Noteworthy News – February 18, 2009


February 18, 2009

reader FINALLY, someone who agrees with me about this story. Ron Rosenbaum from Slate writes about the unworthiness of the film for an Oscar…he writes (in part):

What, exactly, was the Kate Winslet character’s “personal triumph”? While in prison for participation in an act of mass murder that was particularly gruesome and personal, given the generally impersonal extermination process—as a death camp guard, she helped ensure 300 Jewish women locked in a burning church would die in the fire—she taught herself to read! What a heartwarming fable about the wonders of literacy and its ability to improve the life of an Auschwitz mass murderer!

That was pretty much my opinion on the book (read my review). Not to mention the fact that it glorifies pedophilia.  Do we really think a 15 year old boy should be having sex with a woman old enough to be his mother? And then Schlink wants us to think it is love…um, I don’t think so. I have not gone to see the movie – and I will not – reading the book was more than enough.

margaret-atwood-002 Go get ’em, Margaret. You know, I love Atwood’s novels…and now I have even more reason to respect this talented author. The organizers of the inauguraul Emirates Airline international festival of literature planned to launch Geraldine Bedell’s  novel The Gulf Between Us … but then reversed themselves and blacklisted it instead ‘citing its Gulf setting, its discussion of Islam and its focus on the Iraq war, as well as the fact that a minor character is a gay sheikh with an English boyfriend.’ Atwood, who was slated to appear at the festival had this response: “I was greatly looking forward to the festival, and to the chance to meet readers there; but, as an international vice president of Pen – an organisation concerned with the censorship of writers – I cannot be part of the festival this year.” Want to read more? Check out this article published by The Guardian.

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    • Kathy on February 18, 2009 at 17:47

    I have heard such great things about this one, but that description doesn’t sound very appealing to me.

    • Sari on February 18, 2009 at 19:14

    Nazi redemption seems to be a theme this year. We have The Boy in the striped pajamas, Valkyrie and now The Reader. I am not sure who feels the need for redemption but they can now stop it!

    • Typ0 on February 19, 2009 at 01:42

    Practicing censorship at a festival to celebrate literature is the height of hubris! Bravo to Ms Atwood for having the courage of her convictions.

    • Nicole on February 19, 2009 at 06:25

    I read this book when it first came out and can’t remember a thing about it. My mother also read it and I remember her saying at the time that she didn’t think it was that great, and now she doesn’t recall having read it at all. I find that so odd given that it has such provocative subject matter.

    I’m seeing the movie on Saturday as a part of an Oscar movie Marathon at the theater, where you pay one price an get to see everything. Depending n what I think maybe I will have to re-read. I can’t imagine that I have so thoroughly forgtten this book.

    • Wendy on February 19, 2009 at 07:40

    Kathy: There are very few books that I really dislike…this is one of them.

    Sari: Isn’t it funny how themes seem to cycle like that?

    Typ0: My thoughts exactly!

    Nicole: I’m not surprised you forgot about it…in my opinion it is a forgettable book.

    • Kailana on February 19, 2009 at 09:26

    That’s awesome what Margaret Atwood said! We need more people like her in the world. 🙂

    • Jeane on February 19, 2009 at 10:06

    You know, I haven’t said much about this book because I couldn’t make myself read it. A family member recommended it to me, but I had to quit after a few chapters because I found the old-lady + teenager relationship distasteful. I’m glad to know I wasn’t the only one to feel that way.

    That’s great that Atwood took a stance.

    • Isabel on February 19, 2009 at 18:08

    Striped Pyjamas isn’t the same as the reader. It involves kids.

    Margaret Atwood’s spunk – wonder what the festival organizers thought of it??

    • Lori L on February 22, 2009 at 11:48

    I agree with you. I HATED The Reader. Hated it. It’s probably on my worst book ever written list because I saw no redeeming qualities in the story and was also very disturbed about the relationship between the adult and young teen. I actually threw my copy away, which would normally be unthinkable.
    I also love Margaret Atwood and I’m glad to hear about the stand she’s taken.

    • Wendy on February 22, 2009 at 16:33

    Kailana: I completely agree!!

    Jeane: You’d be surprised at how many people were not bothered by that aspect of the story.

    Isabel: I’m sure the festival organizers were not happy – but then, maybe next time they will think about what they do before they do it.

    Lori: *laughs* I’m glad to find some people who agree with me! For me, the writing was crappy too…now Atwood – that is a completely different story!

