Two literary greats have been in the Mississippi Court of Public Opinion in recent days.

One is the late Harper Lee and the other is Joyce Carol Oates, the little old Tweet Bird from the Land of the Daunting Oeuvre.

The verdicts are in. Oates is a fool and you’re a fool if you have a problem with the language in “To Kill A Mockingbird,” Lee’s Southern classic.

I’m on the side of both verdicts and they are one-sided. They are routs. Think of a recent football score: Alabama 66, Ole Miss 3. Sorry, Ole Miss fans, but that’s the first rout that came to mind.

Let’s put that score in the context of literature.

Harper Lee 66, Biloxi School District 3.

The state of Mississippi 66, Joyce Carol Oates 3.

I live in Gulfport, and next door in Biloxi, the school district pulled “Mockingbird” from a class after a parent complained about the multiple times a racist word appears in the novel. The Sun Herald, the paper I retired from in March, is providing readers with in-depth “Mockingbird” coverage and all of it is worth your time.

I went to Facebook and got double-figure likes with a “Dog Day Afternoon” reference: Channel Al Pacino and chant “Atticus, Atticus!” to protest Biloxi School District’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” ban.

Amid this, Oates wasted our time with a tone-deaf Twitter post involving another literary great, William Faulkner.

Faulkner is one of Mississippi’s favorites and Oates insulted the state. Mississippians are fighting back with a social media storm against Oates.

The negativity that failed to prevail in either case is having a positive influence on me.

Almost 66 years into my life, I promise to start reading “Mockingbird” and Faulkner and stop following the little old Tweet Bird.

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John E. Bialas
John, 67, is retired from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Sun Herald newspaper in Gulfport, Miss., after a 45-year career there in which he was a sportswriter, weekend sports editor, book reviewer, rock music critic, copy editor, blogger, Facebook administrator and award-winning headline writer and page designer. He lives in Gulfport with his wife, Patricia, and writes the blog Pictures of Tilly which you can find at