“I almost don’t care what the critics say as long as I can write another one.”
“Mockingbird is a classic, but you’ve probably read it before, and it’s no more relevant to your future legal career than 12 Angry Men is to picking a jury. They’re both realist presentations written through idealist, dramatic glasses.”
On Friday night, a comedian died in New York. Somebody knows why. Down there, somebody knows . . .
No, wait, sorry — wrong Watchman, wrong pop culture meme.
Constant Readers who recall my inability to join the teenage cult of Tolkien will not be surprised to hear that I have never read (Nelle) Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, nor seen the film. It seems to be the sort of pious claptrap that “everyone” reads, and I just can’t stomach.
In any event, I never read “the original.” For all I know, it may have been “assigned,” but in that case I didn’t read it either — a not infrequent occurrence in my slapdash schooldays.
Nor can I be bothered to figure out the conflicting, Rashomon-like accounts of just what relation this book bears to the sainted classic.
Relying on the redoubtable Margot Metroland’s account here of the hidden genesis of Mockingbird, I think we can say that what we have here is close to the original MS Lee submitted, before the editors told her to junk the narrative of present-day, 26-year old Jean Louise, write more about the recollections of 6-year-old Jean (“Scout”) into the main narrative, expand the rape trial into the moral and narrative centerpiece, and for God’s sake cut all the talk about racism, pro and con.
And I don’t propose to read it now, so here’s your special treat: a review by someone with no preconceived ideas about the story, or vested interest in preserving blessed childhood illusions. And the death of childhood illusions is what the book is about.
Well, it’s an enjoyable if forgettable read, written with an intelligent though not flashy style. The editors who read this and ordered a complete re-write were, I think, wrong, although with two years on the best seller list, a Pulitzer Prize, and a hit movie, it’s hard to argue with them; perhaps they “sensed” they could make something more out of it. The experience, however, did seem to sour Ms. Lee on the whole writing thing.
Oh, but then there’s also the horrible “racism” of the first draft. That issue is perhaps best handled while looking at the style itself, the unity of style and message being itself a sign of the talent behind the writing.
On her first Sunday back in her childhood home, Jean Louise of course attends church with her family. The church organist essays the doxology at a faster, High Church tempo, and the congregation sticks to their lugubrious Southern Baptist rendition. This leads to a stern rebuke from Uncle Jack after services, where we learn that the music director has just got back from choir camp, where the leader — from New Jersey, no less — has given him a whole list of supposed “improvements” for the church’s music. He’s dubious, and the stubborn resistance of even worldly, bachelor aesthete Jack — who drops the Catholic phrase “D. V.” which he glosses for Jean as “God willin’” and seems tailor-made for this kind of “smells and bells” — convinces him he’s right to drop the whole matter.
It may seem like a delaying tactic — come on, make with the inbred racism already! — but it neatly encapsulates the whole position the South finds itself in — stubbornly resisting “improvement” suggested — or demanded — by the North, in the name of preserving local traditions.
As we move on, apart from a few flashback sequences that are apparently the origin of the more assertively 1930s content of Mockingbird, we meet various characters in what is to today’s readers now their twenty years later form, and Jean Louise, fresh from another year’s stay in New York, is horrified each time by some new — to her, at least — manifestation of “racism.”
Aunt Alexandra is a splendid creation, all corsets and scented face powder, the very embodiment of the Southern Way of Life (“They endured” as Faulkner would say). Appropriately, then, she gets to delivery some of Lee’s toughest “racist” lines, as do Scout’s former gal pals.
“Keeping a nigger happy these days is like catering to a king . . .”
The men are a different story, weak and temporizing. Uncle Dr. Jack is a bachelor eccentric, living in a literary 19th century of the mind, and delivers a rambling, evasive, analogy-ridden defense that Steve Sailer could put in one sentence: a race is a large extended family that occasionally practices incest. He evidences the “we acknowledge some problems but we’re still proud of our land and its traditions” attitude currently under attack by those banning the Confederate battle flag and digging up the bones of Nathan Bedford Forrest.
Hank, Jean Louis’ intended, is revealed a monster of social conformity that compares well with Lane, Franny’s obtuse boyfriend in Franny and Zooey. He sullies Jack’s views by adding a strong dollop of Babbitty “get along to go along” but then, like Clarice Starling, he’s only a generation away from trash.
