Saturday, November 23, 2019

Cultural Criticism: Is It A Lost Cause: In A Few Words, Why It’s Not

‪Calum Marsh:‬‬

‪Me, note to Marsh: ‬

‪It’s trite that social media form the platform for our, say, North American, English speaking conversation. And it’s trite that we live with hyper partisanship, connected to that very virality. So, rather than taking in the conversation informed by viral partisanship, better to avoid it, seeking out criticism and reviews that avoid it. Swim around it rather than drown in it. ‬

‪As for deep reading, it need not be devoid of common sense and filled with academic abstraction. Rather, it can try to penetrate the meaning of worthwhile works, evaluate their aesthetic worth and say why. Lots of room In that for a rich and lively diversity of considered views. And without it getting partisan or ideological, deep reading can further involve trying to locate works culturally, asking and trying to answer what they say about us in our moment.  Norman Podhoretz noted the conjunction of these two aspects of criticism against a false opposition between them.‬

Thursday, November 21, 2019

NFL Waiver


‪On November 16, 2019, _________________ (“Player”) will voluntarily participate in a workout at the Atlanta Falcons Headquarters & Training Facility at 4400 Falcon Parkway, Flowery Branch, Georgia, 30542 (the “Facility”). Player understands that the Workout may include, without limitation, various physical tests, questionnaires, time and/or agility tests, and such other tests to which Player may reasonably agree (collectively, the “Workout”) for purposes of Player’s consideration for prospective employment by NFL Clubs. In consideration for the opportunity to participate in the Workout on November 16, 2019, Player agrees to the following:‬

‪1. Player understands that participation in the Workout requires physical conditioning and therefore represents and warrants that (i) he is in excellent physical condition capable of participating in the Workout without risk to himself and (ii) has no known mental, emotional, or physical disabilities, injuries, or issues that would prohibit, inhibit, or limit Player’s full participation or would threaten, jeopardize, or risk Player’s well-being or the well-being of any other persons participating in the Workout;‬

‪2. Player acknowledges that he has been made no promise of employment, and understands that his participation in the Workout does not constitute employment by any of the Released Parties (as defined herein), but desires to participate in the Workout voluntarily in order to be considered for possible future employment. Player further acknowledges that his participation in the Workout does not guarantee that Player will be offered employment by any of the Released Parties at any time.‬

‪3. Player expressly waives a physical examination prior to, at, during, or following the Workout and expressly agrees that he does not require or desire a physical examination.‬

‪4. Player understands and acknowledges that the activities that occur during the Workout are inherently dangerous and may result in Player’s bodily injury or death. Player further understands that his participation in the Workout involves risks, inherent or otherwise, that cannot be eliminated and that may cause serious injury or illness, including, without limitation, physical injuries, aggravation of existing injuries, strokes, seizures or even death. Player is an experienced athlete and understands that physical injury is common among professional and amateur athletes and can happen at any time, including during the Workout and with or without physical contact. Player further acknowledges that any of such injuries can reduce or eliminate his ability to play professional and/or amateur sports and can impair other life functions. Player accepts sole responsibility for all risks, both known and unknown, related to his participation in the Workout and acknowledges that he is participating in the Workout with knowledge and awareness of such risks.‬

‪5. Player understands and acknowledges that playing surfaces and other flooring at the Facility may be imperfect and have defects, holes, patches lacking grass or turf, and may be wet or have other conditions that may result in or contribute to injury. Player accepts the playing surface and other flooring at the Facility in their current condition and with all faults ‬

‪6 Player understands and acknowledges that playing equipment such as footballs, kicking tees, shoes, helmets, blocking sleds, weight equipment, treadmills, and any other equipment, whether similar or dissimilar, may have defects that can contribute to or result in injury.‬

‪7. In consideration for the opportunity to participate in the Workout, Player, for himself, his personal representatives, executors, administrators, heirs, successors and assigns, hereby releases, discharges, and agrees to indemnify and hold harmless National Invitational Camp, Inc., National Football Scouting, Inc., the owner(s), operator(s) and manager(s) of the Facility, any and all individuals participating in or present at the Workout, including, without limitation, Joe Philbin, the National Football League (“NFL”) and each of its 32 NFL Member Clubs, and each of the foregoing parties’ respective direct and indirect affiliates, partners, subsidiaries, agents, representatives, employees, shareholders, officers, directors, attorneys, insurers, successors and assigns (collectively, the “Released Parties”), from and against any and all claims, demands, actions, causes of action, suits, grievances, costs, losses, expenses, damages, injuries, illnesses, and losses (including death) caused by, arising out of, occurring during, or related directly or indirectly to the Workout, Player’s presence at the Facility, and any medical treatment or services rendered in connection with or necessitated by Player’s participation in the Workout.‬

