End of Days

I was driving with the kids to the local garden centre, listening to a news item on the radio about the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico. It struck me that, as a Stephen King fan from a while back, driving the kids to the local garden centre and hearing about a disease outbreak far away is not a good sign for you or the people around you.

More Atticus

Rather timely, here’s a piece on what happened to the Finch family after the book:

So much happened in that year and a half. Lessons were learned, innocence was lost, and a child put her fear of people different from herself behind her. There’s no denying it was a narratively gripping time.

We were fortunate that an important American novelist about to make her debut was around to take it all down as my daughter, Scout, told it. At the time, it never occurred to us that those events would make for a compelling look at race and class in the United States—perhaps even a fable for our times, playing out in an insignificant Southern town but with wide-ranging thematic implications for the deeper issues of prejudice and civil rights during a period of intense social upheaval, and all that.

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I recently read To Kill A Mockingbird, essentially by accident. Browsing the entertainment aisle at the local supermarket I saw it on offer, thought “That’s the sort of book you’re supposed to read, isn’t it?”, and dropped it in my trolley*.

I’ve tried with one or two books that you’re supposed to read. Anything Russian seems ponderous to me, though to be fair I’ve never put in a real effort (just flicking through a few pages makes me wonder if I’ve cleaned the filter on the washing machine recently. And I’ve read the first page of Gulliver’s Travels several times, and lose the will to live half way through turning to page 2. About the only success I’ve had with ‘worthy’ books are some Shakespearean plays, and even there I’ve kept away from the weighty stuff.

This doesn’t mean that I’m not a reader. In recent years I’ve tailed off more than I would like, but I’ve been a keen reader since being strapped to a bed in hospital when I was 6. While I’ve sampled various bits of trashy fiction, generally of the science variety, most of what I’ve read has been decent if not outstanding. I’d probably pick The Crow Road as my favourite, which I see with some horror was written 16 years ago.

Hopefully you can understand, then, how unlikely it is for me to say that To Kill A Mockingbird is the best book I’ve ever read. It is warm and easy to read, contains layers for those looking to unpeel them without beating the reader over the head, and ends with a perfect but heartbreaking fate for Boo Radley. It is also, I suspect, far better than most people who were required to read it at school will remember. If you’re one of them do yourself a favour, buy a copy.

*Note: I didn’t drop it in my trolleys, that would mean something else entirely, involving at least two crimes.

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