New York Magazine, By Noreen Malone and Portfolio By Amanda Demme, July 26
More has changed in the past few years for women who allege rape than in all the decades since the women’s movement began. Consider the evidence of October 2014, when an audience member at a Hannibal Buress show in Philadelphia uploaded a clip of the comedian talking about Bill Cosby: “He gets on TV, ‘Pull your pants up, black people … I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom.’ Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches … I guess I want to just at least make it weird for you to watch Cosby Show reruns. Dude’s image, for the most part, it’s fucking public Teflon image. I’ve done this bit onstage and people think I’m making it up … That shit is upsetting.” The bit went viral swiftly, with irreversible, calamitous consequences for Cosby’s reputation.
Perhaps the most shocking thing wasn’t that Buress had called Cosby a rapist; it was that the world had actually heard him. A decade earlier, 14 women had accused Cosby of rape. In 2005, a former basketball star named Andrea Constand, who met Cosby when she was working in the athletic department at Temple University, where he served on the board of trustees, alleged to authorities that he had drugged her to a state of semi-consciousness and then groped and digitally penetrated her. After her allegations were made public, a California lawyer named Tamara Green appeared on the Today show and said that, 30 years earlier, Cosby had drugged and assaulted her as well. Eventually, 12 Jane Does signed up to tell their own stories of being assaulted by Cosby in support of Constand’s case. Several of them eventually made their names public. But they were met, mostly, with skepticism, threats, and attacks on their character. Read More
I finally bought a copy of Go Set A Watchman and finished reading it only about fifteen minutes ago. Here is my reaction.
First, I found most of it entertaining if only because I love Southern language and Harper Lee renders it really, really well. It is her authentic language and in many ways she delivers it in Watchman better than Mockingbird.
Lee uses her gift of language to draw colorful characters all of whom I can recognize from my own upbringing. Lee has a well-developed eye and ear. The book resonates for me in that way.
If I were asked to characterize the book, I would answer: It’s actually a coming-of-age story that spends most of its time disguised as a fish-out-of-water story. In terms of simplified, ancient television models, it is like John-Boy returning to Walton’s Mountain after living for years as a transplant in some faraway city and then suffering through an excruciating high school class reunion populated by people he thinks he has grown beyond. The self-aware protagonist spends a lot of time wondering (as a coming-of-age teenager might) am I the one who’s different? did I change or did they? How can you tell?
Jean Louise’s relationships to her home and family crystallize in her final disillusionment with Atticus. The stuff about race relations is powerful, but only momentarily poignant. It is the device Lee uses to move Scout’s transformation forward. It has an arbitrary feel about it. It read like a transparent literary contrivance, and ultimately the excuse for a rant delivered by Jean Louise in the closing chapters. Interestingly, Scout declares during her rant she probablyagrees with practical difficulties of having Black people participate fully in Maycomb governance and civic life. She too dances on the head of a pin. The worst offense of the book lies in the end–and this is where it reminded me of the Waltons. At least some of her anguish seems to have been anticipated, even encouraged by Atticus and his brother to help Scout “grow up”—at least that is how it reads to me. It isn’t that anyone changes their opinions on race, religion or politics. It is more like Scout becomes Jean Louise when she discovers she cannot borrow anybody else’s conscience, anybody else’s “watchman”. She has to get comfortable with her own and know everyone else has their own. Sigh!
I am not too good at finely tuned literary analysis and probably do not do this book justice. However I can say that it was worth my time and I did enjoy the book. I think Harper Lee’s original editor was absolutely right in recommending she re-cast the story to remove a lot of the self-conscious , self-aware reporting by Scout in this book. She turned in a superior book on the second try. Seems to me that Mockingbird is needed if only to explain the true depth of young Scout’s perception of Atticus and her hometown. You can better understand how Watchman works (or is intended to work) if you have read Mockingbird first. Without that foreknowledge, Watchman would seem even more superficial, more contrived.
As I have said, the people in this book are people I grew up with. They are still around me…and you.
Do I think Atticus 1.0 and 2.0 are the same people? Yes, I do.