‪8. Player understands and acknowledges that Player is fully and finally releasing and discharging the Released Parties from any and all liability related to any injuries occurring at, arising from, related to, or aggravated by the Workout, whether such injury has an unknown cause or is caused by physical contact, the playing surface, and/or other surfaces at the Facility, faulty equipment, or any other cause or causes. Player understands that Player will be solely responsible for the cost of his own medical care, rehabilitation, surgery, and/or other treatment in the event he sustains any injury during or as a result of the Workout. It is the express intention of Player to release and absolve the Released Parties, and Player confirms that he would not be permitted to participate in the Workout unless he agrees to execute this Workout Waiver and Release of Liability (the “Release”).‬

‪9. Player further understands that should any first aid or medical services be provided or made available to Player in connection with his participation in the Workout, the provision or availability of which is not guaranteed, the Released Parties do not warrant or make any representation concerning the adequacy or continuation of such medical services, nor can the Released Parties be deemed responsible or held liable for any claims arising out of the provision of such first aid or medical services or the failure to provide or to continue to provide such medical services.‬

‪10. Player further authorizes the Released Parties to authorize or consent to, on behalf of Player, any emergency medical treatment that may become necessary in the event that Player is not capable of giving such authorization at the time emergency medical treatment is needed.‬

‪11. Player hereby grants the Released Parties the right to use and distribute Player’s name, photographs, voices, image, likeness, and any other protectable features to NFL Clubs and their representatives or employees, including scouts, for purposes of evaluating the potential employment of Player without further authorization or compensation.‬

‪12. This Release shall be binding upon Player’s heirs, executors, administrators, personal representatives, and assigns.‬

‪13. This Release is governed by the laws of New York, without regard to conflict-of-law principles, and is intended to be as broad and inclusive as permitted by the laws of the State of New York. If any portion hereof is held invalid, the balance shall continue in full legal force and effect. Any and all claims or disputes arising out of Player’s participation in the Workout or this Release shall be adjudicated solely in federal or state court in New York, New York. Player consents to personal jurisdiction in such courts.‬

‪In signing this Release, Player hereby acknowledges and represents that he:‬

‪(1) Has read the foregoing Release, understands it, and signs it voluntarily.‬
‪(2) Is over eighteen (18) years of age and has the legal capacity to execute this document and‬
‪to make the representations, waivers, disclosures, and releases herein contained.‬
‪(3) Is not an agent, servant, or employee of any of the Released Parties, but rather a volunteer‬
‪seeking to be evaluated at Player’s sole and entire risk.‬
‪Print Name‬

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Irishman, My Martin Scorsese Problem And Donnie Brasco‬

A note to a friend:‬

‪I just read your nice, spritely review of The Irishman. Don’t take this in an unintended way: there’s no accounting for taste. We’re both reasonably intelligent and we both respond with some insight and sensitivity to films. But with respect to this film, our tastes go in quite different directions. It’s not a matter, natch, of who is right and wrong. It’s just different views stemming from different senses of taste here, although exploring them with a little polemical vigour couldn’t hurt.‬

‪I’d say it’s not so much that I didn’t like the movie. I do, after all, despite my reservations, give it 3.5 out of 5, which isn’t stale bread. I recognize its highly commendable excellences, principally the superb acting, also the sweep of the thing and the obvious cinematic riches and craft, the most latter of which, the craft, I’m least well versed in—the famed long, long single camera shot in Goodfellas means little to me.‬

‪I’ll go back for long, long sec to my main bugaboo. ‬

‪I just can’t see all this creative energy and focus on a murderous, obtuse dem, dese and dose thug like Sheeran and I can’t see giving all his fellow murderous thugs the pleasant cinematic haze in which Scorsese, maybe despite himself, bathes them. They come across, as I noted, like lovable old uncles, made for the most part wise and to be respected in virtue of passing with honours the hard lessons of their own experience. Having survived and ascended through their hard, treacherous lives, they’ve gotten their PhDs from the graduate school of homicidal hard knocks. They’re, to borrow Ross Perot’s line, roads scholars. ‬

