Monday, July 26, 2010

To Kill A Mockingbird

"I never expected any sort of success with Mockingbird. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers but, at the same time, I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I'd expected." ~Harper Lee

This weekend I started reading To Kill A Mockingbird again, the Harper Lee classic which in 1991 was #4 on a list of Most Influential Books in a survey conducted by the Library of Congress and Book-of-the-Month Club. 2010 is the fiftieth anniversary of Pulitzer Prize winning novel.

The audio version features Sissy Spacek as the narrator Scout from whose point of view the story is told. As I have often noted, the reader in an audio book production makes a huge difference in the reading experience, and Spacek is stellar. Spacek is Scout, through and through. She does not put herself forward, but rather allows the character to breathe through her.

On my desk here at home is the DVD for the film as well, starring Gregory Peck who embodied the character of Atticus Finch with such power and won an Oscar for the role. Sometime this week I will see how the film holds up after 48 years. The screenplay was adapted for the screen by Horton Foote, playwright/author of two other of my favorite films, Tender Mercies and Trip To Bountiful.

Interestingly enough, as a result of the film Harper Lee became friends with Gregory Peck and remained a friend of the family to this day.

To Kill A Mockingbird never reached the top of the New York Times Bestseller list, but has been a perpetual best seller for the five decades of its life. Curiously enough Harper Lee never produced a follow up work. Like J.D. Salinger she has chosen instead to be a recluse. Being in the spotlight has appeal for some, but not for all.

Supposedly much of the story is autobiographical, with the character Dill being her childhood friend Truman Capote. I would be curious what Ms. Lee thought about the portrayal of herself in the two Capote films that were produced a couple years ago. The real Truman is gone now, but Ms. Lee is still with us, somewhere...

Thank you, Harper Lee, for this remarkable book.

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