Comparatively Speaking


How many more books, do you reckon, will be compared to TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD?  I can only surmise it will continue to happen until someone writes the story everyone thinks is better.  A book that is of the quality of MOCKINGBIRD, a book that takes a couple of important issues in today’s society and teaches us how we ought to be, as people, a book that impacts everyone positively.

(Let’s face it, Ms Lee has set the bar extraordinarily high)

I ran across another book being compared to MOCKINGBIRD just the other day.  I imagine when this happens, the author must be doing back flips around their backyard.  Think about it…all those book reviewers eluding to the fact you have a story like MOCKINGBIRD, or that you can write like Harper Lee.  But…, the way this comparison has been tossed around since that book came out, if I were that author, I’d have to be a bit tongue in cheek.

Here’s a short list of all the ones I’ve seen over the past few years:

ME & EMMA

http://redroom.com/member/elizabeth-flock/reviews/good-reads

THE DRY GRASS OF AUGUST

http://www.litlovers.com/book-reviews/27-wonderfully-written/8479-dry-grass-august-review

BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bastard_Out_of_Carolina_%28novel%29

ELLEN FOSTER

http://waysidesacraments.blogspot.com/2009/12/ellen-foster-by-kaye-gibbons.html

and the one most recently:

WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD

http://www.shelf-awareness.com/previous-issues.html 

I’ve read all these books except the last one, and if I am speaking truthfully, I felt that none compared to MOCKINGBIRD.  Some were really good in their individual ways (BASTARD, ELLEN) but none had the impact that MOCKINGBIRD did for me, (and everyone else in the past fifty years evidently, well, excluding those fifty eight reviews on Amazon where some folks gave it a one star)

The other thing is, when today’s books are compared to the classics, the classics have one thing to their advantage – time.  And, we may not ever know if any of these, (and all the ones I didn’t mention) meet that test, that is, if a book’s true test is the resilience of time.

Still, I’ll admit, sometimes, the comparisons are what make me buy a book.  I do the usual sort of perusing, and first the cover draws me in.  Then, I read the back of the book, or the inner flap.  Next, I open the book randomly and look at the narrative.  That’s usually all it takes, but if I’m hesitating, even the least little bit, the reviews might push me over to a purchase.  Because, don’t we all want to read another book as good as MOCKINGBIRD?  Don’t we all have that hope?.

But, we know reviews are that proverbial, “to each his own.”  We have our own tastes when it comes to food, movies, hobbies, music and books, etc, and I’ve often wondered, when a book reviewer chooses to take a classic like MOCKINGBIRD and use it as a comparison, do they really, really mean it?   I believe books that have been categorized as classics ought to have comparisons doled out sparingly, because, honestly, not every book can be like, <pick your classic,> even if you loved it.

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4 Comments

Donna, you know there are at least two other famous writers from Harper Lee’s hometown, Monroeville. I am thinking of moving there and drinking lots of water.

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Agreed. I call Mockingbird the literary bible…nothing can touch it. I taught it for six years and had read it a few times before that. I learned something new about life every time. My mom didn’t believe me so I bought her a special edition of it and she took it on vacation. She came back and every other thing that happened in her life she compared to something in that story – it’s powerful.

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    I love that phrase – the literary bible. Will be *bogarting* that one for future use. 🙂 The first time I knew anything about the book was when I saw the movie. I must have been close to Scout’s age…and she was my hero. (especially when she said, “Pass the damn ham!”) and I pestered my mother to take me to the library…she finally did, and that’s the book I kept checking out over and over. I wish I’d kept count of how many times I read it over the years. I bought a copy too, when they put out the special edition. I still reference it from time to time.

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