Help. (I need somebody.)

I gotta tell ya, ever since I saw the trailer for “The Help,” I have been cringing at the thought this movie would be every bit as excruciating as the preview suggests. Yes, a movie about how a plucky white girl in early-’60s Mississippi empowers the black domestic class by putting on cateye glasses and telling their story:

Skeeter (the plucky one) gets a job as a newspaper cleaning-advice columnist, but when she asks Aibileen for some tips, she realizes that the real story lies in the emotional lives of black women who virtually raise their white employers’ children, but who are treated by those same families as unfit to share a kitchen utensil, much less political or economic power. “You is kind, you is smart and you is impo’tant,” Aibileen repeatedly intones to her young white charge.

I gather “The Help” has been a book-club and best-selling sensation since its publication. I haven’t read it, so I suppose it would be wrong to judge, but just from the capsule plot summaries, it sounds fairly excruciating. Does Skeeter also teach her town’s domestics to dance? No?

The Times’ critic isn’t impressed, except by Viola Davis, who could class up a clown car. She’s so good, I fear she’s in danger of becoming a 21st-century distaff Sidney Poitier, but fingers crossed she still has a comedy or three in her. Has anyone read this book? Am I being unfair? I is not an impo’tant critic, but still.

Ah, the heat has finally broken. We can lay our heads against autumn’s cool cheek this morning, although just for a bit. It’s still summer, and I intend to enjoy it, if I can ever get my work done.

Which I’d best do. Fortunately, some bloggage:

Via Jeff the Mild-Mannered, a Guardian look at the psychology of looting. Pretty clearheaded:

How can you despise culture but still want the flatscreen TV from the bookies? Alex Hiller, a marketing and consumer expert at Nottingham Business School, points out that there is no conflict between anomie and consumption: “If you look at Baudrillard and other people writing in sociology about consumption, it’s a falsification of social life. Adverts promote a fantasy land. Consumerism relies upon people feeling disconnected from the world.”

My community has a library millage on the ballot this November. So: Useful things to remember about librarians.

Oh, wow, look: Tina Brown’s being “provocative” again! I’m so totally provoked.

And I hate to bug out of here with such a weak, phoned-in offering, but I have a lot to do in two days, and I’d best get to it.

Posted at 10:22 am in Movies |

84 responses to “Help. (I need somebody.)”

  1. Connie said on August 10, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Salon had an excellent review for “The Help.” I am the only person in the world who couldn’t finish the book. I couldn’t finish “Room” either. Bad librarian.

    Speaking of librarians I had just shared “Useful things to remember about librarians” on facebook. Great minds?

    Weather has broken at last. Lovely out, sun is shining and IT IS NOT HUMID!!

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  2. Sue said on August 10, 2011 at 10:42 am

    I read ‘The Help’ and while it wasn’t great, it was good enough to give my daughter a copy in the ‘let’s sneak some history in here’ mode that moms are so good at.
    Not excruciating or even cringe-worthy. I’m thinking the point of the book might have been that it took an outsider to get things rolling, maybe making the same point as a novel about an Eleanor Roosevelt-type being transformed by working among the tenement classes – teach a little history about the affect wealthy socialites had in getting the vote for women and changing laws affecting working conditions for women and children.
    That’s just my impression, and I read the book before some of the backlash started.
    I don’t know about how the movie will present, though.

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  3. Kim said on August 10, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Read The Help last year for a book club and my initial reaction was the author was borrowing heavily from her own life. First book, you write what you know. Skeptic that I am, the more I heard about the author and where she was from, the more I believed in my gut. Still, it made me so pissed when I read this. Just because it’s a sympathetic story about black maids in the South doesn’t make it right to steal one’s voice. I have no idea how the suit shook out, but the fact there’s a movie seems to say it all.

    Connie – I thought Room had such an interesting premise. That was before I read it. What a terrible book.

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  4. Dorothy said on August 10, 2011 at 10:54 am

    I read “The Help” after two or three friends offered up nearly breathless praise for it. I read it quickly, but found so much fault with it I came away disappointed by (1) the book in general, but also (2) surprised one particular friend suggested it so strongly. I thought she had better taste than that. I kept wanting to slap Skeeter (or the writer) for being so blind to her boyfriend and her supposed best friends in the town. How could she be so interested in the lives of the Negro maids in town and yet still try to keep things status quo at the country club? Too many holes in that plot to suit me.

    Kim: That link goes to a story about Groupon. Can you re-post the link you intended?

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  5. Colleen said on August 10, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I must be far down the intellectual food chain among y’all, because I read it and really liked it. I don’t usually read novels, but this one kept my interest all the way through. I was sorry when it ended.

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  6. Kim said on August 10, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Multi-tasking, Dorothy! Fixed.

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  7. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 10, 2011 at 10:59 am

    “The Help” is for race relations what “The Bridge of Madison County” was for male-female relationships.