‪So, for me, it’s not a question really of disdaining movies about hateful or disgusting characters. That’s not the issue at all. It’s rather how they’re treated. And with Scorsese and his thug movies, with the seeds of it in Mean Streets, which I love and am least offended by, I confront a paradox: they, Goodfellas, Casino, Mean Streets, The Departed, even Who’s That Knocking At My Door, are compellingly entertaining and watchable—they count among the movies I mostly see over and over, but, and this is may be where my weird idiosyncrasy comes in, I find them morally bereft. ‬

‪I’ve mentioned to you my contrasting example of Donnie Brasco, where the thugs are shown to be the true low lifes they are, but where Al Pacino’s “Lefty” is given enough humanity to make him simultaneously a sympathetic but so sad a figure. There’s no admiration for these guys. But there’s the art of the thing, the genuine friendship between Donnie and Lefty even as we see Lefty in all his sad coarseness, at his dumpy home apartment, shlumpily wearing his track suits, sunk into his couch watching the nature channel. ‬

‪There’s a truth in this that it seems to me Scorsese never touches in his thug movies. And not just there, but in The Wolf Of Wall Street too. His high jinx, fun, flashy cinematics in showing the thugs and the cheating profiteers balling it up joyously undercut any felt critical sense of what bottom of the moral barrel dregs they all are. It’s my beef with the Roy Cohn doc too. The obsession in it with Cohn’s wealth, his power, his celebrity, his hoity toity socializing at all the hot, high and mighty spots with the high and mighty themselves all raise, to my mind, a subtextual admiration for it all. ‬

‪I get that with Scorsese, just that in The Irishman, the voltage has aged, as has he, and has lost its flashy power. The energy has been slowed, toned down and quietened. But the rosy, cinematic hue is still there regardless and there’s the rub of the paradox, where the contrarieties meet: the compelling entertainment of it at one with a deficient moral vision. Proof of the paradox: I’ll see The Irishman again virtually the minute it hits Netflix and it will without doubt  join my list of eminently rewatchables‬

‪Here’s a thought test. Say a Scorsese movie was made of Trump, showing him in such rounded complexity as he has and not without its dimension of sympathy and maybe some discernible subtextual admiration for him. And imagine that all the Scorsese film pluses comprise the movie, say fabulously entertaining recreations of Trump at one of his rallies, wowing the crowd or dramatizing with some admiration his sheer resilience even as all the shit comes down on him. How do you imagine you might take that? My point is that Scorsese’s thug protagonists are no better than Trump. ‬

‪A final note: I find the same paradox in Godfather 1, an utterly compellingly watchable movie but for me morally failing in rosying up these hoodlums, while Godfather 2 is the greatest movie I’ve ever seen, the truth of these guys realized in Michael’s fratricide and in his final sheer joyless, almost inhuman, aloneness.   ‬

‪As I said, “a long, long, sec.”  😊 ‬

Friday, November 15, 2019

A Reading Of Don Cherry’s Supposedly Notorious Words

‪1+ Explication de texte: “You people love, you that come here, whatever it is, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey. At least you can pay a couple of bucks for poppies or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada.”D Cherry ‬

‪2+ My position is that Cherry neither singles out racially visible immigrants or includes them all in his disdain for those who don’t wear poppies.‬

‪3+ He refers first to “you people,” which in context means all people who don’t wear poppies. ‬

‪Then he fills in who “you people” includes. Clearly, it’s you that come to Canada, which means anyone who’s come to Canada and doesn’t wear a poppy. ‬

‪4+ No mention of any people of colour, of any particular race or ethnicity, just anyone, as I say, who’s come here and goes poppyless. ‬

‪5+ Then the capper, his unnoticed, “whatever it is,” which can only mean, in effect and paraphrasing, “those who come here, those who are from here, anyone, whomever they are and for whatever the reason, who don’t wear a poppy.” ‬

‪6+ So on this reading of his words, there is no warrant for an imputation of racism, of slanging all immigrants, racially visible or not, of singling out racially visible immigrants or referring to all immigrants. ‬

‪7+ Who he’s focused on is those, anyone, any Canadian, who doesn’t wear a poppy. ‬