Finally, she confronts the Big Guy himself, Atticus, her father and, as a result of the subsequent book and film, apparently most of (White) America’s father. And now the book’s big shock: Atticus is a racist!
At first they reach common ground on rejecting the Court’s judicial overreaching, effectively repealing the 10th Amendment. This, of course, is already enough to sicken today’s Liberal. But what follows will scare the pants off them.
“Jean Louise,” he said. “Have you ever considered that you can’t have a set of backward people living among people advanced in one kind of civilization and have a social Arcadia?”
“Let’s look at it this way . . . You realize that our Negro population is backward, don’t you? You will concede that? You realize the full implications of the word ‘backward,’ don’t you? . . . You realize that the vast majority of them here in the South are unable to share fully in the responsibilities of citizenship, and why?”
“Now think about this. What would happen if all the Negroes in the South were suddenly given full civil rights? I’ll tell you. There’d be another Reconstruction. Would you want your state governments run by people who won’t know how to run ‘em? Do you want this town run by — now wait a minute — Willoughby’s a crook, we know that, but do you know of any Negro who knows as much as Willoughby? Zeebo’d probably be Mayor of Maycomb. Would you want someone of Zeebo’s capability to handle the town’s money? We’re outnumbered, you know . . . They vote in blocs.
“[T]he Negroes down here are still in their childhood as a people . . . The NAACP doesn’t care whether a Negro . . . tries to learn a trade and stand on his own two feet — oh no, all the NAACP cares about is that man’s vote.”
And so on. The Guardian, bringing the frisson of distaste one might bring to, say, scraping a squashed raccoon off the driveway, finds the offense of Lee in her recourse to “biological determinism,” not just to account for racism but even for her own superiority, explaining that she was just “born color blind.”
Readers of Counter-Currents, however, may find all this rather tepid. Atticus is simply what we would today call a “race realist,” with a dash of paternalism thrown in. But as The Guardian sternly advises us, both paternalism and “color-blindness” are badthinking today. To the modern Liberal, the more or less fierce confrontations between the Northernized Scout and her Southern role models are like arguments between the inmates of some racial insane asylum — a rather Southern Gothic notion at that.
Neither Atticus nor Scout convinces the other, of course, and Uncle Jack is brought back to cobble together a kind of “higher” moral position: take no man as your infallible moral guide, and recognize and honor the human fallibility in all of us.
The moral, if you will, is not one that will sit well with the Liberal either. Smash your idols? Kill the Buddha on the road? Sounds good, since the Liberal, like the proverbial college sophomore, only imagines smashing his own parents at the Thanksgiving table, not himself; that is, smashing idols by attacking and silencing them, not questioning his own views.
What does a bigot do when he meets someone who challenges his opinions? He doesn’t give. He stays rigid. Doesn’t even try to listen, just lashes out.
In short, the Liberal is as bigoted as any Klansman. What Uncle Jack means by tolerance is something rather different:
“Good grief, baby, people don’t agree with the Klan, but they certainly don’t try to prevent them from puttin’ on sheets and making fools of themselves in public.”
Well, these days “they” certainly do, most certainly, and that applies to a lot of things Uncle Jack couldn’t imagine anyone being crazy enough to believe could happen, such as flying the state flag, too. After all, some things are Just Wrong and someone — preferably the Government — should Do Something About It; otherwise, you’re As Bad as They Are.
You could call what Jack and Atticus espouse, and bring Scout back to a grudging acceptance of, Olde Tyme Liberalism, I suppose, just as Atticus calls himself a “Jeffersonian Democrat” although, as Jean Louise points out, he voted for Eisenhower.
You could also call his views on race “olde tyme Liberalism,” too. Atticus believes that the negro is a childlike race, but he also believes in Progress: the negro can grow into his role in a modern society; the NAACP and the other Liberal busybodies are trying to force not only Southern society but the negro himself into too fast a rate of change. The stir-up negroes are more dissatisfied with their lot than ever, sullen and by turns demanding and ungrateful; a condition easily observed today. The ancient family retainer, Calpurnia, Scout’s surrogate mother, now barely recognizes her, seeing only just another White oppressor.
If this is indeed what Lee wrote some 50 or 60 years ago, or close to it, and looking at today’s Birmingham, a disaster, or Selma, where a movie celebrating the “victory” of MLK there fifty years ago can’t be shown, since all the movie theaters, along with most every other business, are closed, one can only applaud her prescience.