    I’ll add to invitations to check out Facebook postings:!/notes/jeff-gill/americans-for-true-creativity-and-freedom-atcf/10150264975913181

    Perhaps some of you would like to join me in asking candidates to take “The Pledge.”

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  8. Julie Robinson said on August 10, 2011 at 11:00 am

    My reaction was the same; even as I was reading it I was wondering why it was filtered through white eyes. When it appeared she had lifted the name and life experiences of her brother’s nanny I was disgusted. It’s Gone With the Wind all over again–let’s look at slavery and the tearing apart of the nation from the eyes of a frivolous white woman!! The previews I’ve seen have a lighthearted, cutesy air, when the issues are in fact horribly tragic.

    At the same time I wondered if whites would read it or see the movie if it was set from a black perspective. One of the friends visiting this weekend teaches at a school with many ethnicities and she battles this all the time. Blacks don’t want white or Latino points of view, Latinos don’t want black or white POV, on and on. Finding books is a constant challenge for her, made even worse by the low reading level of most of her kids. I suggested a chat with a librarian. *smile*

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  9. brian stouder said on August 10, 2011 at 11:13 am

    My lovely wife enjoyed The Help very, very much. But indeed – one doesn’t need to look further than her choice of husbands, to impeach her tastes in anything (and everything) else!

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  10. Rana said on August 10, 2011 at 11:19 am

    “frovacative” makes this “Tonstant Weader” fwow up, I must say. Not everything must be turned into a silly portmanteau!

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  11. Dorothy said on August 10, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Thanks Kim! This morning I’ve been multi-tasking at a level I’m not accustomed to. My boss had several difficulties getting out of Cleveland yesterday, which turned into this morning, including a blown cargo door after they lifted off that necessitated a quick return to the airport. She’s finally arrived safely in Albany, and I’m about spent with juggling so many tasks this morning associated with her travel and miscellaneous office stuff that’s come up.

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  12. Michael said on August 10, 2011 at 11:35 am

    My wife read it. She said it’s a zippy read that offers exactly nothing new on the subject, and that if it opened your eyes then you were too far gone anyway. The one detail I twigged to was the constant mention of the author’s unruly curly hair (toned down to Raphaelite locks in the movie), which seemed perhaps a subtextual comment on race “relations” if-you-know-what-I-mean-and-I-think-you-do. The writer has a brief afterword (which I read) in which she comes off as such a thoroughly unpleasant, provincial tool that I decided not to even attempt the book.

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  13. april glaspie said on August 10, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Sorry, but I don’t get the sanctimonious umbrage about that Bachmann photo. It is absolutely representative of her most characteristic facial expression. To people who complain it makes her “look” crazy, I rejoin, “Well that’s because she is full-goose loony.” Actually, I think the picture looks like somebody that has recently been “buzzed and fuzzed”, so it’s probably Michele at her best and most lucid after a round of electroconvulsive correction. What is seriously galling about this complaint, is that some form of this “crazy eyes” shit is a universal theme of internet insults from Freeper-world internet staphylococcus about Nancy Pelosi (there is a mild facial resemblance between the two women, but Bachmann proves the crazy every time she opens her mouth, whiccch is a little scary, because she isn’t a Palinessque idiot).

    This whole thing reminds me of the common idiotic argumentative tactic of insisting “That’s just your opinion.” to which the only sensible response is “That’s why it came out of my mouth, asshole.”

    The Help? I’ve seen it compared here to Bridges of Madison County and Gone With the Wind, neither of which I have gotten through, both of which I consider drivel, from briefly dipping into. Speaking of books, halfway through State of Wonder, and gutdom, y’all that are still waiting to get into it have a treat in store. Whizbang style, language, characters and plotting. I always wondered why Bel Cant didn’t end up a movie, but with Wonder, it’s even more obvious. Speaking of Gone With the Wind, the movie, the only thing I like about it is seeing Atlanta get its just deserts, aflame in perdition.

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  14. LAMary said on August 10, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Speaking of lame books recommended by friends, younger son was on a major room cleaning binge last weekend, sorting clothes and stuff that were no longer wanted or useful in his 17 year old sphere, and among the stuff we schlepped to Goodwill was a copy of “The Secret.” I opened it and found it inscribed to him from the Malibu girlfriend of the Ex. Perfect.

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  15. Joe Kobiela said on August 10, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Took off from Austin Tx, Tuesday around 5pm it was 104, but it was a dry heat.
    Pilot Joe

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  16. april glaspie said on August 10, 2011 at 11:58 am

    LAMary. I used to work with a nice, well-meaning, thick as a brick engineer that owned and had read every piece of crap Clive Cussler had ever read. He forcibly loaned them to me in serial fashion, and I more or less had to read them to avoid hurting his simpleton feelings when he wanted to discuss the tripe. I read The DaVinci Code under social pressure, and I can honestly say, believe it or not, there is a worse hack novelist than Dan Brown. I know, mirabile dictu, but it’s true, Clive Cussler and his hero Dirk Pitt (no shit) are worse.