‪8+ It’s a species of hysteria to misread into his words racist slurring or xenophobic immigrant bashing. And that is a function of the hyper grievance and outrage culture which, like the air, is all around us. Victimization at the drop of a hat or a misinterpreted word. ‬


‪Too many are too quick to take offence, which is especially and sadly ironic when this reflexive defensiveness issues out of a misapprehension as to the ostensible insult’s cause, as is the case of these words of a Cherry called Don. ‬

The End

Sunday, November 10, 2019

A Note To A Friend On Scorsese’s The Irishman

‪I’m afraid I join the small minority of critics and reviewers, a paltry few, who were disappointed by this movie though my take is likely idiosyncratic. ‬

‪The acting is of course boss. The recreation of those times and characters is superb. And the arc is interesting. But I’m baffled by the point of it all. We have the mildly humorous, never condemnatory, humanization of a low life, murderous, soulless creep of a thug, laced with too many comic touches, in the telling of his story. This movie, after all, isn’t “The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight.” These were terrible, terrible people, but that doesn’t really come across. The humour, the series of virtually comic, flippant subtitles about the guys who were murdered by X number of bullets, the murderous gangsters coming across like lovable old uncles all lend a mild, entertaining tone that cuts against a vivid sense of how homicidally bad these low life thugs  were.‬

‪I don’t get the point of that.‬

‪It seems to me that the great amount of undeniable craft is wasted on a subject unworthy of it all. ‬

‪As I say, I found the movie soulless. And that it’s a kind of docudrama that surveys a series of historical events diminishes, for me, what dramatic power it might have otherwise have had. I wasn’t, for example, moved by the seeming dilemma for Frank in needing, having been ordered, to take out his very close friend, Hoffa—(and it’s disputed, maybe even debunked, that he even did it.) His fairly easy compliance erases any sense of his dilemma and any drama. Plus, the murder of Hoffa scene is excruciating in its unnecessary slow length. ‬

‪I was never exactly bored but some parts of the movie stretched out too long. I found myself at times getting impatient and looking at my watch. ‬

‪I have an extra acute sense of disappointment likely because my expectations and excited anticipation were so high. ‬

‪So, in a nutshell, my view is of the movie’s pointlessness. My wife loved the acting but was neither here nor there about the film. We rode down in an elevator to get to my car and I was humming In The Still Of The Night. An elderly woman riding down with us smiled at my humming. She’d seen the movie and she loved it. So, go know. ‬

‪If I had to score it, I’d give a disappointing 3.5 out of 5, 7 out of 10, 70 out of a 100.‬

Monday, November 4, 2019

A Foursome Of Notes On To Kill A Mockingbird


‪I'm approaching the 1/3d mark of To Kill A Mockingbird.‬

‪A few interim thoughts.‬

‪Why not?‬

‪I generally know the story and saw the movie quite some time ago. So I do have a few preconceptions I'm trying to keep in check. And I'm not looking at any reviews or criticism as I read. My responses are straight from what I've read so far. I'm seeing something quite wonderful and one thing in particular that is raising some doubt.‬

‪The wonderful part so far, first 1/3d, is the portrayal of childhood in a particular setting, a small Alabama town seething right at its surface with racism, backwardness, violence and white trash. Foreboding is in the air as childhood innocence slowly recedes.  ‬

‪A few things occur to me as to what makes the portrayal so vividly and beautifully affecting. One is that the first person telling is framed by Jean Louise as an adult recounting her young years simultaneously from the perspective of how she took in things back then, including her thoughts and words in her own young kid words merged with her adult understanding and explanations of that understanding in her own grown up thoughts and words. ‬

‪Another is how Lee so sharply delineates Jean Louise, Jem and Dill too, making them come alive in the consistent particularity of each with all their childish behaving and misbehaving and talk. What is remarkable is how Lee seems to penetrate the essence of what it means to be 6 or 7 or 12, in this place at this time as revealed in these kids' playing, their deviltry, their wonder, their incipient strengths, their weaknesses, their hard and growing education in the ways the world goes, and their experiences with others, relatives, elderly neighbours, other kids, and principally of course with Atticus. ‬

‪Calling him "Atticus" rather than "Dad" or "Father" seems a perfect touch, consistent with him being an older father, 50, both righteous and slightly world weary, a little bit detached yet warm and loving too. It's amazing how without saying so Lee makes us feel the absence of a mother in Jean Louise's and Jem's lives, makes us feel what it's like for them to live only with their relatively elderly and only slightly starchy father. His kids calling him "Atticus" conveys so much of all this.‬