But let’s stick with this theme, as the intertwining of theme and style illustrates the perhaps unconsciously subtle style that Lee brings to the novel.
Those who have made the transition away from the modern dogmas of Liberal goodthinking often use the metaphor, derived from They Live!, of being able to see. And so during their final confrontation, Atticus frequently asks Scout to see, to look around, and to open her eyes. “Let’s look at it this way . . .”
Scout, as we’ve seen, diagnoses herself as “born color-blind,” which she of course thinks is a good thing, while Atticus tries to convince her that it its, in fact, a handicap.
“You must see things as they are, as well as they should be.”
“See” occurs, with varying tenses, dozens of times in the course of the novel, along with synonyms like “look” or “watch.” Indeed, the latter is the chief symbol of the book, occurring in the title and inserted way back at that early chapter at church, where in the sermon text JHVH “sets a watchman” and Scout later muses
Mr. Stone set a watchman in church yesterday. He should have provided me with one. I need a watchman to lead me around and declare what he seeth every hour on the hour.
As Uncle Jack says, in his convoluted “literary” way, and in what would appear to be the book’s moral:
“Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscious.”
This, of course, is why the modern Liberal has abandoned the “Watchman” metaphor, with its “biological determinism,” for one which emphasizes the passive, docile role of the masses: The Guardian. You must not see, you must be taught.
Speaking of conscience, that reminiscence about Scout’s falsies flap that Ms. Metroland singled out for enjoyment also contains an interesting lead related to sight: the insight that Atticus “wouldn’t be above throwing a little dust in a juryman’s eyes.” As she noted in her discussion of Mockingbird, in the famous rape trial
[W]ise paterfamilias Atticus Finch emerges as one very sleazy lawyer. He does not merely provide competent defense for Tom Robinson, he gratuitously defames the poor girl Mayella Ewell. With no real evidence at hand, he weaves a tale in which she lusted after a crippled black man, and seduced him into fornication. It’s a hair-raising, lurid tale, but it is completely unnecessary. . . . Atticus knows they’re not going to acquit his client, so he makes up an unpleasant tale about Mayella, all the while feigning pity for the pathetic lass. But it’s all invention and false sentiment, just like the fantasies that the Daily Worker conjured up about Willette Hawkins and Willie McGee.
Of course, sacrificing the White trash so that one can preen over one’s moral righteousness is a trait Scout has, unknowingly, inherited from her father — childhood pal and sometime suitor Hank can be dismissed as White trash as soon as he starts with the racism, even though he’s working alongside her father. But then that’s White privilege for ya.
This is the kind of moralistic shystering that modern lawyering has become: drunk on Mockingbird and other pop legal memes, today’s law schools are full of so-called “idealists” who don’t intend to practice law so much as “overturn the system, man,” using any kind of legal trickery — theories far more sophisticated that Atticus’ courtroom shenanigans — to establish Liberal dogma as the law of the land, whatever the masses may think about it.
It amuses me that two generations of lawyers apparently claim to have been “inspired” by Atticus Finch. Two generations of sanctimonious scumbags, who, from “freedom rides” to “marriage equality” to “sanctuary cities” have, as Jack and Atticus would predict, ripped the legal system, and the country, apart, all in the name of some unseeable — because always receeding into the perfect, abstract future — notion of “fairness.” And now they, along with their hero, stand revealed as the shysters they are; at least, the handful who get jobs “a-tall.”
It’s hard to tell what upsets the Lib-elite more: having the truth about race exposed, or having Atticus Finch show up with his pants down.
I suspect they fall back on the Mark Twain strategy and ban it from the schools for use of the N word.
Let’s return now to the issue of style, and look at some touches that seem purely aesthetic, rather than carrying any message.
In a nod to Modernism, or the avant-garde, Lee renders several passages which Scout can’t bear to listen to — a “racist” rant, the inane chatter of grown and married childhood friends — as a sequence of broken sentence fragments. It’s an interesting effect, which, if it represented the narrator’s own exasperated consciousness, would suggest Céline. It also suggests William Burroughs at his most refractory, the period of the so-called “cut-ups.”
