Structural

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Kevin Morris at Newauthoronline issued a challenge to write a post about our favorite book. He is a great writer with a fascinating story so I encourage you to check him out.

So many books have passed through my hands and formed the foundation of who I am today, that it is immensely difficult to pin down just one that reigns supremely above all others.

The first book, though, that I remember affecting me deeply was The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. 

I am somewhat embarrassed of the story of how I came to even read it but I think it is important to start even before that for some perspective.

We made frequent trips to the library as kids. My mother would park at a local shopping center and we would take the train into the downtown library branch, thus avoiding parking meter fees. My mother would screen all of the books we picked out before we took them home. Judy Blume was off limits, among so many others. 

In ninth grade, my first year in public schools (a place that I had been led to believe was a veritable den of sin and iniquity), To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was on the class reading list. 

As we were about to begin the book the teacher made a big deal about the fact that there was some profanity in the pages. There was a permission slip to go home that parents had to sign. 

Of course there was. 

If you do not read this book, an alternative assignment will be given.

“What do you think you should do?” my mother asked. Her question seemed to indicate that she would sign the slip if I desired since she was asking me but without saying so much in words. She had never before given me the control. Did she mean it? It felt like a trick question, a test. 

I wanted to read the book as I was not relishing the getting singled out backlash bit, but I believed she wanted me to say no, to refuse to participate in something “evil.” God surely did not want me to do this, either. Reading it would be sinful, wouldn’t it? If I said yes, what would really happen? In the end I was too afraid to find out.

I requested the alternative assignment. 

As I was reading through the intro of The Last of the Mohicans, I was unimpressed. The first chapter was meh. So was the second chapter. This was going to be torture.

And then…

I was running through the trees, dodging bullets and knives as the characters came alive. I could smell the fires and the blood and the gunpowder.

It is really a tiny subplot in the book, the fact that Uncus, an Indian, falls in love with Cora, a mixed race daughter of a general, and they both die tragically in the end…but it hit me hard in the chest as I read those last few pages.

(You should know that the movie is a beautiful yet utterly unfaithful watered down adulteration.)

It was then that I realized that the desire for love transcended everything. Race. Time. Space. Even physical disabilities like my father’s polio. He wanted love, too. He was human. A mean, bitter human but a human nonetheless, a human with dreams and desires that he was probably not “allowed” to live. I found compassion in that book. 

And then I started to make sense to my own self. I just wanted to be loved. Protected. Cherished. Died for. This was the root of so much of my angst. It was then that I fell in love with Uncus. Well, not so much with him as the idea of him. 

And in case you were wondering, I did manage to read To Kill a Mockingbird.

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60 thoughts on “Structural

  1. Many thanks for this fascinating post Victo and your kind words about my writing. I must confess to only ever having listened to brief audio extracts of “The Last Of The Mohicans” but, having read your post I will be reading it in it’s entirety. All the best. Kevin

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  2. Wonderful synopsis. I loved the movie, and my husband read the book as part of his environmental major, but I love what you found it in: you, and compassion for your dad. Awesome.

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  3. TLofM is now on my reading list but what I really wanted to comment upon is your dad. I read your blog about his childhood and it’s haunted me (not every moment but…) and I really appreciate your inclusion of him in your post regarding ‘wanting love’ – heck, he deserved love!

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  4. Harper Lee has her 2nd novel coming out this year. I wonder how “folksy” the language will be this time. Seems a shame to miss the message of Mockingbird because of profanity. That seems so tame in today’s culture. Nice moment re your dad. ☺ Van

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  5. Great post. I love books and the old Stone Library in my hometown was my oasis when I was growing up. My Favorite book was the biography of Helen Keller. Someday I will write a post about her and her influence on me.

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  6. Ah. Well I didn’t love Mohicans, but I still love Mockingbird…
    I don’t censor my children in reading. I wasn’t censored, and I think it’s quite a damper for a voracious reader. I also enjoy the questions and the dialog that often stems from what they’ve read.
    And yes, sometimes the best books are the hardest ones to get into!

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  7. Pingback: My Article Read (3-9-2015) (3-10-2015) | My Daily Musing

  8. I’ve never read that book. Now you’ve intrigued me, even though I have so many other books on my list as well. In my school days, Mockingbird was mandatory. I loved it. I have gone back many times to re-read it. But now in my neck of the woods, it has been removed off the reading list. I am so disturbed by that. We can’t change history, even if it was “obscene” (and parts of history were obscene). I’m glad you did eventually get to reading it.

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      • Last time I heard, it was because of the use of the word “Nigger,” and they didn’t want to offend or alienate anybody. I get it, in a way, but I also think they could have a conversation with the class about the historical context of the word and the time at which the book was written. If it’s not back on the reading list before my kids get to that age, I will make them read it at home.
        I understand it is offensive to some people, but what if we stopped teaching about the holocaust because it offends people, and we stopped teaching Shakespeare because of the insinuation that women are fragile and “hysterical?” (Actually, maybe we should ban the word hysterical… is having a uterus really a pre-requisite for that kind of behaviour?)

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  9. I had to read TKAMB for school, never liked it or got as excited as some people did while reading it. I found the whole thing to be very creepy and uninteresting. Maybe thats because I got to read Judy Blume and the sisterhood of traveling pants books in my spare time 😉

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