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  17. LAMary said on August 10, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    The Ex, of course, loved Da Vinci Code. He quoted from it for months. He loaned to the kids and they thought it was tripe.

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  18. Kristen said on August 10, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    Started The Help…never finished it. I’m still scratching my head at all the accolades for it. I found it tedious and trite.

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  19. Deborah said on August 10, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    One of the books that was loaned to me by I forget who, was the Ya Ya Sisterhood book. I couldn’t get through the first chapter. My husband read a few Solomon Rushdie books that he recommended and I couldn’t get through any of them. It’s rare that I don’t finish a book that I start even if I’m not enjoying it. I keep telling myself it’s going to get better. Some of them do.

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  20. moe99 said on August 10, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    My book group read The Help and I thought I had too, but I saw the trailer for the movie and I guess I didn’t. Is that really what the book is like?

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  21. april glaspie said on August 10, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Aside from the asinine mumbo-jumbo, Da Vinci Code is just excruciatingly bad writing. The kind of dogshit where the same simile will show up repeated several times in successive paragraphs.

    Jeff, I bet those guys aren’t going to be claiming slavery was the good ole days when darkie families had two parents down upon the Suwanee River.

    Until I went back and found out, I was assuming “frovocative” had something to do with hair, like Angela Davis’ natural.

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  22. beb said on August 10, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Looting is easy to understand if you see the world as consisting of the have and the have-nots and that you’re one of the have-nots. How better to get back at the man by taking his stuff? As we see the rioting spread from city to city it, clearly, is no longer a complaint against police over-reach and brutality. It’s a class war conducted by the people on the outside.

    I read a Clive Cussler book once, Sahara, because i was told it was like the old Doc Savage pulps. Nope! While I am convinced that anyone can write a novel, books like that remind me that not every one can write well.

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  23. JayZ(the original) said on August 10, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    I liked The Help, but won’t bother seeing the movie. I also read Water for Elephants, Sarah’s Key and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, which have all been made into films recently. I will not see them either. I can think of only a few novels that have been adapted successfully to film. One that comes to mind is Fight Club. Prospero, I am glad Bel Canto wasn’t made into a movie. Hollywood would have made a mess of it. Now if a South American director had adapted it, maybe that would have worked.

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  24. Dave said on August 10, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    So many of those books I haven’t read (DaVinci Code, The Help, Bridges of. . .etc) but I have read Gone With the Wind. Once. My high school English teacher, who was my favorite, loved that book and made us read it (or maybe it was strongly suggested). I’ve never understood why she loved that book so much, other than it would have been the big thing about the time of her teen years. She also loved Dickens, BTW.

    Useful things to remember about librarians strike a chord. My daughter, after a long time, finally got a library job this year. Now, she’s expecting, she and her husband are both 29. So, now comes the dilemma of what to do about the job she always wanted.

    Deborah, I also try to finish a book once I’ve started it, sometimes, that has turned into a excruciating choice. I’m a big fan of the James Lee Burke Dave Robicheaux detective series but each book gets darker and darker and I’m having a tough time with the most recent one.

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  25. april glaspie said on August 10, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Waukeshau County WI should never be allowed to carry on an election of any kind without independent outside monitors, Federal Marshalls, and the National Guard. This shit sounds like Son of Kenneth Blackwell and Cuyahoga County for W.

    Neal Sedaka, ska king? Who knew. If this doesn’t crack you up, the bad mood is irremediable.

    I think the Coens could do right by Bel Canto, but I think they could make every movie better than almost anybody else. Jay, Ken Kesey’s “other” novel, Sometimes a Great Notion, which I like as well as Cuckoo’s Nest was made into an excellent movie (sometimes called Never Give an Inch), with Paul Newman, Henry Fonda, Lee Remick and Michael Sarazzin. That’s two for two on Ken Kesey novels. To Kill a Mockingbird, Dr. Zhivago, Shane, The Natural, Clockwork Orange, Empire of the Sun, Devil in a Blue Dress, all made into good movies, off the top of my head. Heart of Darkness as Apocalypse Now! (sheer genius). Neil Gaiman and Ccharles Vess wrote a graphic novel called “Stardust” that was made into a brilliant movie nobody’s ever seen. Fried Green Tomatoes was better with Mary Stuart Masterson than the book by Fannie Flagg (God bless herlittle ‘mater pickin’ heart). Phillip K. Dicks books and stories produced Blade Runner, which I think is one of the five or ten best movies ever, and even a good Tom Cruise movie (not so easy), Minority Report. Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone. Shutter Island. Raymond Chandler books become movies. Children of Men is a great movie from a good P.D. James dystopian novel.