Moreover, at least one passage of ordinary prose suggests a parallel to no less than Naked Lunch itself:
At the end of the table, sitting like a great dropsical gray slug, was William Willougby. . . . William Willoughby was indeed the last of his kind. . . . There were mutations, like Willoughby [who] chose to run the county not in its most comfortable office, but in what was best described as a hutch—a small, dark, evil-smelling room with his name on the door, containing nothing more than a telephone, a kitchen table, and unpainted captain’s chairs of rich patina.
It seems, to me at least, very reminiscent of the “County Clerk” section, although I can’t really find any verbal parallels, just a kind of tone:
Lee listened in horror. The county clerk often spent weeks in the privy living on scorpions and Montgomery Ward catalogues. On several occasions his assistants had forced the door and carried him out in a state of advanced malnutrition.
Could Burroughs have had an influence on this beloved middle-school classic? I’m sure it would delight him. Alas, further research shows that Mockingbird was in the stores before the County Clerk sections were generally available.
Ironically, some have speculated that Capote wrote some part of Mockingbird. If Lee — which was also Burroughs pen name, e.g., for the pseudonymous Junky, as well as the characters “Lee” in Naked Lunch and “Inspector Lee” of the Nova Trilogy — was influenced, at least unconsciously, by Burroughs, it’s clear not only why her publishers would have deleted such “far-out” writing, but also why Lee never mentioned it: Burroughs and Capote hated each other. Burroughs, in fact, put a curse on Capote — in a letter of 1970, after the success of In Cold Blood — which reads like it could just as well suit Harper Lee:
The early work was in some respects promising — I refer particularly to the short stories. You were granted an area for psychic development. It seemed for a while as if you would make good use of this grant. You choose instead to sell out a talent that is not yours to sell. You have written a dull unreadable book which could have been written by any staff writer on the New Yorker — (an undercover reactionary periodical dedicated to the interests of vested American wealth).
You have placed your services at the disposal of interests who are turning America into a police state by the simple device of deliberately fostering the conditions that give rise to criminality and then demanding increased police powers and the retention of capital punishment to deal with the situation they have created. You have betrayed and sold out the talent that was granted you by this department. That talent is now officially withdrawn.
Enjoy your dirty money. You will never have anything else. You will never write another sentence above the level of In Cold Blood. As a writer you are finished. Over and out. Are you tracking me? Know who I am? You know me, Truman. You have known me for a long time. This is my last visit.
Indeed, Capote never regained the level of talent or success shown by In Cold Blood, and Lee never wrote another book at all. And the line about
You have placed your services at the disposal of interests who are turning America into a police state by the simple device of deliberately fostering the conditions that give rise to criminality and then demanding increased police powers . . . to deal with the situation they have created.
Sound today like exactly the strategy one might attribute to the Civil Righters and disciples of Saul Alinsky — force desegregation and then expand the Police State to deal with the inevitable chaos resultant — although that would have been not at all Burroughs’ meaning. But then, that’s the thing about curses and magick: it works, but often not the way you intended.
Is this a “rejected first draft”? Whatever the answer, Go Set a Watchman is an interestingly written first novel that addresses race in a realistic manner. The “classic” Mockingbird is New York’s response: dumbed down for kids and retconned into a “saintly blacks” narrative as part of Operation Destroy the South.
Forget about setting a watchman. Atticus Finch was a freakin’ prophet.
1. Nelle Harper Lee (Sandra Bulloch) interviewed in Infamous (2006),
2. Outside the Law School Scam, “Alternative Summer Reading for Pre-Law Students,” here.
3. “Which century?” replies John Caradine’s engineer to a reporter’s question about “the desperadoes who came through here back in ’62,” the year of the Mockingbird film, in the MST3k version of Night Train to Mundo Fine (Coleman Francis, 1965). The film was originally titled Night Train to Mundo Fine, and the novel opens with Jean Louise taking the night train to the end of the world, rural Alabama.
4. Gregory Peck is not enough. It took the prospect of seeing an unbeatable array of now-classic character actors in their youth (Jack Klugman as an angry ex-juvie!) to get me to watch Twelve Angry Men. Speaking of “young adult books,” I did read Catcher on my own, and came away with a loathing not for the hapless residents of Pency Prep but for the real “phonies,” Upper West Side Jews like the pretentious author and his protagonist.
5. I’m pretty sure I was assigned Lord of the Flies, and I know I didn’t read that, as the cover of the Capricorn paperback I found repulsive. Mockingbird has a nice cover, at least in hardcover, and the new book shares the same look; is the illustrator still alive, toiling away for Harpers?
