TOB 2010: Lowboy v. The Help

The official verdict is not yet up. If it does not go my way, you can come back to witness my wailing and gnashing of teeth. I will need to find sackcloth. Is a feed sack good or do I actually need sackcloth, a material with which I really am not that familiar?

But Lowboy should win this. Wray is a respected writer. His book has a nice cover.

The Help should not win. It does for novels and serious issues what Lifetime television does for novels and serious issues. Plenty of people watch, but is it really deepening our understanding of the issues? Yes, I am officially anti-The Help. I am rooting against it. This may seem mean-spirited; you should never cheer against a book. And be sure, I am rooting against the book, not Ms. Stockett. She is no doubt a lovely person. Her writing career is set; her stacks of money are piled high. And I would not take any of that away from her. Well, maybe the $10 I spent on the Kindle edition of her book, but I am happy for her to keep the rest. I wish her health, success, and even greater fortunes. I hope her next book is better. Much better.

But I want The Help recognized for what it is (in my very objective and not at all subjective or debatable opinion): Lifetime television in print. Only the dialogue is more poorly rendered.

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16 Responses to TOB 2010: Lowboy v. The Help

  1. Amy says:

    Hee. Nothing wrong with rooting against books! That’s what the Tournament is for!

  2. Dear Blogkeeper,

    I never posted my review of The Help largely because it runs along the lines of what you’ve written, but I enjoyed it a great deal more than you seem to have done.

    But, part of that is that I was raised in a household in which the presence of an African American almost-nanny was a fixture. My mother scandalized the neighborhood by sitting at the same table and drinking coffee with “the help” and so this has a much more personal flavor to me–so the fondness for it.

    However, an objective view of the whole would concur in large part with what you’ve written here. Stockett just touched strings that are close to me and so I have a bit more patience with the book. Not enough to recommend to all and sundry, but somewhat more than I would had my experience been otherwise.

    Thanks for this interesting run down.

    shalom,

    Steven

  3. Christy says:

    The Help was recommended to me by a friend’s wife who has also recommended such titles as “Shopaholic Takes Manhattan,” so I was dubious. I also usually hate bestsellers. But when I saw that it was on the short list of the 2010 TOB, I decided to take a chance.

    I have to admit that I loved it. Yes, some parts are predictable, some characters are cliches, and yes, I think the book could easily be converted into a Lifetime movie. But even so, I thoroughly enjoyed these women’s voices, and how well Stockett evoked the tension and fear of the time. And I thought the dialogue was hilarious.

    I don’t think The Help will get past McCann in the second round, but I’m happy about the first round win. (Easy for me to say, not having read Lowboy yet.)

    • Kerry says:

      Christy,

      Thank you very much for the dissent. It’s boring if everyone agrees. This just did not do for me what it did for so many (including you), so I was left with a cliched rendering of a Lifetime movie. And I do agree there was humor, though we may disagree on which parts were funniest.

      I really appreciate your comment. Share again soon!

  4. Before you start wailing and gnashing, I (not having read either book) will offer my sceptical journalist’s interpretation of the result: “Let’s not piss off all the book club members in just the second contest of Round One.”

    That comes from reading both the judge’s post and the commentary (more from the commentary, I admit). Your review told me more than either.

  5. Sarah says:

    Given what you said about The Help, if necessary you may consider that my virtual sackcloth has been donned in sympathy!

  6. Kerry says:

    Steven,

    Thanks for the encouragement. And I will say that I wasn’t in pain the whole time I read it. There were times when I would almost start to enjoy it, but then dialect or dialogue or the painfully predictable would dim the lights. I do understand the appeal, part of my annoyance was this excellent subject could have been treated with so much more depth and style.

    But thanks, as always, for the comment. I am glad you enjoyed my review.

  7. Kerry says:

    Kevin,

    You are absolutely right. Womack did an excellent job of demonstrating exactly how to damn with faint praise.

    “…swelling with a tone of predictability that…it mostly defies.”

    “…occasionally manipulative…”

    “…takes a big chance with dialect…and pulls it off convincingly enough to minimize collateral damage…”

    Basically, what I said but with a nice spin. I think that you are right about the pressures not to disappoint a particular (and large) segment of the audience.

    Sarah, thank you for the solidarity. I appreciate the company while I mourn The Help‘s advance. Of course, maybe we’ll get to see a later judge really slam it next round. Let’s hope.

  8. Kevin/Kerry: I can assure you book clubbers’ feelings weren’t taken into account in my review of “The Help,” nor was there any pressure from book club special-interest groups to do so. (In fact, I had no inkling it was a book club favorite until I saw Kevin and John’s commentary on the ToB site. Though it does make sense that it is…)

    So yes, my comments reflect exactly the way I feel about the book: It’s good, though not dazzling, and certainly no contender for the championship.

  9. Kerry says:

    Andrew,

    I really appreciate you taking the time to swing by. I thought you did an excellent job of being positive while remaining true to your opinion. I have not read Lowboy, so I really am just rooting against The Help and enjoying doing so. It’s flaws, to me, were significant and disqualifying. But, as I said above, it should make for an entertaining match with McCann’s work. And isn’t that what the Rooster is about?

    It is no fun without villains. The Help is mine.

  10. Andrew: My apologies. My comment was meant very much as a summary of my sentiment, and in no way was meant to imply a judge’s intent. Kevin

  11. I have to say, if there’s ever a Lifetime movie made of “The Help,” it’s going to be worth watching. Given how many of those movies are filmed in Canada with local actors, the book’s dialects are going to embark into some seriously uncharted territory.

    I’m just saying, set your DVRs and lower your expectations.

    (Kevin: Thanks. I mean, this of course dashes our chances for an early scandal this year, but maybe we can figure out something over email.)

  12. I must say, this competition has me at the edge of my seat. ūüôā

  13. Kerry says:

    Great comment, Andrew. My expectations couldn’t have gone lower, but now, perversely, you’ve raised them if they ever do a Canada/Lifetime version. Damn you.

    Thanks for being such an integral part of one of the most entertaining book competitions of the year.

    (I would say the most entertaining, but, if you read KevinFromCanada, you know he runs a Shadow Jury for the Giller Prize which is also quite entertaining to follow.)

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