Maybe I am the only one on the planet who did not know this, but here is a paragraph or two from a report at The Hill regarding the highway fund legislation before Congress and how someone proposed it be funded:
“When banks join the Federal Reserve system, they are required to buy stock in the central bank equal to 6 percent of their assets. However, that stock does not gain value and cannot be traded or sold, so to entice banks to participate, the Fed pays out a 6 percent dividend payment.
The Senate proposal says it would slash that “overly generous” payout to 1.5 percent for all banks with more than $1 billion in assets. While the summary language outlining the proposal said that change would only impact “large banks,” industry advocates argued that banks most would identify as small community shops could easily have assets in excess of that amount.
Banks are working to mobilize against the provision, even as lawmakers are pushing to pass a highway bill before program funding expires at the end of the month.”
Does this make any sense?
You pay a membership fee to a club that then pays you to stay in the club AND will bail you out even if you screw up and go insolvent? And not just you–you and all of your insolvent club-buddies?
Frankly, that reaction is getting more than a little tiresome no matter what one’s religious beliefs might be. When terrorists used airplanes as missiles against the United States in 2011, we didn’t just pray for the victims: we changed our entire airline security system, spent billions on a new homeland security bureaucracy, and invaded not one but two countries at gigantic cost to life and treasure. When the Ebola virus threatened to break out in the United States we didn’t pray for deliverance from the plague; we went into a collective public policy and media frenzy to stop it from spreading further. When earthquakes prove our building standards are inadequate to save lives, we don’t beg the gods to avert catastrophe and pray for the victims; we spend inordinate amounts of [money] to retrofit so it doesn’t happen again.
On every major piece of public policy in which lives are taken needlessly, we don’t limit ourselves to empty prayers for the victims. We actually do something to stop it from happening again.
But not when it comes to gun proliferation. On that issue we are told that nothing can be done, and that all we can do is mourn and pray for the murdered and wounded, even as we watch the news every day for our next opportunity to grieve and mourn and pray again–all while sitting back and watching helplessly.
I’ve heard and read any number of times that with God anything is possible. How than, is it not possible to do something about the killing of innocent people because of guns? And don’t give me that bullshit about people kill, not guns. Guns were designed to be efficient killing machines. If that logic escapes you, then go back to your booze while beating your fist on the bar, because I’ve got better things to do than argue with a brain dead chem-zombi. And if you don’t drink I’ll not argue with a religo-zombi. Both are dead to the world around them.
Praying for God to do something is laziness. He’s given us paths. Those who’ve made the effort to get into positions of power are just too chicken shit to actually walk them. They are too worried about not getting their money from the (wholly owned and operated by the gun manufacturing lobby) NRA to actually do their job and protect their constituents.
A few weeks ago on these pages I half-seriously wondered why nobody had yet bothered to compare Donald Trump to Ross Perot. Today, I heard the first media speculation that “maybe he ought to run as a 3rd party candidate”. This time it is the Republicans who feel threatened by one of their own– an egotistical business outsider who likes the sound of his own voice a little too much. Mind you, that isn’t what they are saying right now, but it soon will be. Trump is already anathema to the other fifteen or so Republican hopefuls intent upon splintering their own Tea Party. He is to them as Perot was to the Democrats and to Bill Clinton whom he characterized as the mere governor of a minor state of the union. Podunk! Not like Tex-ass.
Isn’t that like calling John McCain a faux hero for being captured? Isn’t that like saying the greatest place on planet earth can only be New York?
Surely I am not the only one who sees the likeness here.
Still the media has begun warming up to the idea of taking Trump very seriously, and the logic sounds a great deal like what I said: “The sad thing is that many Americans do “get it” … even if they aren’t Trump supporters. A successful rich guy (net worth $8.73 billion*) must be rich and successful for a damn good reason. He must know something the rest of us don’t. Sounds like presidential material to me.” And the presidential material he sounds like resembles the “straight talk” once uttered by Mr. Perot when characterizing what is wrong with the world, which is to say what is wrong with America, which is further to say Washington, DC.