7. Margot Metroland, “Y’all Can Kill That Mockingbird Now,” here. See also “Atticus in Bizarro World: Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman,” here.
8. Perhaps this increase in the role of her playmate Dill, based on Truman Capote, is the origin, and perhaps the truth, behind the rumors of Capote getting involved in the writing or at least the recollections.
9. Bad people, like this New Jersey mook, or later the school principal from up in the Hill Country of Alabama, always like things written down: the latter “doesn’t believe anything unless it’s written down” and then “when it’s written down he believes every word of it.” Tradition, by contrast, is non-literate. This goes back to the curious Genesis 9:22, where Ham (father of the negro race) is cursed for “seeing the nakedness” of his drunken father, Noah. Alexander Jacob suggests may refer to “the public dissemination of the ancestral wisdom among the highly literate Hamitic civilizations of Sumer and Egypt, whereas the other Indo-Europeans preserved it in purely oral form.” “The Indo-European Origins of the Grail” in Leopold von Schrodeder and Alexander Jacob, The Grail: Two Studies (Numen Books, 2015), p. 169, n402.
10. The New Jersey snob, we hear, is not a family man. Catholicism, or High Church tendencies within Anglicanism, has long been a comfy place for curmudgeons, bachelors, homosexuals and other oddballs to hide in plain sight. In Brideshead Revisited, Charles’ cousin sternly remonstrates him when going up to Oxford to “Avoid Anglo Catholics; they are all sodomites with atrocious accents.” On the fin de siècle in general, see Ellis Hanson, Decadence and Catholicism (Harvard, 1997), which discusses Oscar Wilde, Charles Baudelaire, J.-K. Huysmans, Walter Pater, Paul Verlaine, and even Frederick Rolfe (who went so far as to style himself “Fr. Rolfe” when he wasn’t playing as the Sicilian Baron Corvo). For the American, or at least Northern, angle, see Douglass Shand-Tucci’s Ralph Adams Cram: Boston Bohemia, 1881–1900 (University of Massachusetts Press, 1995). On the Catholic side, there’s always one in every parish that want more incense, High Masses and sermons on Meister Eckhart; see J. F. Powers’ Morte d’Urban (itself winner of the 1963 National Book Award for Fiction). To understand Powers, you must understand that he was that rare bird, a sort of proto-Leftist, pre-Vatican II Irish Catholic who thought America was a nation of knuckle-dragging, war-mongering, racist Protestants, to whom his kind were superior in politics and culture, as well as ethics and religion. He fights both incense and homos, which he associates with the Right: McCarthy and Cohen, Whittaker Chambers, Cardinal Spellman. Also in the early ’60s, even J. D. Salinger gets in the act; his narrator in the New Yorker story Zooey disparaging a boy his mother, Irish Catholic Bessie, recommends to sister Franny as being a weepy mother’s boy “who probably sleeps with a rosary under his pillow.”
Alan Watts describes his own struggle as a “spike” during his brief Episcopal priesthood in his autobiography, In My Own Way; later, in Beyond Theology, he will try to appreciate the other side: “The insides of most Protestant churches resemble courthouses or town halls, and the focal point of their services is a serious exhortation from a man in a black gown. No golden light, no bells, incense, and candles. No mystery upon an altar or behind an iconostasis. But people brought up in this atmosphere seem to love it. It feels warm and folksy, and leads, on the one hand, to hospitals, prison reform, and votes for all, and, on the other, to sheer genius for drabness, plain cooking ungraced with wine, and constipation of the bright emotions—all of which are considered virtues.
“If I try to set aside the innate prejudices which I feel against this religion, I begin to marvel at the depth of its commitment to earnestness and ugliness. For there is a point at which certain types of ugliness become fascinating, where one feels drawn to going over them again and again, much as the tongue keeps fondling a hole in a tooth. I begin to realize that those incredibly plain people, with their almost unique lack of color, may after all be one of the most astonishing reaches of the divine Maya-the-Dancer of the world as far out from himself as he can get, dancing not-dancing.” Beyond Theology, Chapter Two.