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  26. Little Bird said on August 10, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Bel Canto was a good book, and really would make a great movie. The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood was only annoying to me because it tended to jump around a bit in the timeline. Behind the Scenes at the Museum also does the jumping around thing, but is a little easier to follow, and would also make a pretty good movie. Provided the right people are involved in it.

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  27. april glaspie said on August 10, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    “The jumping around thing” when done well can be very affecting. I just finished an excellentbook called Netherland, by Paul O’Neill that uses this technique very effectively.

    Sensei Keiko Fukuda: Coolest woman in the world, at least for today.

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  28. Bitter Scribe said on August 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    That librarian article reminds me of my favorite line from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” During the nightmare sequence where Jimmy Stewart sees what the world would be like without him, Clarence the guardian angel is reluctant to tell him what happened to Donna Reed without him to marry.

    “She’s an old maid…she never married…”

    And as Stewart persists, Clarence blurts out the horrible truth:

    “She’s just about to close up the library!”

    My ex-wife, a librarian, and I watched that movie every Christmas, and we crowed that line in unison every time. Hey, it wasn’t much of a holiday tradition, but it was ours.

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  29. april glaspie said on August 10, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Librarians open new horizons.

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  30. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 10, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    Graham Swift’s “Waterland” jumps about quite a bit, but I thought never confusingly (I can’t recommend the film, even if it has Jeremy Irons in it).

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  31. Jolene said on August 10, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Love the poster, Prospero. Lolita is one of all-time favorites. Just brilliant writing. Also, a fabulous audiobook w/ Jeremy Irons as reader.

    Is liking Dickens a bad thing? I haven’t read all his books, but I loved those I have. “What larks, Pip! What larks!”

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  32. april glaspie said on August 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Jolene, a Knowledge and love of Dickens is a recommendation of both refined sensibilities and superior intellect. To paraphrase Jonathon Richman, nobody ever called Charles Dickens an asshole. Margaret Mitchell may have been going for Dickensian, but she missed by a mile. She was, however, reputed to be a party girl of singular flair. Iconic Southern newspaperlady, with a knack for attracting rich guys..

    Oh, and I mentioned Sometimes a Great Notion earlier. The movie is free/instant on Netflix. For Paul Newman fans, Henry Fonda fans, Lee Remick fans (I’m one for sure), fans of great cinematography, lovers of Northwestern US scenery, people that brook no shit.Has a truly memorable scene in which Henry Fonda carries the movie with just one arm. A very fine example of early 70s movie-making hardly anybody’s ever seen.

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  33. Suzanne said on August 10, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    I read The Help in the past 6 months. It wasn’t fabulous, but I did think it did a good job of showing a midwestern middle aged white woman like me what Blacks in the South went through and how difficult it was for them to bring about change. I kept thinking that this type of thing was going on during my formative years and I really had no clue.

    I listened to an audio version Bel Canto and was not wowed. It may have had something to do with the readers mispronunciation of several opera terms and titles. Ugh.

    I just finished Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Like The Help, it did a good job of showing the lives of Chinese women of the era (foot binding! Shows you how influential culture can be) but both books seemed to lose steam as they went on and ended with a few unlikely plot details.

    The Da Vinci Code and Bridges of Madison made me just want to go somewhere and drink in a depressive state at what our nation now viewed as high culture.

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  34. Sherri said on August 10, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    I avoided The Help because I am full up on Southern books that tell African American stories through white eyes. I read and enjoyed Gone With the Wind because I’m Southern and it’s in my DNA and I can’t help it, but I don’t have to keep feeding it. I love Ya Ya and the novels of Pat Conroy because they speak to the part of me that both loves and hates the South; I have very deep roots there, but I can’t live there.

    I saw an interview with David Cornwell (John le Carre) who was asked what it was about English society that produced so many good novels, and he said that where you’ve got structured hypocrisy, you’ve got great tension. Maybe when it stops being a rare exception for African American stories to be told by African American writers to make it into the mainstream, the South can fulfill the promise inherent in its structured hypocrisy.

    In the meantime, put aside The Help, and read Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, instead.

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  35. Judybusy said on August 10, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    I’ve always thought if I couldn’t be a social worker, I’d be a librarian. There is a wonderful documentary about the various portrayals and the actual work done by the profession. Bitter Scribe, it goes well with your tale!

    This little video clip is fun, too–librarians take on a Lady Gaga song.

    I had no interest in reading The Help, although I’ve heard good things about it. It takes incredible empathy and skill for white people to write abot black people well, and I didn’t think this author had it. Speaking of which, have people here read Patchett’s “Run”? I liked the story well enough, but none of her fiction has topped Bel Canto yet.

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  36. nancy said on August 10, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    That scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” is why I always chuckle when recalling Miss Beth, the children’s librarian of Kate’s toddlerhood. She frequently ran storytime, and sometimes you could see her nipple piercings through her T-shirt.

