Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Would Harriet The Spy Fly Today? by Michael Gettel-Gilmartin
The other day, on a road trip with my wife and without our kids, my wife groped in our book bag and pulled out her old copy of Harriet The Spy. "Oh," she exclaimed. "I used to love that book."
"Um," I replied, wondering whether to confess. "I don't think I've ever read it..."
Of course, it was soon decided that my wife would read it aloud to me--a real-live audio book!
It was, I admit, quite humorous in places because, well, Harriet is quite the character. But I did find several things discomfiting about the novel (which was published in 1964) from a modern standpoint.
For one, Harriet is very mean. She often refers to other people as 'fat.' Even when her notebook is discovered by the other children, and all the mean things she has written about them come out into the open, she feels herself wronged, and decides to get revenge. In her revenge list, she writes things like
"Laura Peters: Her hair. Cut it off. Or make a bald spot.... Janie: Break her little finger... Sport: call him a sissy and tell everyone he reads cook books..."
Maybe I'm just being too sensitive, but I do wonder if a novel like Harriet the Spy would be published today.
Have you ever reread a classic, or a favorite story from your youth, and seen it with new eyes? If so, leave a comment about the experience.