Members and friends of the Mercantile who, in the days leading up to the Library’s Harriet Beecher Stowe 2003 festival of events, ditched their prejudices and disregarded common wisdom in order to dive into Harriet Beecher Stowe’s supremely important novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin discovered that there was a real and readable book under all the accretions of cultural judgment. A big, messy, interesting, impassioned, restless, informative, sentimental, and engaging book, not unlike an early but American Dickens. It is impossible to read Uncle Tom all the way through without becoming a very fond admirer of Beecher Stowe’s sense of her time and the American situation and her willingness to have at them with great success. How nice then to find Henry Louis Gates, Jr. giving her a fair shake in the October 22 New York Times Book Review section (you may need to sign in or something). Read that, and then, if you haven’t read UTC, do it. You will understand why Beecher Stowe is the city’s most important literary figure.