    I’ll defend “Gone With the Wind” — the novel, anyway — to just about anyone. Certain passages are cringeworthy, the POV is whack, the picture it paints of the south is ridiculous, but it is a very rich and deep read if you care to. Try reading it from a feminist perspective sometime — it’s very illuminating.

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  37. JayZ(the original) said on August 10, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Prospero @ 25
    Touche. Your sense of recall is amazing. I agree with almost all your examples. Some are among my favorite films. There were three or four listed which I had not read nor seen. Ever since being exposed to the New Wave in the 50’s and 60’s, I have been drawn to foreign/indie films, so I am critical of most of Hollywood’s output. I rely on certain film critics’ recommendations, word of mouth from friends with similar tastes, and the reputations of brilliant directors (Coens, for example) to help me decide what to go see.

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  38. Dorothy said on August 10, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Something that’s been bugging me while reading back over all these comments on our impressions of “The Help.” I in no way want to cast aspersions on anyone who really liked it. I liked much of it. But I also felt that she didn’t do an outstanding job of fleshing out certain aspects of Skeeter. I never want to diminish any of the nn.c followers because I know I hate it when I feel like I’m not “keeping up” or as clever as the rest of you. I have decided to stop fussing with myself when I feel like I have nothing really great to contribute to the conversation. It’s nice to sit back and take in all the braininess that this site simmers with. (Ooops – I ended a sentence with a preposition. Big no-no, but I don’t care today.) So my apologies to anyone who felt bad about the negative comments about the book. Please don’t take it personally. Books are very subjective. We don’t ALL have to like the same things. This is what makes the world a much more interesting place, eh?

    (Just read Nance @ 36 – I can happily admit I read GWTW four times. Loved it, much more than the movie.)

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  39. april glaspie said on August 10, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    I’d have a difficult time talking myself into following a lead fictional character named Skeeter. I realize that’s snobbish. Just saying’.

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  40. Dorothy said on August 10, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Well as many Southerners (and others) are wont to do, Prospero, she got that as a nickname. I forget why or what her real name is but there you go. The Bubbas and Skeeters of Mississippi don’t hold it against you.

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  41. april glaspie said on August 10, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Lived in the South many of my years Dorothy. Known many Bubbers, a few Bubbas, and Ms. Davis with the poodle bouffant is the only Skeeter I ever heard of. Bubba is usually more of a general appellation, like dude or bro elsewhere. I’ve known lots of girls known to their families as Sis or Sissy or Sister. Almost married on for her family money.

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  42. coozledad said on August 10, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    My mom had a collection of an apparently forgotten genre probably best referred to as “softcore of the lost cause”; especially Lonnie Coleman’s Beaulah Land series. I had to compete with blowflies to read them books.
    They must have been part of the inspiration behind SNL’s “Mandingo II” sketch.

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  43. JayZ(the original) said on August 10, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    One of my favorite lines from Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods is his description of a funky tavern along the way. To paraphrase, “It was the kind of place where if the bartender hollered ‘phone call for Bubba’, every man in the place would have gotten up.”

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  44. Maggie Jochild said on August 10, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Judybusy, watching the Gaga video again stirred into flame my banked crush on Nancy Gershenfeld. Ya know, I asked to Friend her on FB but she never responded. All hail librarians, Girl Scout leaders, and the wimmin who work at Home Depot.

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  45. Jeff Borden said on August 10, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    I’m on a non-fiction kick myself. I just finished and greatly enjoyed Erik Larson’s “In the Garden of Beasts” and am taking a leisurely read through David McCullough’s “Brave Companions” while I await deliver of three Jo Nesbo novels.

    It’s been a few years, but one very odd but enjoyable book for me was Jonathan Foer’s “Everything is Illuminated.” It also tacks back and forth from an ancient shtetl (sp??) to a young American Jew who is visiting the family’s roots, but there is an ancillary character of a Ukranian tour guide who has learned English by reading a dictionary. He’s one of the most original characters I’ve come across for awhile as his his grandfather, a weird old coot who drives the car and owns a female dog named Sammy Davis Junior Jr. The guide speaks this well-intentioned but hilarious style of English that was ingratiating, at least to my coarse tastes.

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  46. DellaDash said on August 10, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    I’d say there are as many characters voiced (and skewered) in “The Help” who are white southern women (and their menfolk) actively engaged on a daily basis in dehumanizing those they’ve hired to serve them in their homes, as well as other whites who have found ways of resisting or combating the entrenched cultural bullying; as there are sundry black voices who are depicted as overcoming legit fear to allow their perspectives to emerge. Kudos to Stockett for doing such a crackerjack (enlightening and entertaining) job.

    The audiobook is the best! There are several excellent narrators performing with gusto. I can’t imagine the movie version being able to enhance on any level.

    Granted, this is a topic close to my heart…it’s the opposite of cringing for me.

