In keeping with my criticism of the lyrics of old songs, let me talk about Marty Robbins’s 1959 country hit El Paso. It’s about a cowboy who falls in love with a dancer named Faleena.
My love was deep for this Mexican maiden/ I was in love, but in vain I could tell
The old “you love her, she doesn’t love you” problem, eh? Yeah, that’s no fun. So far, a good, solid tragic tale of unrequited love. But then, our narrator relates, one night a guy comes in and starts flirting and drinking with Faleena. So how does our tortured love-lorn hero handle this?
So in anger I challenged his right for the love of this maiden/ Down went his hand for the gun that he wore/ My challenge was answered–in less than a heartbeat/ the handsome young stranger lay dead on the floor
Wait… so he killed the guy who, for all he knew, might well have been Faleena’s actual lover or husband? “Challenging his right” when he himself had none? That seems… borderline psychotic. Ok, so it’s a crime of passion and he says he regrets it but still, it’s a bit extreme.
Having done this “foul, evil deed”, our “hero” skips town and flees to New Mexico, only to decide he can’t stand to live without Faleena, and so he rides back. (This takes Robbins about as long to sing as it took you to read it–the song has some pacing issues here, and you’re left with the impression he rode away and then immediately turned around and rode back.)
When he returns to El Paso, the citizens are waiting for him and they shoot him as he rides back into town. It’s unclear what length of time he’s been gone, but apparently they recognize him instantly from hundreds of yards away and are waiting to kill him.
Finally, as he lies dying, he sees Faleena, who kisses him as he dies in her arms. (Some have suggested this is just his imagination, which would indeed be the only possible way this makes any sense. Why would she kiss the man who apparently killed her boyfriend?)
It’s a testament to how pleasant the music, and Robbins’s voice, make this song sound that it’s such a hit. Lyrically, it’s not a love song at all, but rather a song narrated by a psychopath.
Wow, I thought I was ready for anything out of Go Set a Watchman, but I was not expecting her to start quoting from Gilbert and Sullivan. Longtime readers will know how happy this makes me.
I haven’t read the entire book yet. I just opened it at random when I got my copy. So this is not my real review, but I’m going to follow Thingy’s lead and give my opinion on the whole Atticus Finch issue without having read all of it.
I’ve heard and read a lot of people reading into the “meaning” of Atticus’s change; saying it shows the book is about disillusionment, fallen idols. Other people are saying it ruins their love for the character in the original book.
Here’s the thing: Watchman is a first draft of Mockingbird. The fact that the Atticus character changed from the first draft to the finished product doesn’t necessarily have an artistic meaning; it just means Harper Lee wanted to rework the character’s assigned function.
To a reader, characters are people–we react emotionally to them as we would to real people, and judge them as we would real people. To an author, though, a character is also a tool for fulfilling some larger role in the story. It might be that they are there to convey a theme, or sometimes just to drive the plot. A good writer, like Lee, disguises the fact that these characters are cogs in a machine by making them seem very human and real, but that’s still what they are: platforms for conveying relevant themes/plot points/emotions. And sometimes, when you are editing something, you say: “Hmm, I need to change what characters are assigned what functions–what if I assign function x to character z instead of character y?”
From what I’ve seen, it looks like Lee just changed what the Atticus character’s function was between the first draft and the final version. In modern lingo, the character in Mockingbird is the Atticus Finch “reboot”. And it’s a mistake to read this as character “development”. Characters do sometimes change their personalities over the course of a story to suit a narrative or thematic point–in fact, that’s a hallmark of good writing. But it’s not what we’re talking about here. This is just a straight-up rewrite from what I can see.
Over the last year, I feel like I’ve written more books than I’ve read cover to cover. I’ve been too busy to really sit down and focus on something–I’ve mainly just perused things here and there. (Though as part of my research for the post on Napoleon, I did read a biography of him by Alan Forrest.) I have recently bought and started reading my fellow blogger P.M. Prescott’s book, Optimus: Praetorian Guard. He was kind enough to read and review my book, so I want to return the favor. I hope to have it finished and a review posted soon.
It also sounds like I am going to have to read this new Harper Lee book, which seems to be stirring up all kinds of controversy, especially regarding what happens to the beloved Atticus Finch character. (To be honest, I never thought of Atticus as a Saint like most people do–he seemed like a nice guy, but a bit too idealistic for his own good. I mean, he never realized just what a threat Bob Ewell posed until it was too late.)
I’m also reading the book The Clash of Civilizations by Samuel P. Huntington. It’s a bit dated, but still advances some interesting ideas. Some of his points about the rise of Islam is certainly relevant to what is currently happening in the Middle East. All things considered, he was closer to the mark than his rival political theorist, Francis Fukuyama. And nothing says “summer beach read” like the downfall of civilization as we know it.
Recently, I have been reading a nice old set of military history books by a fellow named J.F.C. Fuller. It’s called A Military History of the Western World. I was reading it in preparation for a possible post I’ve been working on about Napoleon Bonaparte. Then I looked up Fuller, and decided that he was worth a post all by himself.
Fuller was a Major General in the British Army in the First World War. He also came up with idea of using lights to aid with maneuvering troops at night. He was also called “Boney” for his admiration for Napoleon.
So far, this seems pretty normal for a military historian. But then I got to the weirder bits of Fuller’s bio. He was also really into the occult, and a follower of Aleister Crowley. Says Wikipedia: “While serving in the First Oxfordshire Light Infantry he had entered, and won, a contest to write the best review of Crowley’s poetic works – he was apparently the only entrant to the contest.” You can read it if you want–I tried, but it’s the most over-written, incoherent mythological babble I ever read, and I’ve read Clark Ashton Smith.
At this point, it’s pretty clear that Fuller was not really the very model of a modern Major-General. It gets worse: thanks to his influential theories on mechanized warfare, “Fuller was an honoured guest at Adolf Hitler’s 50th birthday parade.” During the war, the British government did not call him back to serve, due to his suspected Nazi sympathies.
Needless to say, after reading all this, I was a little less enthusiastic about his military history than I had been. You don’t expect to find out that the author of a rather dry history was also an occultist Nazi. I mean, if I read a story with a character like that, I would say it was over the top. But now, I am tempted to write something with such a character as a villain. It offers some interesting possibilities.
I’m not typically one for inspirational internet videos, but this one gets me every time.
That, dear readers, is what America’s all about. Happy Independence Day weekend!
So, there is only one spam comment this go-round, but it’s a good one:
I am a Scorpio man and I’ve often questioned, How is a traditional Scorpio man in love?
I… really don’t know what to tell you.
I’ve reduced the price of my first book to $0.99, as a sort of promotion for my new book. Also, I’ve learned that there is a free Kindle Reading App for those of you who don’t have Kindles, but still are interested in reading these.
I’m going to slow down the pace on releasing books now for a bit–I have more projects I am working on, but they will take a while. Plus, I was so busy with writing TSotMW that I had to cut back on the blogging. The idea had come to me, and I wanted to get it all down as quickly as i could, but the blogging definitely suffered as a result. Hopefully, I’ll be able to balance things better going forward.