Monday, July 05, 2010

One-sentence book review

It's interesting that all the folks that are buying it don't know they are reading a children's book.
-- Flannery O'Connor, on Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.


  1. If the person that wrote that WSJ piece thinks Carson McCullers has Harper Lee beat, I'm not sure he's read much Carson McCullers.

    I have trouble arguing with Flannery O'Connor's estimation, but I've no problem with a book succeeding as what it is. Tom Sawyer is a children's book, too.

    What to do with a book that has such a huge moral influence, which this one did? (When I was a forth grader, roughly, my mother had me stay up late to watch Srgt York, and my parents took me to a drive in where I saw To Kill A Mockingbird, which was newly released. I can't overstate what it was like for a small-town-southern-lawyer's kid to see that movie, at a time when small towns in the south were far more like 1930ish than they were in the 1980ish my kids grew up in, much less now. But if I had to describe my moral upbringing, it would be Srgt York, To Kill A Mockingbird, Mark Twain and something-I'm-not-sure-what from The Once And Future King. So... what's the problem with that book?)

  2. I frequently browse the Amazon teen bestsellers to buy books for my children, rising fifth and sixth graders. The recently issued "The Help," showed up as a children's or teen's best seller long before it hit the adult list. "The Book Thief," was issued in Australia as an adult book but marketed in the U.S. as a juvenile cover. It is a good book, regardless of what it is labeled. How would you label Mark Twain's "Tom Sawyer"?

    I realize you are just passing on a funny quote, but this trend towards bashing "To Kill a Mockingbird," started recently by Malcolm Glidewell, is pretty sad in my view.

  3. Books with huge moral influences frequently *are* children's books, because that's when we're most susceptible to moral influence.

    Funny NMC mentions The Once and Future King, because that book *was* a "huge moral influence" on me, a pernicious one some would say. White's treatment of the Arthur-Guenever-Lancelot triangle made morality seem a lot more difficult, and a lot more open to tolerance and error, than some would have it.

    And yes, Rebelyell, my main interest in the quote was my sense that I could hear O'Connor drawling it out.