    …big fan of “Bel Canto”. Hate, hate, hate “Bridges of Madison County” (one of the most cowardly heroines in fiction…not even strong enough to be anti-heroine…so your husband dies, and you never seek out your lost love because you’re frightened he might be dead, even though he’s still alive? that’s supposed to be tragic?)

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  47. Sue said on August 10, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    I may have mentioned this here before, but my husband got a copy of BoMC a long time ago from a boss who bought a case or two of a current best-seller every Christmas and mass-gifted everyone. We knew it was not our kind of book, but being the misty-eyed romantics that we are, we took turns reading it to each other and laughing.

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  48. DellaDash said on August 10, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Hmmm, Sue. Bet you (and yours) could think up some fall-down BoMC drinking game.

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  49. Sue said on August 10, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    DD, I do recall there was some wine involved.

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  50. moe99 said on August 10, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    a 30 year historical timeline on the deficits:

    Another keeper.

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  51. Suzanne said on August 10, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    Currently reading “In the Garden of Beasts”. Some scary stuff. One thing that has struck me is how many of the Nazi top guys were under 50 (or 40 for that matter) and how many of the people around them could see they were riding the train to Crazyville, but thought they would burn themselves up before they got there. Unfortunately for all of us, they didn’t.

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  52. Fearguth said on August 10, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Before retirement, I was a college librarian for 24 years. Despite popular misconceptions about what it takes to be a librarian, I am most fortunate to have had one of the best, most rewarding jobs in the world.

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  53. april glaspie said on August 10, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Has “Witches on the Road Tonight” Reminds me vaguely of Sunlight Dialogues, that is so fucking excellent its almost better than V. Y’all are a riot, and you are all intent on making me out to be a fucking moron. Not in a million years/Beyond comprehension If its what we think We think its Mike and Chris.


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  54. Judybusy said on August 10, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    You, all of you, need to stop recommending books and authors. I know, I’m guilty too. But really, I have about 75 titles on a “to read” list, and now thanks to Jeff Borden about five more have joined the list. You also need to stop being so interesting and knowledgeable, so I can go back to my triple-whammy biography of Cesare Borgio, Michiavelli and Da Vinci, titled The Artist, the Philosopher and the Warrior. See? It just slipped out. (It wasn’t even on the list, but I came across it at the library and it just fits with the Renaissance kick I’m on.)

    But I do love the daily coffee klatch/cocktail party that is nnc. Dorothy, a bit back you talked about being intimidated: me too, but people are very welcoming and you hold your own. I have often wished for a “like” button; if I responded to everything that made me think or smile, I wouldn’t even have time for sleep.

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  55. Dorothy said on August 10, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    *LIKE* what Judybusy just said! Oh and I just picked up a copy of Laura Lippman’s “I’d Know You Anywhere.” Have to finish a few that are ahead of it but I’m happy I found it in paperback at The Book Loft in German Village last Thursday.

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  56. kayak woman said on August 10, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    I just finished the Help and enjoyed it. But that may be because I am a snowbilly with no knowledge of the south. And also because I read The Help just after reading South of Superior. A cousin bought that book and brought it up to my family’s Lake Superior beach. People were passing it around on our beach and I eventually downloaded it to my iPhone/iPad. What a bunch of hooey. Girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy. That was all. With some supposed Yooper stereotypes thrown in.

    I ain’t no English major and I have greatly enjoyed all of the opinions about The Help here from those who are better versed about literature than I am.

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  57. Jolene said on August 10, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    When I post links or other recommendations here, I often feel like a cat who’s caught a bird or a mouse and brings it to the front door of my owners. It’s a matter of sharing the treasures I’ve found w/ friends.

    Here’s one such treasure: From PBS Newshour, an interview w/ Philip Levine, the new U.S. poet laureate, who, as Jeff (tmmo) noted, is from Detroit and has spent his long career writing about work and working people.

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  58. Linda said on August 10, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    I have been a librarian for 26 years, and it occurs to me what the most striking thing it is I do every day. It’s to bring people into the new electronic world, in a society that 1) demands we all get there (for instance, by requiring everyone to apply electronically for jobs, AND have email addresses) but 2) gives them precious few resources to get there. Libraries provide Wifi, electric outlets so that even homeless people can charge their cellphones (yes, you can get them even if you’re homeless). We provide a place to search the net, get a much-necessary email address, and one-on-one instructions in keyboarding, resume writing, job applications, etc. for the middle aged people thrown out of work and told to Be Electronic. Lots of kids have grown up in my agency getting their hip hop lyrics from our terminals. Old people have gotten email to get pics from the grandkids. People have started facebook accounts and shared their news with relatives, or have gotten the first copies of their own credit reports they ever had. Near downtown Toledo, lots of people don’t own computers, and would not be part of that world if we didn’t exist. It’s like we are midwifing the post-industrial revolution for many people. When I read dumbasses who say that “all I ever see people do in the libary is play with the computers,” I want to kick them in the teeth.