11. I thank Ms. Metroland, op. cit., for identifying the speaker from the North as perhaps Robert Welch of the John Birch Society himself. When we first meet Atticus, he’s reading with disapproval a book titled The Strange Case of Alger Hiss. Thanks to Google, we can instantly date this to 1953, when this book (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1953. $3.95.), by one Earl Jowitt, that is, “The” Earl Jowitt, a parlor pinko no doubt, appeared. This “Earl” business explains why Atticus thinks he “shows a childlike faith in the integrity of civil servants,” imagines the Congress to “correspond to their aristocracy,” and in general has “no understanding of American politics a-tall.” The Earl’s book is anti-Chambers and apparently one of the first exercises in what the Clintons have dubbed “the politics of personal destruction.” It has always puzzled me as to why the Hissites claim that Chambers was in love with Hiss, since it is clearly they themselves who have a big ol’ crush on dashing young diplomats improving the world from their positions in the One World Government.
Later, Louise will find a pamphlet back at the house entitled “The Black Plague,” essaying forth a eugenic perspective about “brain pans, whatever they are.” It’s an obvious enough title to be her own creation, but I do find there is a pamphlet by that title by that old conspiracy-monger, Eustace Mullins. The version I can find online is obviously from the late ’60s (there’s a Black Panther on the cover and Malcolm X is referenced on the first page; there’s even talk of the Zebra killer) and the emphasis is culture, not physiology.
12. New York newspapers are a note that ties the book together. “You’ve been reading those New York papers,” Atticus points out during their final confrontation. When she first arrives, he asks her “how much of what’s going on down here gets into the newspapers” and she responds “Well, to hear the Post tell it, we lynch ’em for breakfast down here.” Later, when she bristles as a former schoolmate makes a crude negro joke, she says “I’m getting like the New York Post.” Younger readers need to know that at the time, the New York Post was a Liberal newspaper.
13. Like most such, it “escaped her notice” that “he son had developed all the latent characteristics of a three-dollar bill.”
14. “You know what you look like to me, with your good bag and your cheap shoes? You look like a rube. A well scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste. Good nutrition’s given you some length of bone, but you’re not more than one generation from poor white trash, are you, Agent Starling?” Dr. Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs (Demme, 1991). Jean Louise may not know what a brain pan is, and be horrified by those who do, but she’s eager to join with the rest of the town to denigrate the poorer members of her own race.
15. Reviewing the book, here. As always, it’s impossible to fathom the Liberal mind, or to follow its never-ending, shall we say, revolutions. Wasn’t it just last year that Liberals were pumping their fists — or other body parts — to Lady Gaga’s insistence that she and her Little Monsters were “born this way”? (Vigilant Citizen)
16. “Race realism is one of the intellectual foundations of White Nationalism. Race realism is the thesis that racial differences are objective facts of nature, which pre-exist human consciousness, human society, and even the human race itself.” Greg Johnson: “Why Race is Not a ‘Social Construct,’” here.
17. The foolishness of electoral politics: Eisenhower was the one sending troops in to enforce desegregation, out of Cold War necessity. And right on time for the book’s appearance, calls to remove Jefferson and Jackson from the Democrat pantheon (and the currency); racists, don’t you know?
18. As chronicled by Paul Kersey on his invaluable blog, Stuff Black People Don’t Like, and compiled in his collection The Tragic City: Birmingham 1963–2013.
19. All this has been chronicles, not, of course, in those “New York newspapers,” but on Paul Kersey’s invaluable blog, Stuff Black People Don’t Like.
20. Such as, obviously, the blog Those Who Can See. For my own discuss of Carpenter’s film — a prior, and implicitly White, version of The Matrix, see my “He Writes! You Read! They Live!” here and reprinted in The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012).
21. It would appear that in the occluded world of They Live!, the color-blind would indeed be immune to the alien’s brainwashing.
22. Is that English? He means “as well as what they should be” I guess. From a man arguing the inferiority of the negro? This is the only place where the book feels like a first draft.
23. Graham: “Because everything with you is seeing, isn’t it? Your primary sensory intake that makes your dream live is seeing. Reflections. Mirrors. Images. . . .” See my “Phil & Will: Awakening Through Repetition in Groundhog Day, Point of Terror, & Manhunter, Part 2,” here. “I asked my mother what I had seen, and she told me that he was not just a white man turned brown, but a different kind of man called a ‘Negro.’ But I already saw the differences before I was told the name and explanation. Indeed, I asked for an explanation because I saw the differences. My mother and I certainly did not construct the differences that were apparent to all.” Greg Johnson, op. cit., emphases his.
