Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Kathryn Stockett’s The Help and Minny’s chocolate pie
I read this novel over the past two days. My book club will discuss it in mid-July. So many people have read this book; so many white women seeking to start a conversation about what, I’m not certain. Careful in critiquing the author. She worked hard, meant well, wrote her story, shopped it widely, and hit a contemporary literary home run complete with a feature film opening this August.
After finishing the book, I contemplated the publishing market, the print and visual media, Oprah and Amy Einhorn. I thought about that meat pie in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. Yummy. I remembered back to 1962-63, black and white, black and white television, John F. Kennedy’s assassination in November, black and white TV images, all of them rather gritty, strange foreign race riots in the South. But they’re dim memories.
The Help continues the tradition of white literary ventriloquists throwing their voice into African American characters…Mark Twain, William Faulkner…with recent incarnations by Tom Franklin in his “buddy version” of The Help called “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” (2011) also set in Mississippi in the knowable past by some.
These and other books look good in the (slowly disappearing) bookstores together on that big table when you enter…sprinkle in some works by Twain, Faulkner (his literary geography of Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi), Carson McCullers…y’all come. Yet I doubt the merchants will situate Zora Neale Hurston’s works (Their Eyes Were Watching God) nearby. This marketing huddle around The Help works wonders in the marketplace. If you liked this, read this…oh, and don’t forget your To Kill a Mockingbird. Why did they let Boo Radley walk? Southern justice…(great piece by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker).
There’s ample analysis of The Help out there in review-land; plenty of book junket interview clips. This book has me thinking about the book business (and film industry). Will the fresh-looking (by the look of its trailer) film capture the darkness of this book? The riots in Jackson? Will it include those gritty black and white TV clips of police dogs munching people? Or will this be a Ya-Ya-Sisterhood like film? Looks Ya Ya complete with a very marketable soundtrack.
Hilly consumed two slices of Minny’s “famous” chocolate pie. Munch on, America. It may taste nice but there’s a secret distasteful ingredient therein.