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  59. alex said on August 10, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    I haven’t been able to finish a book or movie in years. My suspension of disbelief button is so mashed in by people living in alternate realities in real life that I don’t dare let go of rationality for one second lest I go crazy too.

    Although I did tonight. Haven’t felt this emotional in years. Tomorrow my dog is to be euthanized. She’s fourteen and cannot walk anymore. Probably can’t see either. But she can still eat and shit, which isn’t a good thing if she can’t walk.

    On a lighter note, it was a pleasure meeting our resident librarian Connie when she was in town a couple of years ago for a convention and finding out that we had several friends in common who are connected not only as librarians but as quilters and textile artists. Librarians don’t get the respect they deserve. Neither do teachers, journalists and a whole lot of others who do what they do because they love what they do and love it well above and beyond the fake prestige that is supposedly the American Dream.

    I’m almost to the point of saying let the American Dream die because crass consumerism is all fucked up anyway. Just let us have enough to bring us joy in life. Health care, hobbies and enough money to feed a dog.

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  60. brian stouder said on August 10, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Alex – here’s wishing you and yours strength for what will certainly be an unpleasant day, tomorrow.

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  61. nancy said on August 10, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Yes, Alex. Same here.

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  62. Linda said on August 10, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    Alex–I’ve been there before, and that’s a tough row to hoe. I wish you strength for tomorrow.

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  63. Judybusy said on August 10, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    alex, I, too, am sorry to hear about your dog. I hope you can have people around you tomorrow.

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  64. moe99 said on August 10, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Alex, I am so sorry. There are vet euthanasia services that will come to your house, so your dog is in a familiar place. I found out about it after I had Heidi put to sleep in 2006 when she suffered a stroke and never came out of it. My heart goes out to you. Please let us know how you are, when you feel ok writing about it.

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  65. Dorothy said on August 10, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    I’m so sorry, Alex. I had a Cocker Spaniel live to be that age and I felt so lucky to have had her that long. I’ll be thinking of you tomorrow and hope it won’t break your heart entirely through and through.

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  66. Suzanne said on August 10, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Great thoughts Linda! I’m of the library world, too, although it has been difficult to stay there these last few years with all the cuts. Libraries and librarians do so much for a community, but is so under-appreciated. I so wish when people cry about taxes, they would stop for a minute and think about where that money goes. I have loved working in libraries, working with information, and books, and people, and I hate that, in my case, it may have to come to an end.

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  67. Connie said on August 10, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Been there too Alex, tough and hope you have support.

    I’ve been a librarian a smidgen longer than Linda has, and the change from then to now is mindblowing. In that time I have spent a couple of million dollars on computers, tech, software, etc. Having been ten years in a tough blue collar town and now in somewhat upscale rural suburbia it is still all about tech. Linda’s comment about old folks getting email to be in touch with grandkids is so true. Indiana’s requirement to file online once a week in order to receive unemployment benefits overwhelmed public libraries across that state. My inner city branch was overwhelmed every Sunday with filers wanting to file on the first day of the filing week. Having a hundred or so unemployed (mostly) men waiting for computers did not lend itself to family time at the library.

    I’m glad to be back home in Michigan.

    And even given the above it is still about books, though they are just as likely to be ebooks as hardcovers. Summer is a joy at the library because kids are excited about Summer Reading Club and excited about their books.

    As a librarian I get advance reading copies and I am currently reading “When She Woke” by Hillary Jordan, a near future religious America vision that is sort of a cross between “Scarlet Letter” and “Handmaid’s Tale” Coming out in October and highly recommended. Because you needed another book on your list and after all, I’m a librarian.

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  68. Connie said on August 10, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Check out fiverr,, The place for people to share things they’re willing to do for $5.

    My current fave: I will make a tarzan style ringtone yodelling your name for $5.

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  69. Deborah said on August 10, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    Alex, so sorry, thinking about you. My cats are 14 and I dread the thought of not having them some day. It’s amazing how much joy and pleasure our pets bring to our lives. I’ve only had to have one pet put down before. So sad.

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  70. Jolene said on August 10, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    I send my sympathy too. Alex. It’s hard to lose a friend.

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  71. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 10, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    Grace and peace to you and your household, Alex; it’s an odd sort of quiet after, and talk or music will help. A little denial is in order at such a time.

