Harper Lee's literary classic "To Kill a Mockingbird" turns 50 today. The book read by most of us in middle school won the Pulitzer Prize, sold more than 30 million copies, been the basis for a movie that won 3 academy awards and beat the Bible as the most inspirational book of all time. It also has managed to be the 21st most challenged book according to the American Library Association for the years 2000-2009, which brings us to the question, what idiots in this day and age think children shouldn't be reading To Kill A Mockingbird?
Lee set the timeless classic in fictional Maycomb, Alabama, which was modeled after her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. Monroeville has been hosting a 4-day, 50th anniversary celebration this weekend with marathon readings, tours and the opportunity for fans to sample Monroeville's signature drink: a Tequila Mockingbird.
Lee most likely will not be spotted. She has famously stayed out of the public eye since writing this American classic, which netted her the Pulitzer in 1971 and garnered Gregory Peck an Academy Award for Best Actor two years later. In fact, Lee has not given any interviews since 1964. On Thursday, we were on the road and caught a great Talk of the Nation on NPR where they interview Mary McDonagh Murphy who has written a book titled, "Scout, Atticus and Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill A Mockingbird."
During the interview, Murphy explained how pained Lee became after her childhood neighbor and friend, Truman Capote became extremely jealous over Lee's Pulitzer prize. Lee traveled with Capote, at his request, when he went to research the bloody Kansas murders that would become the basis of Capote's own classic: In Cold Blood. Perhaps it was the gossip and rumor over their strained relationship that led Lee into her subsequent life of public seclusion. Or perhaps, she is just a private lady who wishes to remain private. Regardless, Lee has bee quoted as saying, regarding her never writing another book, where else is there to go? Indeed...Harper Lee managed to do something very few can ever achieve: perfection. And she did it on her first novel. Hard to top that.If you want to know how timeless this story is, simply consider the quote below, spoken by Atticus, and consider the current Tea Party rage this country is experiencing. A rage allegedly rising from concern over government spending, despite the fact that the previous administration was the most fiscally irresponsible administration in recent memory. Yet...this movement didn't come about until the United States elected its first black President. Coincidence?
Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don't pretend to understand.
Now...we could go on and on quoting our favorite passages from this novel. Obviously, we think the best material arises in the court room. While our favorite is probably the "Stand up, Ms. Jean-Louise, your father's passin'," we'll just end with Atticus' closing argument.