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The power of Anne Frank

Annefrank Like me, Herald TV critic Glenn Garvin read The Diary of Anne Frank as a kid - he was 9, he writes, and I was somewhere around the same age. I'm not sure how old I was, exactly, but when I read it I did not know what the word "Gestapo" meant. I didn't even know how to pronounce it (I thought the emphasis was on the "Gest.")

In any case, Glenn reacted a lot like I did. He writes: "I quailed with Anne during air raids, rebelled with her against another skimpy dinner of spoiled potatoes, put a sympathetic arm around her shoulders as she railed against the obtusely authoritarian rule of adults...and burst into unexpected and inconsolable tears at the final line of the diary's epilogue: In March 1945, two months before the liberation of Holland, Anne died in the concentration camp at Bergen Belson."

House  I reacted much the same way when I finished the book. Many years later, as an adult, I sat in the lobby and wept after walking through the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, a sight I'm sure is not uncommon. I've never been able to laugh at David Sedaris' snarky essay about the place. Seeing the place where Anne lived and dreamed that people were essentially good  was simply too emotional for me to mock.

Glenn writes about Sunday's Masterpiece Classic version of The Diary of Anne Frank and about how some cultural critics - including big names Cynthia Ozick and Frank Rich - consider the book "a cultural war crime." If you ask me, that's crazy talk: How many readers through the years were moved and deeply affected by this story?

 Click here to read Glenn's compelling commentary on Anne Frank and her place in our history. 


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patrick Ogle

Anyone who coins or uses a term like "cultural war crime" should, themselves, be marched off to the Hague for immediate trial. Idiots. The diary of a child is a cultural war crime...And I have never found David Sedaris nearly as funny as everyone else so that part of this doesn't shock me either.


You know, I love Sedaris, but that essay, I don't know, I couldn't laugh at, not to be all up on my high horse. Because I was there, and it wasn't funny. I mean, you see the stuff she put on the walls, yes, behind plexiglas now, but...I don't know, it just makes it more real.

As for Cynthia Ozick's comments, I just don't even know what to say. It really makes me wonder. So what if the diary was edited? You think all memoirs, diaires, etc., aren't edited in some way?


So if the Diary of Anne Frank is a "cultural war crime" then what the hell is the latest (or any for that matter) Brittany Spears album? Whatever.

The only issue I have with reading the Diary of Anne Frank is that I think it's pushed on kids too early. Or maybe that was just my generation. War, genocide and suicide bombings are ubiquitous in contemporary media and the kids see it too. So maybe nine isn't as young as it used to be. Regardless, it's one of the few books from my education that I still agree should be required reading.


Francine Prose's new book -- Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife -- is a really good read especially at exploring 1) how much Anne revised the diary herself, probably with an eye to eventual publication and 2) how much the story got warped once it went to Broadway and Hollywood. I've never seen any of the dramatic presentations of the book so that didn't really affect my personal perception of Anne, but I'm sure it did for millions of viewers. FYI, Judith Jones -- the editor who pulled the manuscript out of the slush pile back in the 1950s -- will be at the Key West Literary Seminar in January (she was also Julia Child's editor and has a food memoir herself, called The Tenth Muse).

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