“Oh my darling, my darling, my darling! Please hear me. The only one I have ever loved at all, the only one who has ever loved me….Oh, Tom, my darling! Don’t forget it. If you know how I love you, how I have always loved you in my jealous morbid moods, in all my exacting selfishness. Oh Tom, my darling, my darling! Can’t you say one word, one little word before we part?”
Al Jolson might have been willing to walk a million miles for one of his mammee’s smiles but, if I had it, I would bet a million dollars this book will never be found in any school library. The quote is from a nineteenth century American novel by one Frederic Loring and the picture he paints is not one of a girl saying good-bye to her sweetheart but a union soldier over the form of his dying friend. Interesting, no?
These musings all started off with Mark Twain but I continue with writers and writing. To start with I cannot understand parents banning books when the internet is simply awash with easily accessible pornography and on film and television kids are subjected to the most brutal violence, pretty explicit sex scenes and, after the gate was opened and the four letter word allowed to escape, directors have used it to such an extent in movies that, maybe they don’t realise it, but it has lost all meaning and dramatic value and is irredeemingly boring. I am wondering if it is reality that American parents are afraid of, as the Nazis were afraid of books they didn’t approve of, or which could disseminate dangerous ideas, and so burnt them. Watching film or television is a shared experience, reading a book is a solitary one to one and so much more intimate.
I’m afraid I am not up to scratch as far as “serious” modern American authors are concerned. All my American reading these days seems to have been concentrated on thriller writers like Karen Slaughter, but I have just read a book that is a little masterpiece by an author as yet unknown. It is being published by DCG and is called “Mister Boy – Tales of a Southern Gentleman” by Ron Harris. It consists of 32 short stories all based on fact, all about growing up in rural Alabama and it is a gem. It is written with such charm, such style it speaks directly to you: full of wit, of observation, of nostalgia for a lost more innocent world and, yes, of love; a world before computers, mobile phones, I’pods and any other modern paraphernalia that have become the norm. Maybe I took to it so much because there were reminders of my own boyhood growing up in South Africa in the thirties and forties, the days before television when kids had to make their own amusement, find their own way in a world that at times could be quite mystifying if not alarming. Reading this book I am reminded of other southern writes of note; Carson McCullers, Eudora Welty, Beth Henley, yes Tennessee Williams, Thomas Dixon Jnr., William Faulkner and more. How come the south produces so may wonderfully gifted writers? Now, as far as I am concerned, you can add the name Ron Harris to the list. I devoutly hope this book when it is in circulation will not be banned in America’s schools even though three or four stories involve the adventures of the pee-pee! If junior America can turn away from the computer screen just for a while, “Mister Boy” will give them a wonderful insight into a lost age.