‪Enhancing this seeming penetration of the essence of their childhood are two things at least (among others I'm sure): one is the detailed, concrete sense of place, local colour, revealed in virtually every sentence; and what makes that revelation striking among other things is the unerring use of language to convey this sense of place, the colloquialisms, the tropes--the poetry of them, the formalities and informalities in the ways of speaking, the idioms, the manner, forms and rhythms of southern speech, all of it adding up to a particularly identifiable and believable sensibility and world, making, in short, setting resonant in language. ‬

‪....Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow, it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer's day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men's stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o'clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum...‬

‪One aspect of that resonance is the mixture of high sounding elegant language with the all the informalities, the colloquialisms ungrammaticalnesses, ain'ts" for one instance, and such. I'm reminded of Huck Finn's use of the verb "commence" as in (say) "I commenced to wonderin,'" such a peculiar and resonant Southern phrasing, fusing the high sounding with the slightly ungrammatical, informal and contracted, each setting the other off to form a vividly perfect phrase. To Kill A Mockingbird is filled with these kinds of locutions.‬

‪My one seed of doubt is the portrayal of Atticus. He's, so far, so idealized and so filled with such mighty rectitude, sympathy, empathy (and all the other good thies), compassion, wisdom, patience, wry humour, strength, and all like that, with no discernible chinks in his upright, righteous armour that he's verging on caricature, on the utterly and rather unbelievably saintly. I'm not rushing to this judgment. It's but a gnawing partially formed sense that I'll keep an internal tab on.‬


‪I'm just at the point at which the repressed, imperious  aunt has moved in for a spell and is trying to suppress everybody else, inflicting her life denying snobbery, classism, racism, and "manners" on our poor Finches, including Atticus who's engaged in an eternal struggle within himself in how to deal with his minor monster of a sister. The point is made by Jean Louise narrating from an adult distance how in all her imperious negation Alexandra makes for a perfect fit with Maycomb and it with her. ‬

‪The argument between Atticus and Alexandra about her wanting to get rid of Calpurnia, which Atticus calmly disposes of without high emotion of any kind, not even a hint of intemperateness, add another notch to the gun-handle of his seeming saintliness. ‬

‪But when he makes Jean Louise apologize after she rightly and righteously lashes out at Alexandra for piping up that she, Jean Louise, "certainly cannot visit Calpurnia at her home," paraphrase, intoning in that opinion everything that is wrong with her and the attitudes she typifies, we may be seeing the first chink in the armour of his saintliness, a too ready inclination to bow down before, or at least give in to even by merely putting up with,  all that Alexandran negation. ‬

‪Same touch of human failure when he comes onto Jem and Jean Louise to deliver the Alexandran directed sermon as to how these kids must understand their superior Finch lineage and live up to it, not down from it as they have been, as Alexandra sees it. ‬

‪Conflicted and taken out of himself, against his own inclinations, Atticus delivers this sermon, shocking his kids into thinking their world has been turned upside down, that everything they've been taught and how they've lived are wrong and must be corrected, and shocked and made panicky and tearful at the thought that they have "lost" their father. ‬

‪Thankfully, in an instant it all passes. They know they have him back as Atticus of old, back to himself, as he tells them they should forget what he just told him. Here's another rare display of something transitorily weak and indeterminate, therefore human, therefore psychologically rounded and more real, in Atticus.‬


‪I'm at the point in To Kill A Mocking Bird where it's just after Atticus has lost the rape case.‬

‪(I have no idea as to how the eventual appeal turns out. I don't remember that from the movie, or if the movie even deals with an appeal.)‬

‪One thing of interest to me was my initial sense of the possibility of an unreal saintliness in Atticus to the point of caricature. There have been things he's said and done in his ultra sage raising of his kids that have tended to drive me round the bend with his excess of wisdom and goodliness.‬

‪But his losing the trial and his marked world weariness after it are quite humanizing as is too his quietly competent trying of Tom Robinson's defence. No Perry Mason, no flashing legal brilliance, no legal miracles, just, rather, a hard working, diligent, undramatically effective, committed, conscientious and totally human defence counsel facing impossibly long cultural odds. ‬

