I had read this at least once before (for the Second Monday book group in 2013), and Great Books has it scheduled for next December, but this was my favorite format: the Amherst College slow read group where we do 50 pages per week. We get so much more out books that way! We followed up reading the book with watching the 1968 movie, and I made cornpones because they were mentioned, few people know about them, and I love them. (I use the recipe from Favorite Recipes of the Lower Cape Fear, a cookbook in which a terrible poem my dad wrote [his description!] appears.) The film is a good movie on its own merits, but not a good adaptation of the book; most of the edges get rubbed off, including the racial ones. The book was so far ahead of its time, especially in blurring gender boundaries, and the movie is more conventional. I loved the idea of Mick’s “inside room” and “outside room” as psychological spaces, and her response to music.
In this book I learned:
- “Prom party” where “to prom” is to walk around the block
- Dough-face costume? “One boy had gone home and put on a dough-face bought in advance for Halloween.” I find references to it as a homemade mask, but not many. There’s a photo in this book (need database access to see the digital version – page 91).
- Bubber “taking a pop” at Baby is an early example of cute aggression
- Jake: “When a person knows and can’t make the others understand, what does he do?”
- “‘It don’t take words to make a quarrel,’ Portia said. ‘It look to me like us is always arguing even when we sitting perfectly quiet like this.'”
- Portia again: “A person can’t pick up they children and just squeeze them to which-a-way they wants them to be.”
- “the cold green ocean and a hot gold strip of sand”
- “By nature all people are of both sexes. So that marriage and the bed is not all by any means. The proof? Real youth and old age. Because often old men’s voices grow high and reedy and they take on a mincing walk. And old women sometimes grow fat and their voices get rough and deep and they grow dark little mustaches.”
- an old song as “a dragnet for lost feelings”
- Dr. Copeland “sat in rigid silence, and at last he picked up his hat and left the house without a farewell. If he could not speak the whole long truth no other word would come to him.”
- a toddler “tuned up to cry”
‘Pick out some stories with something to eat in them. I like that one a whole lot about them German kids going out in the forest and coming to this house made out of all different kinds of candy and the witch. I like a story with something to eat in it.’
‘I’ll look for one,’ said Mick.
‘But I’m getting kinda tired of candy,’ Bubber said. ‘See if you can’t bring me a story with something like a barbecue sandwich in it.’
[Dr. Copeland] Many of us cook for those who are incompetent to prepare the food that they themselves eat. Many work a lifetime tending flower gardens for the pleasure of one or two people. Many of us polish slick waxed floors of fine houses. Or we drive automobiles for rich people who are too lazy to drive themselves. We spend our lives doing thousands of jobs that are of no real use to anybody. We labor and all of our labor is wasted. Is that service? No, that is slavery.
Harry was a Pantheist. That was a religion, the same as Baptist or Catholic or Jew. Harry believed that after you were dead and buried you changed to plants and fire and dirt and clouds and water. It took thousands of years and then finally you were a part of all the world. He said he thought that was better than being one single angel.