Saturday, January 2, 2010

Georgia - January 2, 1788

Our first celebration features that classic of classics in movies Gone With the Wind; Carson McCuller's book Clock Without Hands; and a vegetarian Georgian feast including Plantation soup, biscuits, green beans and peach cobbler.

I have visited Georgia several times. We have friends and relatives who live there and occasionally go down for a visit. I like its mild climate and the southern hospitality. I think the most memorable thing from my trips there is Stone Mountain  where we took the sky ride to see the Confederate Memorial Carving. The south has many monuments to its heroes of the Civil War. It has always seemed strange to me that the losing side celebrates so much of that period of history. It is said that history is written by the victors, but this does not seem the case when visiting some areas of the south.

Clock without Hands was first published in 1953. It is a story of racial tensions and civil rights. Segregation was still the law and the story develops around an elderly judge who still thinks he can somehow gain financially from the confederate money he owns; a young black man, Sherman, whom the judge employs as his secretary; and the judge's grandson,  Jester, who questions his grandfather's views on race. Sherman refuses to write some letters that he finds offensive for the judge, and this refusal instills in him a deep desire to "do something" to counter the racial injustices he faces every day. Although the judge claims to be quite fond of Sherman, and recognizes that Sherman had actually saved his life years before, he nevertheless has no qualms about joining a group of his neighbors who feel that violence is justified when Sherman moves into a white neighborhood. The judge also has trouble undertanding that Jester has serious misgivings about the West Point plans his grandfather has made for him. I am always impressed with writers who create the kind of multi-dimensional characters that McCullers did. There is something to like and dislike about each of the main characters of the book. The belief that black people simply don't think is rampant among the white characters in the book, and it was with this in mind that I watched Gone With the Wind, which, of course, is written from a white perspective. We know that the slaves were freed following the civil war, but the characters of Mammy, Prissy and Sammy stay on as servants to Scarlett and her family. Words are thrown around among the whites that their servants are "treated well" but the black characters never get their say. There is no scene in which they talk amongst themselves and perhaps commiserate about having to work for a bunch of spoiled brats. We don't even know if they are paid after the war. Although I had seen the movie before (maybe 30 years ago) I kept waiting for Scarlett to have some sort of epiphany. She wasn't afraid to work the land herself to keep from starving, but was simply working in order to go back to being waited on. The epiphany that she really did love Rhett was disappointing in light of what she might have learned from seeing the horrors of watching amutations without anesthetic, and other diseases associated with war. I've seen students on 10-day study tours come back more enlightened than she was.

I began a tradition with last year's blog (My Year of Reading "Year of" Books) to write about any mention of  libraries in the books I read, and so I continue it here. The Judge tells his grandson that he had the Kinsey Report banned at the public library "because [he is] not only the leading citizen of Milan but the most responsible one. ... responsible that innocent eyes are not offended nor the calm heart troubled by such a book." I do quite a bit of research on censorship and book banning. Some things never change. The same arguments are used today - the book might fall into the "wrong hands". Those who wish to see the books censored of course, are able to handle such things themselves. See my Banned Books Week webpage for more information.

Our meal was shared with our friends the Ziglar's. Since we were kicking off our year long celebration we used our kitchy "America's Vacationland" tablecloth.

Thanks, James for taking the pictures.

1 comment:

  1. You're welcome. And thank YOU for two wonderful dinners!