24. Scout sneaks into the courthouse and sees Atticus and Hank at the Citizens’ Council meeting, and wonders if anyone sees her there (they do). Calpurnia, the old family retainer who’s been radicalized by the civil rights interlopers, can no longer see Scout. Even the long reminiscence about Scout and Dill — the character based on Truman Capote and a favorite of readers, involved Dill and a supposed machine to see through walls.
25. Scout goes on to she needs the watchman to “proclaim to them all that twenty-six years is too long to play a joke on anybody,” which could indeed be said of those Whites who have bought into the whole “color-blind” idea. Negroes, as Atticus points out, “vote in blocs.”
26. Again, the text seems wrong here; surely this should be “conscience,” or is Jack meant to be confused, misled by Jung’s “collective consciousness,” or is there some other symbolism here I’m missing?
27. “The foundation of race realism is sense experience, not scientific theorizing.” — Greg Johnson, op. cit.
28. And speaking of the Finch family, we also wonder about how Uncle Jack made so much money off his poor Alabama patients during the Depression so as to retire wealthy in his forties.
29. Ironically, the uber-shysters running the “schools” are fleecing the little lambs blind, pocketing their federally guaranteed loans and sending them out as debt slaves, most of whom will either have no jobs, or find themselves forced into lucrative corporate slavery rather than indulging in “pro bono defense.” In a further irony, only the rich can afford such society-wrecking concern for “the poor,” while the poor themselves are sucker into . . . law school (“diversity”) and debt slavery.
30. Similarly, TKAM has bred two generations of lambs that, faced with the overwhelming fact that law school is a disastrously bad bet (unless your parents foot the bill, or it’s a “tier 1” school) respond as Special Snowflakes: “When I got into law school a few months ago a law school professor (who is also a family friend) sent me a glut of articles like this and said to read them, then read To Kill a Mockingbird again. Realize that you are not part of that statistic if you remember why you really want to practice law. So, dear Gawker, I am going to just say that I am rubber and you are glue and all the law school bashing rolls of me and sticks to you.” Really, if I were a liberal constituency, I’d be very afraid of being represented by delusional idiots like this. Generally, see “Do Not Go to a Second-Tier Law School Under Any Circumstances” by Hamilton Nolan, Gawker, 3/05/12, here: “In case you’ve forgotten, let us take this opportunity to remind you: do not go to law school. Law school is worthless. Even more worthless than you think. Law school will not make you happy. The smart kids are not going to law school. You should not go to law school.” Although himself a law professor, Paul Campos has been at the forefront of exposing the “law school scam”: “The odds of a graduate getting a job that justifies incurring the schools’ typical debt are essentially 100 to 1. . . . The result is a system that has produced an entire generation of over-credentialed, underemployed, and deeply indebted young people.” (The Atlantic, September, 2014, here). Ironically, or appropriately, the worst hit have been the “solo practitioners” who wanted to be just like Atticus: “Solo practitioners, the largest single group of American lawyers and the heart and soul of the profession, have struggled for a quarter of a century. . . . In 1988, solo practitioners earned an inflation-adjusted $70,747. By 2012, earnings had fallen to $49,130, a 30% decrease in real income. And note, $49,130 is not the starting salary for these lawyers. It is the average earnings of all 354,000 lawyers who filed as solo practitioners that year.” Benjamin Barton, “The fall and rise of lawyers,” CNN, May 22, 2015.
31. See my review of The Magical Universe of William Burroughs, “Curses, Cut-Ups, & Contraptions: The ‘Disastrous Success’ of William Burroughs’ Magick,” here.
32. Burroughs, perhaps hopefully, described Nova Express as “an action novel that can be read by any twelve year old.” See Oliver Harris’ “Introduction” to Nova Express: The Restored Text (New York: Penguin, 2013), p. xliv.
33. “In 1962, Grove Press issued a promotional booklet to accompany the November 20, 1962 American publication of Naked Lunch. . . . The promotional pamphlet includes an eight page selection of Naked Lunch. Not surprisingly, Rosset chose sections that support the critical readings of the novel. The “Meeting of International Conference of Technological Society” and “The County Clerk” section highlight the satirical nature of Naked Lunch to the fullest. Rosset also featured these pieces (along with a section entitled “Interzone”) in Evergreen Review No. 16 of January / February 1961. They present Burroughs’ humor, language and voice at their most obvious.” “Burroughs Ephemera 2: Naked Lunch Prospectus,” here. Note that “The County Clerk” is preceded by “Meeting of International Conference of Technological Society” which involves horrifying insect/human mutations, like the slug-like Willoughby and “his kind.”
