Mockingbirds

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of those books that everyone in decent schools in America reads before they are fifteen.  Somehow, I never did, and I assumed that it must not be very good – sentimental and simple – if everyone else thought it was so great.  As an adult, I didn’t read it, assuming that it was probably pretty good since it was so widely admired, but not all that worth going out of my way to read, and for me, to read something published in 1960 is a bit of a detour.  I have seen bits of the film from 1962, and thought them fine, but never watched it either.   

I just read the novel, and I now know that my snobby aloofness was horribly misguided.  The book is, well, almost eerily perfect.  How this woman could write of brutal racism, stifling small-town life, time-honored class antagonism, the bonds of family, and the stubborn tendency of people to assume that everyone who is at all different from them is worth ridiculing, and do it in such simple, direct, blindingly honest prose is a wonderful mystery to me.  It treats of sentiments, and things sentimental, without being that itself.  I wish I had read it earlier.

Now I will watch the movie to see how it compares.  And by way of the character Dill, (Truman Capote as a boy) I find myself drawn to find out just why Breakfast at Tiffany’s is such a milepost of the 1960s.  Is it only Audrey Hepburn, or is there more?  Stay tuned.

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4 Responses to Mockingbirds

  1. It is a truly marvellous book. Even in the UK, it’s regularly included as mandatory reading for high school students but I think I was lucky to read it through choice, some time after I had taken off my school uniform for the last time.

    What is so incredible is how Lee treats such complex issues through the eyes of a child and without any sentimentality. The German film “The Nasty Girl” also comes to mind for much the same reason. It still interests about Lee that (unless I’m wrong) she never wrote another book. Maybe she felt she could never follow it up.

  2. Guy Savage says:

    “one of those books that everyone in decent schools in America reads before they are fifteen. Somehow, I never did,”

    Is this a round-about-way of telling us that you’re NOT decent?

    If interested, I can HIGHLY recommend Mockingbird–a NF book about Harper Lee.

    And re: Instant K The Nasty Girl is a really great film, and yes, Lee did not write another book. The point Mockingbird makes (well one of the points) is that she was very carefully guided through the writing of the book. By this I mean supported through an incredible # of drafts.

  3. Guy Savage says:

    Supported by the people who helped bring the book to publication.

    No, not Truman. The NF book goes into it:

    http://www.mostlyfiction.com/adventure/shields.htm

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