  1. I haven’t read the book but watched the movie. And I didn’t think anybody was glorified. It’s not about anybody’s personal triumph. Hanna is a flawed woman, and it’s perceivable in the film. But she is only a very lonely woman (who would take on a 15 year-old lover, if not an immensely lonely woman?), who lives in semi-poverty and only got the job as SS because she needed it. Of course she made a horrible mistake and let all those people died, but at that time she thought it was the right thing to do. It’s also imaginable that she didn’t have a family, and she didn’t have an education. She wasn’t a kapo, she wasn’t a torturer ( I presume). She was just a link in the chain. She ends up being a ticket controller, another very humble job. She pays for her crimes, even though she wasn’t the one in charge. And the conflict in the older Michael is so palpable in the film. He wants to help her but on the other hand, he knows she is guilty and doesn’t know what to think.

    By any means I think this film was revisionist, or a denial of Holocaust. The exact opposite. It was about how Germany dealt with the horrors of the Holocaust right after the war.
    I thought it was a very human movie, dealing with human reactions and emotions, and it was very well done, too.

    • Wendy on February 24, 2009 at 07:50

    Valentina wrote: But she is only a very lonely woman (who would take on a 15 year-old lover, if not an immensely lonely woman?)

    An adult woman who decides to have sex with a 15 year old is, by definition, a pedophile…I wouldn’t say she did it because she was lonely (which makes it sound benign), but because she is a criminal…would you excuse her behavior is she was a man and the boy was a girl? This is what I mean by glorifying…I haven’t seen the movie, so perhaps it handled things more humanly…but the book was written in such a way that it did not touch my heart or make me view Hannah as “human”…she was extremely unlikeable in the book.

  2. I don’t think she did it because she was a criminal. But obviously it’s about point of views. The boy wasn’t in any way violated, he was indeed really happy to have an affair with her. If it was a girl I wouldn’t think differently, if it was a similar situation. Have you read The Lover by Marguerite Duras? She’s only about 15 and he is a man of about 30. She initiated the affair and at first only wanted him for their sexual relationship. I thought the book was beautifully written, in first person, from the girl’s point of view. I think it’s autobiographical.

    Yes, in the book you can perceive Hanna’s humanity, and maybe see her relationship with the boy as the only “pure” think she did in her life. It was sexual yes, but not criminal. Tender I think would be the word.

    • Wendy on February 25, 2009 at 13:16

    Valentina: It is indeed a difference in point of view *smiles* I haven’t read The Lover. But here is how I feel about these kinds of “relationships”…I don’t believe that minor children (which includes 15 year olds) are capable of having an equal, sexual relationship with adults (especially those twice their age). There is a power difference…and even if it appears that the teen is “initiating” the experience, it is up to the adult to refrain. Any relationship which requires the child to keep it a secret is harmful since keeping it secret implies it is wrong…if it is so “okay” why keep it a secret? As a society, we have determined that adults having sex with minors (regardless of who “initiates” things) is illegal…and that is because there IS harm done to the child…even if that harm doesn’t seem apparent until years later. I got to work directly with young girls who had suffered molestation and this kind of abuse, and even in cases where the child admitted to some sexual gratification the damage was great. For me I cannot put the words “tender” or “pure” together with an adult having sex with a child. If this was the best thing Hannah ever did, I am sorry for her. And yes, it was a criminal act (otherwise why hide it?)…for me, no matter how an author wants to sugarcoat it, it is child abuse.

  3. I actually liked the movie, and I thought Kate Winslet’s performance was marvelous. So, I’m wondering this: why do we all of a sudden have to be the morality police? Pedophilia happens all the time; genocide happens all the time. We don’t have to approve of it or support it, but we shouldn’t say “eww, yucky for my virgin sensibilities,” either. I mean, come on, we’re all adults here!

    Hanna was portrayed as ignorant in the film. She, like so many others during that time, did as she was told. She committed atrocities and felt absolutely horrified by her behavior afterwards. She was not a career pedophile or a career mass murderer–she was just a frightened and desperate worker bee. She was a very small cog in the very large and deformed Nazi wheel.

    So, does she not deserve redemption? If we look at this from a Christian point-of-view, then she should be forgiven for her sins, shouldn’t she? If she were to find some sort of peace through learning how to read and be able to escape the horrors of her sins through literature, then who are we to look upon her with derision and contempt?

    I thought the movie was a very human story, and I’m going to have to read the book to see why so many people seem to dislike it so intensly.

    • Wendy on February 27, 2009 at 13:42

    I certainly don’t consider myself “the morality police” because I am against pedophilia! Does this mean that anyone who stands up to criminal acts – whatever they may be – are “morality police?” I do not have “virgin sensibilities” – in fact, I like a good sexy novel as long as the sex is not between an adult and a child. I don’t think books should be banned – but I do think I have the right to choose not to read books which I see as glorifying (or excusing) crimes against children. I didn’t go see the movie because I had read the book and quite frankly had no desire to see this on the big screen.

