Tag Archives: Facebook

Confronting Harper Lee’s Monster

It came across our Facebook feeds yesterday:

Harper Lee is releasing a new book!

Harper-Lee

It had already been announced and discussed and when I told my wife, she said what we all thought, “Isn’t she dead?”

Almost immediately there were suspicions about it all over the feeds. News and opinions went back and forth without much substance to go on. Was she being coerced or manipulated? Who had actually talked to her about it?

But behind the speculation, some of us sensed a monster lurking, a question we can’t quite answer: are we doing what’s right here?

This wasn’t just about what a beloved author really wanted. It was about what the Internet and media (social and otherwise) is doing to our world. Knowingly or not, Nelle Harper Lee has started a conversation again over the central issue her debut speaks to most presciently: the hopelessness in today’s world of doing what’s right.

Whether it’s the conversation about our country’s Internet and media addiction that none of us want to have, or the one about reparations and systemic injustice, there are winners and losers in this country. And we all have to face how deeply unfair so much of what we call “fair” is just not.

The story of a famously private author finally deciding to release another book is some of the best news fodder we Chatty Cathys could hope for. Think of the traffic being generated! But whatever else it’s about, the story is also a warning, a reckoning, that we could be killing a mockingbird here. If someone is lying or manipulating this living national treasure, they’ll most certainly be published, er, punished.  Ahem.

For all our hopes of another novel, shouldn’t we be asking, Should we just leave her alone?movie

Then there’s the fact that this couldn’t be more fitting to the point of her novel: no question Bob Ewell and his kind of prejudice are evil and wrong, and so is the jury for believing him. But we all know there’s another monster on the loose that we’re not talking about, a deep evil, possibly the greatest of all–a bully with an insatiable hunger for more.

More news. More information. More of the juicy story. More amazing books. And even if you weren’t as excited as I was to hear about this new book, we’re all in danger of becoming sick-drunk with this thirst for more.

Maybe she realizes there are still many innocents who need protecting and maybe her novel can help. Or maybe she still sees herself as Boo Radley as she has said.

Are we taking advantage of her? Remember, even Atticus was ready to force Boo and his own son to face public “justice” for the murder of Bob Ewell, spinning it as positively as he could.

It took the hardened lawman, Heck Tate, to talk sense into him and show him his misplaced faith in people to do what’s right.

This news story and To Kill a Mockingbird have everything to do with how we view right and wrong and our responsibility to seek true justice. Make no mistake, the point here is just like in the novel–doing the right thing may be hopeless, but it’s still worth doing all you can. We must consider the consequences of our snap judgments, and remember that in our modern rush to consume information, we can so easily become ravenous “More Monsters.”

I believe deep down, we all know we’re a mix of great good and deep evil. And because of that evil, Boo Radley wouldn’t really be left alone. Not in the real world.

Wouldn’t we all kill a mockingbird if we had a chance to own her song? As good as he wanted to be, not even Atticus, for all his good intentions, could see that without help.

2Q==To be sure, Go Set a Watchman is a very promising title. Should it happen to be about coming to terms with our tendency to go after those who need our protection, it could inspire discussion again about the importance of limiting ourselves to preserve something good and pure in the world. Maybe it will be about respect and facing our prejudices and dealing with the misguided bullies in our hearts.

We can only hope. And maybe if Nelle’s new-old vision from a grown-up Scout Finch does ignite that vital conversation again, she’ll forgive us for needing the reminder?

The Death of Better Writing

Inspired by Steven Levy’s recent article for Wired on “The Burden of Twitter,” I’m encouraged to agree with him. I often feel guilty too. I have a blog I haven't contributed to regularly for several months. I feel more than guilty—approaching inadequate–that all my pals on Facebook have so much time to post cool pictures and updates, while I’m still struggling to update from my Christmas pictures. And not only haven't I ever Dugg anything since, well, ever, I don’t really even know what Digging does.

I really do find social networking pretty cool—in some ways, I mean. Facebook has been incredible in linking me up with old people from my more embarrassing days. And posting short updates on there feels much more immediate and relevant than this old blog, not to mention the old novel sitting on my hard drive for nigh on 6 years now. And I love feeling like we’re at the start of something that could be really great for our writing community.

But there’s still that nagging sense that because I have limited time and/or desire to divulge every bit of info about myself to the world, I'm only skimming the surface of the formerly deep (or at least deeper) waters of our withering social construct. And even at that, I'm not making any really significant contribution. I feel like I’m more connected, and yet less really connecting, all the time.

And I have a feeling that not only have I felt that before–I'll feel it again and again.

So, as a result, I fight back. I work harder to provide something more meaningful than the rest of the emailers, bloggers, Facebookians, and tweeters, which in itself is a perpetual burden. How do you provide something more meaningful in a 140-character update?

This very question reveals more about me than I'm sure I'm comfortable revealing.

Which delivers us to the ultimate insult: as I strive to make more substantial deposits into the stretching info abyss, the more difficult and unnecessary it seems to preserve something good for the more substantial repositories—books, for instance. That’s right. Remember those? I wonder if one day we’ll look up and realize what fools we were to think we could keep heading so quickly into the future and still hold onto our quaint notion of continuing to invest in the antiquated analog of print publication. We get immediate response this way. And the words don't get nearly as polished. There's much less frustration. Why would anyone work at words the old, harder way anymore?

But I suppose just as the Internet is rewriting all our futures, it's revising this particular piece of common wisdom as well: best not to ask questions you don't want Google to answer.

Until then, I’ll keep working to calm myself by unplugging periodically and reassuring myself that there’s far more value in time spent writing for a book over a blog post.

And yes, I will now go mention this new post on Twitter and Facebook.