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Preview: Comments on pattinase: Friday's Forgotten Books, October 2, 2009

Comments on Patricia Abbott (pattinase): Friday's Forgotten Books, October 2, 2009





Updated: 2017-11-23T20:30:42.748-05:00

 



I would sooner read Gone With The Wind then watch ...

2009-10-02T22:32:26.346-04:00

I would sooner read Gone With The Wind then watch the movie for the upteenth time. There are always so many things in a book not found in the movies. It truly is a wonderful book.



Deb ... I agree with the points you're making....

2009-10-02T17:33:28.593-04:00

Deb ... I agree with the points you're making. It holds true to many many authors from the past. I can think of John D. MacDonald and his hugely popular Travis McGee series. When i first read them in the 1960s and 70s, the role and view of women as presented in those stories felt fine to me. Upon re-reading them in the nineties i became aware of how sexist they were. The books hadn't changed, but the world had changed, and how I viewed the world had, too.

Still, I think we have to be careful in how we attribute the thoughts and views of a character with the author who created the character. They are not always shared.



Frank--Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying ...

2009-10-02T16:56:53.906-04:00

Frank--Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Margaret Mitchell was running around with a white sheet and hood(although the Klan does figure--somewhat sympathetically--in GWTW), I'm simply saying that to our 21st century minds, the black characters are not presented as full characters, only as shorthand versions of how a white southerner of Mitchell's time (1920s-30s) would see them. I think this is one of the reasons I don't recall much complaint about Faulkner's depictions of African-Americans. Yes, he shows them as products of the world around them and as limited by their lack of educational and employment opportunities in the Jim Crow south, but he also shows them as fully human, as having a life beyond the places where they connect with white society. (For example, Nancy in "That Old Evening Sun" who is trying to avoid being beaten or possibly killed by her husband.) The black characters in GWTW just don't have that three-dimensional substance.

I agree, you have to understand the era in which a book is written and the era about which a book is written, and when the book is good enough, intriguing enough, interesting enough, you have to cut it some slack. But you can't go back to thinking like someone would have eighty years ago in order to make a book palatable. That's why I like what Bill Crider wrote today about the homophobia in his forgotten book jumping out at him whereas 30 years ago when he first read the book, it made no impression.

I guess the best analogy I can make is to the casual anti-semitism in Agatha Christie's books. I love Agatha Christie and I'm guessing I've read everything she wrote at least twice, but whenever a character is given a name like Solomon Cohen, I wince, because I know she's going to be very negative in a casual, dismissive way. That doesn't stop me from enjoying reading her work, but I can't pretend the anti-semitism isn't there.

I think it was Oliver Wendell Holmes who observed, "Once a mind has been stretched, it will not return to its original dimensions."

P.S. Thanks for the invitation, Patti. I will start going through my forgotten faves pile and send you something before the designated date.



Frank-I guess it depends whether it comes across a...

2009-10-02T16:31:34.905-04:00

Frank-I guess it depends whether it comes across as the author's voice or that of the characters. Haven't read it in 40 years so I don't know.



Another comment on GWTW. I understand what Deb is...

2009-10-02T15:16:39.478-04:00

Another comment on GWTW. I understand what Deb is saying about the racism present in the story and how unsettling it is to read about. I can't speak with examples in the book since I haven't read it since high school. But, it seems to me that to depict the Civil War and post CW years realistically meant having characters reflect the racism of the times, and the horrible attitudes and treatment of people that rose from it. Mitchum needed to be historically accurate. To write otherwise, would have created a false view of the world in the 1860s. One purpose of fiction is to examine the human condition, a condition that is flawed to say the least. I would rather see this accuracy, as uncomfortable as it is to read about, than have an author sugar coat things to avoid discomfort.

Regarding Margaret Mitchell herself, she was anything but racist, from what I have learned about her. She regularly supplied scholarship money to enable african-americans to go to college. This at a time when racism was still playing out strongly in our society. It seems to me she wouldn't do this if she shared the values and views of the characters she created in GWTW.



I just added my late edition to my blog.

2009-10-02T14:28:24.733-04:00

I just added my late edition to my blog.



By the 21st would be swell. You can email it to me...

2009-10-02T14:27:04.733-04:00

By the 21st would be swell. You can email it to me (aa2579@wayne.edu) with a few lines about yourself. I'll find the cover for the book you choose. Just type it right on the email. Thanks! Glad to have you onboard.



October 23 would be great--when do you need it by?...

2009-10-02T11:35:15.617-04:00

October 23 would be great--when do you need it by? Also, I hate to sound like a complete techno ignoramus (although, if the shoe fits...), but do I email it to you or what?



Deb-I can post it right on here like the first thr...

2009-10-02T11:01:28.654-04:00

Deb-I can post it right on here like the first three today. Readers are more than welcome. Many of the links are to readers, not writers. How about October 23rd? (I'm taking the 16th off)



I'd love too, but I don't have a blog--I&#...

2009-10-02T10:47:34.123-04:00

I'd love too, but I don't have a blog--I'm just a reader who loves to discover new (to me) books & authors.

Let me know if there's a way I could do it without having a blog and I'd be glad to share a "forgotten" fave!



Deb-how about writing about a forgotten book in th...

2009-10-02T10:31:13.074-04:00

Deb-how about writing about a forgotten book in the coming weeks?



I really enjoy this feature--it's opened my ey...

2009-10-02T10:12:40.221-04:00

I really enjoy this feature--it's opened my eyes to a lot of books and authors I wouldn't have found otherwise.

One comment about Gone with the Wind: It's been 40 years since I first read GWTW and for many years it was one of my re-read favorites. However, anyone new to the book should be forewarned that the racial attitudes in it are absolutely appalling. If you can focus on the love triange of Rhett-Scarlett-Ashley and the panoramic sweep of the Civil War, that's fine; but the black characters are presented as either selflessly devoted servants (like Pork and--of course--Mammy), stoic ciphers (Dilcey), empty-headed nincompoops (Prissy), or creatures of fear and revulsion (like the man who tries to rob Scarlett and tears her clothing). Most egregiously, Margaret Mitchell includes a passage (written in the omnicient narrator's voice, not the voice of one of the characters) in which she states flatly that most slaves were happier being slaves and that many of their former white owners were in constrained financial circumstances because they continued to take care of their former slaves.

It's interesting that in Bill Crider forgotten book review today he mentioned noticing the homophobia in a book that he hadn't noticed at all when he first read it over 30 years ago. Patti then commented that homophobia and sexism now jump our at us. I agree--and would like to add that racism is another of those "isms" that jumps out at us when we read an older book. Undoubtedly GWTW has its charms as a book about a determined woman hopelessly in love with the wrong man, but there's no way around its terrible depiction of Black people. So if you decide to read it, be prepared.