One NPR pundit alleged today that Trump is attractive because speaks the unspeakable—he says what many people claim to ‘think’, but feel too inhibited to say out loud. Another reported that Trump cannot be co-opted because he is too rich to be “bought”.
Really? I suppose Romney was also too rich. And if you dare read anything on the net or in the press, you would be hard put to find anyone too inhibited to hurl racial and ethnic epithets. They are issued by an exhaustive list of politicians at all levels of government, law enforcement representatives, and continually-booked talking heads on the Sabbath Gasbag news shows. Then there’s the increasing number of political shootings–and racial shootings are political shootings–well, show me how anyone is inhibited.
Donald is coming up Trumps all right. Where is Jack Burton when you need him?
Confusion ensued due to contradictory reports on the number of deaths, with an official figure of 21 but local sources saying 70-100. The media described the battle, between Islamist militants and the army, as the fiercest since the 1973 war between Egypt and Israel. Meanwhile, officials are trying to alleviate fears over the growing power the militant group Sinai Province, which is affiliated to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“This specific attack is by far the worst we’ve ever seen,” said Daniel Nisman, CEO of the Levantine Group Risk Consultancy, adding that the danger lies mainly in a plan to take over Sinai. “It’s not a hit and run – this is what [ISIS] used in places like Syria and Iraq to capture and hold territory.” Nisman said the operation underlined the shortcomings of the “scorched land” strategy of the Egyptian army, as it makes it harder for the state to garner local support.
Sinai security expert Zack Gold described the attack as “new and worrying,” and said militants either aimed to take over the city of Sheikh Zuwaid, where the attacks took place, or wanted to drag the army into an actual battle. “Either one is unprecedented.” However, he said comparing Sinai to Iraq and Syria was unrealistic, and the success of militants in the peninsula was extremely unlikely.
“Egypt isn’t Iraq; this isn’t Anbar. The [Egyptian] military is more cohesive, has more firepower, and has the capability to get them out,” Gold said, adding that the main obstacle is the number of civilians that could be killed in the process.
I have not read Go Set A Watchman. I plan to. In the meantime, I am enjoying the hype that is carpeting the media. I don’t think the publication of Harper Lee’s first complete effort as a novelist could have been better timed. Suddenly it all seems to come together: the boiling conversation on race relations, the meaning of Southern culture, and the role of illusion in art and life.
The question of hour is “Who is the real Atticus Finch?”. Serious people are engaged in ‘some really meta’ (self-referential) contortions to find the answer to this question in the hope of unlocking the greater mystery of who we Americans are.
I want to play too.
The publisher says there are two distinct versions of Atticus: the rough draft and the finished product. Story goes a first-time writer cobbles together a good story, but her editor suggests a considerable re-write. She obediently responds. And she knocks it out of the park. The author prepares a fine story mostly as the report of a child’s recollections. That was To Kill A Mockingbird. The point of view is that of a nine year old kid, but the teller of the tale is someone who reflecting on those memories as an adult. The memories and the reflections compose a beautiful story that is clearly drawn, lovingly rendered, and topical. The character of Atticus is one of principle, competence, integrity and compassion.
Once this child’s representation of Atticus was embraced and embedded in the popular mind, along comes the alternate version of Atticus—this one seen through the eyes of an adult—an adult who has been away from him for a while. This Atticus is also older and he has some warts the child might have overlooked.
Until I read the new book, I cannot say much about Atticus 2.0 apart from repeating the dire warnings in the press: Be Disappointed! Be Very Disappointed! He’s not your Daddy’s Atticus! (?)
Within the art world there is concern about whether Harper Lee is Jean Louise “Scout” Finch? If so, are these stories really about Harper Lee joined into a continuous tale about a woman distilling her Maycomb memories and coming to terms with her father’s true character? Are both books literary devices to present the South she knew and treated with a mixture of sadness and delight? Or are these books really about how anyone can awaken from the confusion caused by childhood recollection morphing into a rather different, hardened reality?