    So just because someone only commits a crime once we should shrug it off? So one murder is okay as long as someone doesn’t commit a second murder? Or if you only abuse one child, it should be deemed okay since you didn’t abuse two? And if pedophilia and genocide happens all the time, then we should just get over it or grow up and be adults about it? Wow, if ignoring or becoming complacent about these things means we’re adults, I’d rather not grow up.

    There are plenty of ignorant and uneducated people who commit crimes and we don’t excuse the crime. Certainly redemption is possible for those who do wrong if they recognize their wrongs and ask for forgiveness. On the other hand, forgiving someone doesn’t mean acting like what they did was just fine. I will readily admit that I have zero tolerance to child predators – I’ve seen the damage they inflict and I also have yet to hear of one who is rehabbed – the recidivism rate for pedophiles is extremely high. So yes, I look on them with derision and contempt. Forgive them? Maybe – but keep them locked up forever.

    Lastly – it was not just the subject matter and how it was handled that made me dislike this book … it was bad writing and boring in my opinion. I have not read any of this author’s other books, so I don’t know if this is his normal writing style…but it was not my cup of tea. I am willing to accept that many other people felt completely different that I did. I respect their opinions while disagreeing with them *smiles*

  4. Great points, Wendy. Since I have never had to deal with pedophilia or its aftermath, I’m pretty ignorant about the subject. I have also heard that pedophiles are some of the biggest recidivists out there, and that it’s almost impossible to rehabilitate them. Have you read “Little Children?” The pedophile in there was pretty disgusting! One of the best novels I’ve ever read concerning the subject of pedophilia is “The Kindness of Strangers” by Katrina Kittle. Have you read it? How about “Notes on a Scandal” or “Lolita?” There’s a lot of pedophilia in fiction. I’m not excusing it, and I’m not ignoring it, but these are works of the imagination and I think their subject matter should be kept in perspective.

    If you look at the real world outside of literature, there is a huge dichotomy between woman/boy pedophilia and man/boy or man/girl pedophilia. Women who commit these crimes get slaps on the wrist (along with knowing leers) and men get sent to prison (or to another parish). Movies like “My Tutor” promulgate this perception even more. The perception that woman/boy sex is permissable needs to change, but since men are still in charge, and woman/boy sex has long been the subject of male fantasy, change will be a long time coming.

    So, I’ll give you the pedophiles, but I won’t give you the Nazi groupthink. Hanna was caught up in it, and she was too desperately unhappy and misguided to view the world objectively. I’m sure you know enough history to know why so many German people blindly accepted Nazi dogma and committed the atrocities they were ordered to commit. I’m not excusing what Hanna did, but I am forgiving her trespasses. I think we definitely should “shrug off” Hanna’s crimes. She was messed-up, and it was a terrible time for her and for the rest of the world.

    I apologize if I sounded harsh in my original reply. I’m afraid I may have come across as a bit too condescending or pedantic, and that was not my intent. Anyway, who am I to pass judgement on anyone?

    All said, though, I still wish you’d see the movie. I’m still planning on giving the boring novel a try.

    • Wendy on February 27, 2009 at 15:53


    Oh, you were not to harsh 🙂 I enjoy the back and forth on this…

    I have not read any of the books you mention that deal with pedophilia…I have deliberately not read Lolita because I think I would not appreciate it (it is a little too graphic with the pedophilia from what I’ve heard)and there are so many great books out there I want to read instead. I’m not opposed to reading good, well written literature on the subject – but I admit to having little tolerance when it seems to glorify it. I’ll have to look at some of those other titles. I agree society has a long, long way to go before it views female predators the same as male (I think of all those cases of female teachers preying on grade-schoolers – ugh!).

    I don’t disagree with your points on the Nazi group think – that was the problem…the society as a whole accepted what was happening or looked the other way for the most part – I can see where if you were in the Nazi regime it would be hard to stand against the tide of antisemitism and atrocities which were committed against members of the society who were viewed as “less than human.” But, that said – there were some people who did just that; some even who worked from within to assist the underground resistance groups…so although I agree Hannah was a mess, she made her choices along the way. I’d be interested to see what you think of her portrayal in the book – to me she came across really cold and unfeeling; almost a sociopath.

    You never know, I might watch the movie when it comes out on DVD just so I can speak from a position of knowledge when I bash it *laughs*

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