‪Pretty good that.‬

‪4th and last‬

‪I finished To Kill A Mockingbird.‬

‪I weighed my judgment of Atticus as I read it.‬

‪So here's a (probably idiosyncratic) morally based take on the novel as a matter of my first raw impression of it. This note is purposely unaided by reading any secondary material, be it reviews or more formal literary criticism.‬

‪If anyone has the patience or interest to read all this, I'd love to discuss it and be shown where I'm misreading and not seeing things right. ‬

‪At times I found Atticus's tendency to saintliness insufferable and not to be believed. At other times, in his failures, his world weariness, in his occasional weaknesses in (say) bowing to Alexandra, in his age showing more, in his tender love for his children, doing the best he can to raise them as a single parent, I liked him and believed in him as a formed and rounded character with strong and admirable values in word and in deed.‬

‪So I had, as I went along, mixed and opposed feelings about him. But two final things tipped the balance thumbs down, aesthetically and substantively. ‬

‪The two things are: Atticus's telling Jean-Louise, paraphrase, "No, in not hating anyone, I don't hate Hitler;" and secondly, his insistence at novel's end that Jem face the legal music, even if sure to be exonerated, for stabbing Bob Ewell to his death, when Atticus thought that was what happened. ‬

‪Atticus not hating Hitler is consistent with his preachment to his kids not to hate anyone, to walk in their shoes before judging others, to try to see matters as they might before judging them. The problem is that Hitler exemplifies a limit to that preachment, that it is inhuman and unbelievable that this preachment doesn't hit a wall in the instance of a Hitler. ‬

‪The novel makes clear that it's not insufficient knowledge, as in "We simply don't know enough to judge," that inhibits hatred. For Jean Louise's teacher has made it known to her what Hitler is doing to Jews. Atticus not only refuses to hate him but patronizingly says after Jean Louise, somewhat morally confused, tells Atticus that her teacher hates Hitler, "I'm sure she does." Atticus implies by this that the teacher's hatred is morally undeveloped, lesser, inferior to his own high minded refusal to indulge in such low emotion. Here, Atticus's is an irritating piety at odds, I'd argue, with the man Lee thinks she portrays.‬

‪But the more damning instance of this insufferable piety is in Atticus wanting Jem officially to confront killing Ewell even after Hec Tate, the sheriff, insistently contrives a narrative for good reason that Ewell accidentally killed himself by falling on his own knife. At this point, Atticus wrongly thinks the reason for Tate's contrivance is to spare Jem the need to deal with the consequences of killing Ewell. ‬

‪He fights Tate every step of the way, rejecting the out he believes Tate's offering. No, no he intones, he must (as I gloss it) sacrifice Jem--a 12 year old sensitive and sheltered little boy, who's just been through hell, has been almost murdered, has been knocked unconscious, has had his arm badly broken, and has, so Atticus thinks, killed Ewell to protect Jean Louise--sacrifice him on the altar of his, Atticus's impossible piety, his impossibly superior morality. ‬

‪Atticus must, he says, live publicly just be as he does privately; he says he must live up to his own ideals; he will lose his children otherwise; they will see him doing something hypocritically differently from what he's taught them all their lives; better, much better, he says, to bring it all in the open (and, implicitly, let the chips fall where they may); if he agrees to Hec Tate whisking Jem's killing away, why then he will not be able to live with himself, he says. No, no, he says, Jem must face up to what happened even as Atticus presumes self defense will lead to acquittal. ‬

‪What kind of high mindedness is this? Isn't it more a kind of inhuman self righteousness, almost fanatical? What father, what kind of a father, in all these very particular circumstances insists that his broken up, traumatized 12 year old son court the possibility of criminal prosecution in order that he, the father, can live up to his own unflinching, unwavering moral code? What kind of a man can't here bend a little for the sake of his son's well being, for the sake of protecting his son, can't find another way with his son to deal with all this short of inviting legal process? Is he Abraham willing to slay Isaac in order to heed God's command? What kind of moral preciousness is this? ‬

‪There are (at least) two problems I see with Lee having Atticus take this firm position. One is that it fails aesthetically. It's simply not believable that a man like Atticus who is not shown throughout to be at his core a rigorous fanatic, who is shown having weak moments, who is shown knowing the way of the world, who is not a naïf, who knows what evil lurks where, wouldn't take the out he thinks Hec Tate offers. ‬