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  72. Rana said on August 11, 2011 at 3:15 am

    I’m sorry, Alex. Knowing that it’s the kind and responsible thing to do doesn’t make it any less awful. 🙁

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  73. april glaspie said on August 11, 2011 at 4:40 am


    When I was a kid, at Boy Scout Summer camp in Michigan, my collie, Sandy, died. He was a great, great dog. My parents waited two weeks to tell me, and I was devastated. I’ve never had to deal with euthanizing a good friend, but I’ve thought about it in terms of my ownself. When my dog Sandy got into prickle-burrs in W. Virginia and had to be shaved, I learned that dogs are as capable of embarrassment as human beings are. Sandy was one awesome dog. He starred in a photo layout ad in Life Magazine. Kids from my neighborhood got $25, My dog got $100 There have been several other great dogs in my extended family. I think dogs are empathic and understand inherently what people are feeling. I know that’s ridiculous, but I surely believe it. My brother Dave has a dog that knows me instantly when I haven’t seen him in months. Best cats I’ve ever been associated with acted like dogs, including some Siamese, believe it or don’t. Nothing actually makes you feel better about any of this, but you have to understand, that was a damned good dog. What was his name? I’d feel better knowing.

    Connie, It’s still about real books, I hope. Fahrenheit 451 is stil the way to think of things, Pride and Prejudice, it’s sad people have to wait for the small screen and get some bowdlerized version. Nancy, GWTW is as much a mediocre potboiler as Tolstoy and War and Peace. Over-rated. Somebody thinks Tolstoy or the ahole that wrote Dr. Zhivago is a great Russian writer, try The Master and Margarita, dumbass. Wat and Peace is crap and Peggy Mitchell pretty much reproduced it. Wow. Great book. Neither in the actual long run of things. Crap i crap, and the feminist view of GWTW is not a starter. Scarlett’s one obnoxious bitch, Ashley is a reasonably nice guy, Rhett is a short, obnoxious egocentric neo-Naziidiot that has no idea his breath is disgusting,. The movie is atrocious, aside from burning Atlanta, the book not much better. Nancy, I can’t think of any reason you’d defend this piece of crap other than the Peggy byline. Several hundred pp. of turgid prose. Bad romance. Truly orrible excuses for writing. It is truly garbage, ad it should have Fabio on the cover. It is shit. Like War and Peace is shit, and Zhivago is seriously bad.

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  74. april glaspie said on August 11, 2011 at 4:50 am

    No shit, Whatever y’all think/

    are you full of crap? As we are full of shit.

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  75. ROGirl said on August 11, 2011 at 5:16 am

    Sorry about your doggie, Alex.

    It’s funny how I remember some of the books I read in college so well and yet I have trouble remembering much of what I read these days.

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  76. april glaspie said on August 11, 2011 at 7:18 am

    NEWSFLASH Spinmeister Bill lies his ass off.


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  77. april glaspie said on August 11, 2011 at 7:37 am


    On the other hand, there is Nick Cave.

    And we despise a black guy being President, because the bible tells it shouldn;t be the case. And how in hell do these assholes evade law enforcement?

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  78. coozledad said on August 11, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Alex: Sorry to hear that. We had to euthanize our yellow dog who was suffering similar problems a few months back, right after the teamonkeys dookyfest.
    The neighbor’s doberman keeps coming over here, and we have to drive it back home almost daily now. It’s a sweet dog, but dumb as a post. I can crate it and have it on your stoop in two days. Just say the word. Crate, dog, all gratis.

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  79. LAMary said on August 11, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Alex, so sorry to hear about your dog. It’s awful, even if you know it’s the right time to do it. I clearly remember every time I’ve had to make that decision, and while sometimes it was a little easier than others, it is still heartbreaking. Dogs and cats are always there for their people, unconditionally loving us and always surprising us with how much they understand.

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  80. Connie said on August 11, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Twice I’ve had the vet say to me, “you’ll know when it’s time.” And I always did, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

    We have been taking care of our daughter’s dog since she left for Europe on May 1 and he has wormed his way into our hearts. She comes back Sunday and has made it very clear to me I can’t keep him. We’ll be sad to see him go, though my husband will be relieved to go back to walking just one. And he’ll come back to visit on the holidays.

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  81. MichaelG said on August 11, 2011 at 10:18 am

    I’m sorry about your dog, Alex. I know how difficult it is. Our thoughts are with you.

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  82. Kirk said on August 11, 2011 at 10:43 am

    It’s going on a year since we had our last dog put down, and it still hurts. I’m thinking about you.

    If it’s not too late to talk about Skeeter, the name, there was a prominent country singer named Skeeter Davis in the ’60s. She had the audacity to let on that maybe the Vietnam War wasn’t the best idea, and old-line Nashville made her pay. Her career went into the toilet after that.

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  83. coozledad said on August 11, 2011 at 10:53 am

    More teabag grift: what is it about these bottom feeders they won’t leave the house without slapping on a pint of hair oil?
    Mobbed up Brylcreem shite.

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  84. Linda said on August 11, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Re: Connie and the whole librarian thing, and computers: Jeep just announced they will be hiring 1100 people at the updated Jeep plant in Toledo in the next year and a half. And of course, everybody must apply online. I feel the lines at the terminals growing longer…

    /but I’m happy as hell that they are hiring.

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