Wednesday, June 2, 2010

To Kill a Mockingbird – America’s National Novel – Turns 50

In July 1960 a novel about the collision between childhood innocence and the sometime harshness of life in the American Deep South was published, to little fanfare.  Quickly, however, it became a hit, first domestically and then internationally.  Translated in to over forty languages and still selling at least a million copies each year, To Kill A Mockingbird has become to many the singular American National Novel.

Sorry, Messrs Twain, Capote, Salinger and Hawthorne – you were pipped at the post by an unassuming girl from Alabama - Nelle Harper Lee.

Expect documentaries, readings, discussions, reruns of the (albeit marvellous) eponymous 1962 Gregory Peck film (left with actor Brock Peters as Tom Robinson) and school productions ad infinitum.  Don't expect one thing though – and that is to catch sight of the Harper Lee, the author of the novel.  She is a lady not for talking.  A lesson that many novelists should perhaps take to heart – that they should be not seen and not heard is epitomized by Lee and seconded only by Salinger.

Harper Lee has effectively vanished.  She never published another novel and is most certainly not to be seen reminiscing about her struggle with whatever on Oprah.  To all intents and purposes she has disappeared off the face of the earth.  However, she is still alive and well.  Now 84 she lives in the town in which she was born, Monroeville, Alabama.

No comments: