Mocking “Mockingbird”

Friday’s Wall Street Journal featured an Allen Barra essay assigning Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (50th Anniversay Celebration here) to the dustbin of literary history.

Nut graf:

It’s time to stop pretending that “To Kill a Mockingbird” is some kind of timeless classic that ranks with the great works of American literature. Its bloodless liberal humanism is sadly dated, as pristinely preserved in its pages as the dinosaur DNA in “Jurassic Park.”

But faithful WSJ reader Patrick Barkus hit back in this letter to the editor:

‘Mockingbird’ Did Something Great

Allen Barra’s “What ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Isn’t” (Leisure & Arts, June 24) on Harper Lee’s book produced a wry smile in me because my son and I discussed the same subject the previous day. We had essentially the same reaction as Mr. Barra and made, if not as eloquently, the same points: no ambiguity, cardboard characters and childlike moral reasoning.

Mr. Barra is certainly correct on all grounds except, of course, for one. Harper Lee has written something that neither Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy or for that matter William Faulkner, all writers of “literature” I greatly admire, ever accomplished. She has written a classic, a truly great book, and in the process has done a great service for all the world’s children by removing, one hopes for all time, any moral ambiguity surrounding Jim Crow with all its horrors, and revealing it in a way even a child could understand for the great evil it was.

Somehow “literature” pales in comparison.

Patrick Barkus

Spokane, Wash.

Your book review goes here.

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