Feeding the ducks with Harper Lee

If you haven't seen all the hoopla (and frankly, we don't know how you could miss it), 2010 marks the 50th anniversary of the incomparable novel by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird.      

And while A Reader's Respite counts this work as amongst our very favorites, we've been feeling a little sorry for Harper Lee lately.  The extremely reclusive author recently consented to give just her third ever interview recently to reporter Sharon Churcher, of the Daily Mail.  This was a very, very big deal.  It could have been the interview that elevated Ms. Churcher into a legend amongst journalists (move over, Bahbwa Wahltahs). 

The only stipulation for the interview?  Don't mention Mockingbird.  When Ms. Churcher arrived for the interview, Lee invited her to come feed the ducks.

So much for the scoop of the year.

Now for some odd reason, this sent A Reader's Respite into peals of laughter.  Perhaps it's because we sympathize with Harper Lee.  She's eight-four years old now, which means To Kill a Mockingbird was published when she was thirty-four.  It won the Pulitzer Prize and then....well, that's pretty much it.  Harper Lee never published another word (exception: a couple of short stories that didn't come to much).  She retreated from the world, refusing to give interviews or to even speak about Mockingbird.

And who could blame her?  Just imagine...you publish your first novel and it wins the Pulitzer.  For a true artist, how could you ever hope to top that?  Would you even want to try?  The artistic pressure (never mind the media pressure) would be overwhelming.  Her support system crumbled when her agent developed cancer, her editor passed away and her close friend, author Truman Capote, drifted away into his own world. 


On a side note - A Reader's Respite has always gotten a chuckle from imagining Capote's real thoughts about Mockingbird.  God love him, but that man was a drama queen if ever there was one and we can just imagine his private reaction when his "protege" submits her quaint little novel and bam....instant best-seller, Pulitzer Prize and a movie deal starring Gregory Peck.  He must have turned an exquisite shade of green with envy.

In the end, Harper Lee (to quote Sinatra) did it her way.  And that is something A Reader's Respite deeply admires. 


For those of you interested in learning more about Harper Lee, A Reader's Respite whole-heartedly recommends the biography by Charles Shields.  Engaging and meticulously researched, Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee is an essential read for those who want to know more about Harper Lee.

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