(They’re short, though!)
Yeah, keeping up with the “Book Report” thing. It’s kinda fun, somehow. So, we’re going to start with the best, and work our way down from there. There will be a thematic shift from the first to the second book, and a dramatic shift in quality from the second to the third. Just so you know.
Book One: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Just like everyone else, I read this book in high school, but I apparently wasn’t ready yet, or something. I didn’t really remember it; I remembered reading it, and I remembered that the school’s drama department performed the play a year or two later (which, oddly, let me figure out The Usual Suspects way too quickly, due to a coincidence of casting in the young man playing Atticus), but mostly all I remembered was a few mental images. I had a mental image of Atticus standing in the middle of the street with the gun, a Shane-like reluctant gunman, though I couldn’t remember precisely who or what he was supposed to be shooting down, and I remembered the idea of the trial, blazoned on my brain via the movie still of Gregory Peck standing in a courtroom looking upright and noble, despite that I haven’t even seen the movie, and I remembered the basic outline of the stuff about Boo Radley. Obviously, just like everyone else, I decided to re-read it now—after it had been on my “gee, I really ought to re-read that someday” list for eons—because of the sequel. Specifically, it was when I learned that the sequel had actually been written first and then the manuscript had been lost for 55 years, that was when I decided that yes, I definitely did want to read it, and so I’d have to re-read this one first.
And I’m very glad I did. Because wow, this book was so much better than I understood when I read it for English class 20+ years ago. Obviously, being from the Midwestern suburbs rather than the small town South, there are probably still subtleties that go over my head—not to mention aspects of the 1930s that I don’t get, having been born 40 years later—but I think a lot of it meant much more to me now that it would have in high school, especially since I was ludicrously sheltered. (I probably didn’t even know what morphine was.) I think the part that resonated most strongly with me was watching Scout struggling to try to understand the hypocrisy of her society, especially at the end, where her teacher is talking about how much she hates Hitler for persecuting the Jews, and yet that same teacher had been raving at Tom’s trial about how far “his kind” had been getting “out of line,” and Scout’s so upset by it that she’s crying, but she can’t really get any sympathy or even explanations out of anyone…very powerful stuff. When you think about the kind of things that were happening in 1960, I wonder how people reacted back then when they read that? Did it make anyone realize that maybe they were being hypocrites? (Or maybe that kind of person had already stopped reading, or hadn’t ever started in the first place.) I’m looking forward to seeing how Scout grew up. (I recently bought Go Set a Watchman, but I’m not going to start reading it until I finish reading The Death and Afterlife of Achilles, ’cause, you know, only two books at a time. Well, three, if you count the one I’m reading on the Kindle app…but I’m almost done with that one, and it’s a collection of folktales, so it’s a bit different anyway…)