34. “Harper Lee: the ‘great lie’ she didn’t write Mockingbird rears its head again,” Glynnis MacCool, The Guardian, July 15, 2015, here.
35. And perhaps we should note the similarity of William Willoughby to William Burroughs?
36. “William S. Burroughs Trashes Truman Capote In Open Letter” by Jen Carlson, Gothamist, Aug 2, 2012, here. The “stunning opening” to Nova Express was originally titled “Open Letter” and is signed by “J. Lee”; see Harris, op. cit., pp. 193, 199.
37. “Of course, much like Lee was never able to publish anything after To Kill a Mockingbird, Capote’s writing fizzled after In Cold Blood, so perhaps their literary relationship was more symbiotic than one-sided.” Steve Sailer, “Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Pre-sequel,” Unz Review, July 2, 2015, here.
38. See my review of The Magical World of William Burroughs, op. cit.
The Brandos: Honoring the Gay Performances the Academy Overlooked
(”Infamous” is briefly mentioned in this.)
What if the Academy Awards really were seals of approval? The film industry Oscars usually rubber stamp mainstream movies with big budgets and hype but ignores breakthroughs in movie history and gay culture.
So, here’s The Brandos: a list honoring film performances you should know that deserve the big prize but never got it. These iconic characterizations recognize gay experience and, through imagination, compassion and talent, validate gay people’s humanity.
Saluting Marlon Brando’s performance in Reflections in a Golden Eye — an act of artistic genius and cultural courage — the great actor revealed depths of desire and critiqued the misery of repression. Not the first such achievement (Richard Barthelmess in Broken Blossoms, Julie Harris in The Member of the Wedding, Murray Melvin in A Taste of Honey, Dirk Bogarde in The Servant are among many early examples) Brando’s revolutionary characterization created an unforgettable signpost for cultural awakening two years before Stonewall.
Marlon Brando, Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)
As Major Pendleton, Brando cruises soldier Robert Forster in a film where sexual awareness shakes up a Southern Army base.
Anthony Perkins, Play It As It Lays (1972)
Playing confidante to a neurotic actress (Tuesday Weld), Perkins gave his most explicit finely etched gay characterization.
Alan Bates, Nijinsky (1980)
As ballet impresario Diaghliev, Bates commemorated a classic ideal of gay sophistication and desire.
Paul Winfield, Mike’s Murder (1982)
Acting out the client-hustler dynamic, Winfield brought weight to the drama of aging in gay subculture opposite hustler Mark Keyloun.
Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple (1985)
Celie, from Alice Walker’s novel, remains Hollywood’s foremost lesbian heroine and Goldberg’s career peak.
Daniel Day Lewis, My Beautiful Launderette (1986)
As punk-era Johnny, Day-Lewis broke Thatcher-era expectations in this cross-cultural British-Pakistani romance.
Steve Buscemi, Parting Glances (1986)
Memorably portraying the screen’s first AIDS martyr, Buscemi avoided self-pity combining poignant humor and rage.
Carmen Maura and Antonio Banderas, Law of Desire (1987)
As transexual and piece-of-ass, Maura and Banderas in Almodóvar’s breakout classic, were interchangeably hot and wild.
Vincent Perez, Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train (1999)
In Patrice Chereau’s magnificent epic of family and sexual identity, Perez turned transitioning into a metaphor for spiritual growth.
Naomi Watts, Mulholland Drive (2001)
Classic movie-movie made real by Watts’ sensitive withdrawal from Hollywood tragedy into same-sex comfort, confidence, love.
Toby Jones, Infamous (2006)
The good Truman Capote biography minus pessimism, Jones tied the writer’s wit to his passion for jailbait Daniel Craig.
Catherine Keener, Maladies (2014)
Another career peak, Keener’s transvestite fights pre-Stonewall oppression, turning her usual snark into compassion.
Skip Rotten Tomatoes, they’re biased SJWs too afraid to criticize things like the Ghost Busters reboot. Avoid giving them ad revenue by using the minimalist alternative, Cinesift, for a quick aggregate:
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