The Gaffs of NPR--Hawthorne
On All Things Considered this morning a report on Hawthorne via a discussion of the book Twenty Days with Julian and Little Bunny by Papa, there were at least two problems with their coverage. (And this has nothing to do with liberal bias or otherwise.) At one point the interviewer says, "Who would have known that Hawthorne could be funny?" Well, only anyone who had given his books and short stories a moment of consideration outside what they read in their tenth-grade English classes. There are uproarious passages in both The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables. Admittedly they are dry, almost acerbic, but these passages are unremittingly funny.
The second faux pas from the editor of the work who says, "Julian Hawthorne became a writer. Nobody remembers that these days." Implying that this knowledge was confined to the rarified world of Hawthorne Scholars. Given that I had only begun to appreciate Hawthorne five or six years ago (apart from isolated pieces like "Young Goodman Brown" and "Rapacinni's Daughter"), I hardly qualify as a scholar, and yet I knew this "rarified" piece of knowledge. In addition I suppose that few know that his daughter founded a Catholic Religious group dedicated to tending to those with cancer and that his son-in-law was a reprobate rouè who made his money from chronicling the details of his illustrious stepfather's life.
Anyway, I think it is the perpetuation of the stereotype of a unapproachable and humorless writer that bothers me so. Hawthorne is neither. A true appreciation of his prose and a careful reading of the stories and novels shows a delightful, wry, shimmering humor always there just beneath the surface. People need to stop perpetuating myths--so here is my small contribution toward controlling the rampant proliferation of misinformation about Hawthorne's writing.