‪The second is that Lee means to shows Atticus as morally exemplary in his fine refusal to make an exception of his son even in these benighted circumstances. But this high morality is really an (unmeant by Lee) repugnant moralism, both inhuman and unreal, that gets away from her. And presenting Atticus so is of a piece with a certain thematic soft headedness that flaws this novel. ‬

‪In touching on that, I ask why exactly is Atticus ok with the contrived "fell on his knife story" once he comes to understand that in fact Boo Radley killed Ewell and Jem didn't? Why the bending now? Why the exception now? Sure Jem is Atticus's son and Boo Radley isn't in Atticus's charge. But, still, Atticus is a lawyer, an officer of the court, duty bound to do the legally right thing and here's a sheriff fabricating a false narrative to spin the reality of what happened in order to spare Boo Radley all manner of legal and other consequence (including even being bothered by the Maycomb community in thanking him.)‬

‪But now not even a word in protest, no counter argument that in principle it's not right. Why alright for Boo, but not for Jem? Why solicitous compromise sparing Boo but all inflexible moral stricture for Jem? My argument is that it makes no sense and is ill thought through. ‬

‪The encapsulation of what I call Lee's soft headed piety--on display in Atticus being too morally superior to hate Hitler, on display in his (intended by Lee as admirable) insistence that Jem be made to face the consequences of killing Ewall--is evident in symbol of the mockingbird and in the maxim that it's a sin to kill a mockingbird. The theme in this is that it's a sin to kill something so innocent, that makes no problem for anyone--not like (say) those thieving blue jays--and which only sings prettily, copying the songs of other birds. Atticus knows that Jean Louise understands the wisdom of covering up what Boo Radley did when she says that to pursue him for killing Ewell would be like killing a mockingbird. Atticus approves and agrees.‬

‪This supposed insight, however, accords Boo Radley not an iota, not an ounce, of human agency and contradicts what Atticus has been trying to teach his kids about Boo throughout the novel in order to demystify him, that, in effect, he's a person too, to be understood as such and respected as such. Boo watches the kids, plants gifts for them--some of which he made. Not only does he watch them, he watches over them. He too is their protecter. And so he fulfills what Atticus has been trying to teach about him. ‬

‪If so, then how does the mockingbird come to stand for him, for a flesh and blood human being capable of love and violence and who acts out of his own agency to kill Bob Ewell? Why is the mockingbird, without its own song, merely singing prettily other birds' songs and, so, mocking them, likened to him? My argument is that Lee has undermined her novel thematically and symbolically in this deep inconsistency with Boo. ‬

‪While likening Boo to a mockingbird is textually explicit, it's arguable that there's a similar likening of it to Tom Robinson. True it is that he has a record for fighting, but in relation to Mayella Ewell, he's a total innocent, merely doing her kindnesses, taking no money from her for them, befriending her in ways on seeing how pitiable and ill used she is, even to the point of not wanting to upset her or make her feel rejected when trying to resist her. And he's killed in his innocence. ‬

‪So in fact it's highly arguable that the symbolic and thematic import of the mockingbird attaches to Tom Robinson too. If so, then the just discussed flawed contradiction concerning Boo Radley is even more deeply and offensively apparent in relation to Tom Robinson. To deny him, a mentally fit man, agency by way of the symbol of the mockingbird is, finally, racism, unaware racism, but racism nonetheless. The descriptions of Tom reflexively running away enhance that depiction of him. ‬

‪I can see an argument that Lee subverts, or chips away at, the pedestal on which she places Atticus. But in my heart of hearts I think that's a stretch, a way of rationalizing his flawed piety. The book just doesn't read to me that way. For example, with Atticus's refusal to hate Hitler, the teacher who in contrast hates him is later shown to be a hypocritical anti black racist, which reinforces Atticus's smug dismissal of her hatred of Hitler when he says, "I'm sure she does." The symbol of the mockingbird seems so misbegotten to me for among the reasons I note that I can't see Lee capable of such subtle subversive tough mindedness. ‬

‪I understand that a novel isn't a polemic. It's not an argument to be picked apart by showing how it doesn't stand up for any number of reasons, or to be counter-argued. That said, still a novel must be thematically and symbolically coherent. It must, so to say, be able to live with itself. Where it has incoherence, things that can't stand together, parts that defy believability, then it is fairly criticized for those failings. I think this is the case with To Kill A Mockingbird as I read it.‬