Just as I was thinking that Nada Surf had dropped off the face of the earth, I discovered that they were releasing Lucky. Lucky continues Nada Surf’s fantastic output of beautiful melodies and poppy, almost folky songs. I hate to make it sound like Nada Surf have mellowed, but they certainly have. Nevertheless, their song craft has risen to even newer heights. The first three songs are some of the best singles you’ll hear (and you may have heard “Whose Authority” which got some airplay…. If you liked that then you’ll love the rest of the album.)
There are obvious precedents for who Nada Surf now sound like, but it’s not an aping of sounds where you say, oh they sound just like Matthew Sweet or Semisonic or something, but they have that kind of vibe. If the jangly alternapop of the late nineties were still popular, Nada Surf would be leading the pack. As it is, they don’t sound retro in any way, the songs just exist, almost timelessly.
The middle songs culminate with “I Like What You Say.” There’s no reason this song shouldn’t be a huge hit. The lyrics are slightly hard to sing along to (which usually makes for the kind of song that people like to learn) “You say, I like what you say, I like what you say, you say,” but the chorus of “Baby, I only want to make you happy” lifts your spirits. All eleven tracks are solid, and there’s enough diversity, even within the limited palette to keep you interested. There’s even a short oom-pah-pah at the end of “Ice on the Wing.” I’m not sure why it’s there, but it adds a nice bit of texture to the album.
This disc came with a bonus EP (something Nada Surf seems to like doing) which comes with acoustic versions of two of the songs from the album, and two new songs. The last one, “Everyone’s on Tour” shows a rare glimpse of Nada Surf really rocking out. It’s something of a throwaway song, but it shows off an interesting side of the band, just in case you were afraid they were getting too mellow.
[READ: Fall 2007] To Kill a Mockingbird.
There was some impetus that made me want to read this book and watch the movie. I think it’s because Sarah likes to repeat her favorite line from the movie (see below) and I wanted to see it myself. I wasn’t entirely sure what it was even about. I think it was simply that I knew so many cultural references to this book without knowing the original. It made me say, okay, time to read this thing. (Similarly, if you’ve never actually seen 2001, A Space Odyssey, you are missing hundreds of cultural reference points every day).
And I am so glad I did. Now, obviously, its a Pulitzer Prize winning story, and everyone is supposed to read it in school (why didn’t I?), so I’m not the only one to think it’s good. But in addition to being Substantial and Substantive, it was also a really enjoyable read. I admit that some of the classics are difficult to get through, but this one was so great I practically rushed through to the end.
So, of course, this is where Boo Radley comes from. It’s also where Atticus Finch comes from. It’s also a story about race, rape and a lawyer who is willing to stand up for what’s right even in the face of violence. That’s a lot to pack into a small book.
The book is set in Alabama during the Great Depression. The narrator is Scout, a six-year old girl who looks up to her brother Jem and their friend Dill, who is visiting for the summer. Jem and Dill are of the age where they don’t want a six year old girl hanging around with them, but Scout is up for most of the rough-and-tumble fun that they enjoy so they allow her to come along.
Scout and Jem live next door to Boo Radley. Boo is the town’s recluse. No one has seen him for years, yet every day the stories of him grow weirder and scarier. The kids play games to see who is brave enough to touch the Radley’s front door, or even their fence. Over the course of the book the kids feel compelled to try and draw Boo out of his house.
At some point, the kids find small gifts–gifts that must be from Boo–in a tree between their houses. He seems to be reaching out to them. This provokes Scout and Jem into more audacious behavior, including on one instance Jem losing his pants in a garden fence while trying to escape detection.
Their father, Atticus is a distinguished, well-read, and respectable man. He is calm and patient, and is doing his best to raise the children after his wife died. For the most part he knows that his kids, although high spirited, are decent and respectful. However, he cannot tolerate their behavior towards Boo Radley. He has known the Radleys for most of his life, and knows the story behind Boo, but he will not reveal it to them. He asks them to respect his wishes. However, his children, being children, are even more drawn to the mystery of Boo.
As if this weren’t an intriguing enough premise, there’s the whole other story that happens simultaneously. Atticus Finch is a public defendant. He is called to defend Tom Robinson, a local black man who is accused of raping a young white woman, Mayella Ewell. Mayella is the daughter of Bob Ewell, the town’ abusive drunk. Atticus is called every name in the book for defending a black man against the word of a prominent white man’s daughter, but he believes that Tom is innocent. Many in the town turn against him. Atticus tries to protect his family from the racial slurs he receives, but he can’t stop Scout from getting into fights trying to defend him.
Tom Robinson is a decent man. He does work around the town because he is young and strong. However, his left arm is shriveled and useless. (It is this fact that leads Atticus to believe in Tom’s innocence). Mayella invited Tom in to do some chores (in one of Sarah’s favorite lines, he is asked to “bust up this chiffarobe”), and a little bit more. When Tom is found in the house, Mayella’s father beats her, causing Tom to flee…and you see where this is going.
By agreeing to defend Tom, Atticus humiliates Bob Ewell, who vows revenge. Revenge comes at the hands of Atticus’ children. And the ending of the book is just as exciting as the rest.
Even though most of you have read the book, just in case you’re new to it, I’m trying my best not to spoil any of the main events. You should have the joy or sadness of learning what happens.
It’s really a tremendous book. In many ways I’m bummed that I hadn’t read it earlier, as I wonder how it would have impacted me as a teen; however, I’m glad I read it now because, as an adult, I could appreciate the impact the book had.
The movie, by the way, is also excellent. Gregory Peck is outstanding as Atticus Finch, and the kids, especially Scout (Mary Badham) put a lot of emotions into the role. Some things have been changed from the book, but not the essential spirit. Some events are also made a little more clear in the movie. Although I wouldn’t want to have seen the movie first, it makes an excellent companion to the book.