyer are the decent white people. One wonders what became of all the white leaders that joined the 2nd Klan and became senior figures in the Democrat Party? Was segregation a fact of law or the unspoken effect of popular prejudice?