Home/Rod Dreher/If Only Harper Lee Had Moved To Greenwich Village

If Only Harper Lee Had Moved To Greenwich Village

"Please help a Southern writer, Dwight Garner, while he still has a life of the mind!"
“Please help a Southern writer, Dwight Garner, while he still has a life of the mind!”

New York Times book critic Dwight Garner is exceptionally good at his job, but boy, is this bit from his pan of a new biography of To Kill A Mockingbird writer Harper Lee a groaner:

“The Mockingbird Next Door” conjured mostly sad images in my mind. Ms. Lee has a regular booth at McDonald’s, where she goes for coffee. She eats takeout salads from Burger King on movie night. When she fishes, she uses wieners for bait. She feeds the town ducks daily, with seed corn from a plastic Cool Whip Free container, calling “Woo-hoo-HOO! Woo-hoo-HOO!” Somehow learning all this is worse than it would be to learn that she steals money from a local orphanage.

Dear God. Burger King salads and coffee from McDonalds. But the elderly Southern writer has not yet descended into scavenging from the garbage cans of Monroeville, Ala., for sustenance, intellectual and otherwise. Says Garner:

 There are hints of a life of the mind. She keeps British periodicals in the house…

Note to self: if Dwight Garner is to review my future books, do not let him know about my penchant for reading literary criticism while shoving a Super Sonic No. 2 with a Route 44 Coke Zero down my rusticated Southern gob. He’ll wonder, with sadness, how on earth I learned breathe through my nose.

Hat tip: Gawker, which remarks:

It’s irritating enough that conservatives charge intellectuals with elitism all the time; we don’t need to give them this sort of fuel for the fire! Funny this needs to be said but actually, drinking McDonald’s coffee will not keep you from reading the London Review of Books, last I checked.

Now, now, what would we do without the Times? Today it published a classic bit of old-fashioned Americana: a nostalgic essay by a writer reflecting on the golden-hued days of childhood when she had a penis.

UPDATE:Peter Lawler says this is evidence that I’ve come down off my crunchy-con culinary high horse.  Well, no, not really, because see, I’ve always loved Sonic, and never been embarrassed about it. It is superb junk food. But it is junk food, and not to be eaten as normative. Ours is a very conservative part of the world, but my cousin, who teaches culinary arts in the local high school, says that despite all the fresh vegetables that grow around here, so many kids eat almost nothing but junk food for every meal. So there’s that. How can that be a conservative way to approach food and the culture of food, unless conservatism re: food is nothing more than fulfilling individual preferences? You have an entire generation of kids around here who know all about Sonic french fries, but are alien to turnip greens, which generations around here have eaten.

This is an old argument. Still, I wanted to note this again. Also, “rusticated gob” is meant sarcastically. That is all.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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