(Let’s face it, Ms Lee has set the bar extraordinarily high)
I ran across another book being compared to MOCKINGBIRD just the other day. I imagine when this happens, the author must be doing back flips around their backyard. Think about it…all those book reviewers eluding to the fact you have a story like MOCKINGBIRD, or that you can write like Harper Lee. But…, the way this comparison has been tossed around since that book came out, if I were that author, I’d have to be a bit tongue in cheek.
Here’s a short list of all the ones I’ve seen over the past few years:
ME & EMMA
THE DRY GRASS OF AUGUST
BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA
and the one most recently:
WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD
I’ve read all these books except the last one, and if I am speaking truthfully, I felt that none compared to MOCKINGBIRD. Some were really good in their individual ways (BASTARD, ELLEN) but none had the impact that MOCKINGBIRD did for me, (and everyone else in the past fifty years evidently, well, excluding those fifty eight reviews on Amazon where some folks gave it a one star)
The other thing is, when today’s books are compared to the classics, the classics have one thing to their advantage – time. And, we may not ever know if any of these, (and all the ones I didn’t mention) meet that test, that is, if a book’s true test is the resilience of time.
Still, I’ll admit, sometimes, the comparisons are what make me buy a book. I do the usual sort of perusing, and first the cover draws me in. Then, I read the back of the book, or the inner flap. Next, I open the book randomly and look at the narrative. That’s usually all it takes, but if I’m hesitating, even the least little bit, the reviews might push me over to a purchase. Because, don’t we all want to read another book as good as MOCKINGBIRD? Don’t we all have that hope?.
But, we know reviews are that proverbial, “to each his own.” We have our own tastes when it comes to food, movies, hobbies, music and books, etc, and I’ve often wondered, when a book reviewer chooses to take a classic like MOCKINGBIRD and use it as a comparison, do they really, really mean it? I believe books that have been categorized as classics ought to have comparisons doled out sparingly, because, honestly, not every book can be like, <pick your classic,> even if you loved it.