I faintly remember the day I picked up Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird to read. It was the summer before sixth grade and I had read all the books I owned so I scoured my parents’ bookshelves for something new. The memory of the day and Lee’s story has faded from my memory, but I recall that I was so intrigued by the story that I completed the book in two days.
I didn’t know what significance the story carried. It was just something to read on a slow summer day. But I remember that I was touched by its contents and choked up a bit while reading. That’s the only experience I’ve had with Lee’s work. Since the release of the controversial Go Set a Watchman, I’ve debated returning to Lee’s books. I would like to re-experience her first novel and read the second for myself to see what it is about. But I have been skeptical about Go Set a Watchman because part of me believes that she was forced into publishing it. After all, she had avoided the media for years and had refused to publish another book after To Kill a Mockingbird.
I was sorry to learn that Harper Lee had passed. She died on February 19 in her hometown, Monroeville, AL. She was 89. With To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee so impacted literary canon that her novel became a staple on many high-school literature reading lists. It also won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 1961, a year after it was published. Though she will be missed, her work will continue to endure and she will be remembered.
May her soul rest in peace.
Quotes by Harper Lee:
“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)… There are just some kind of men who – who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.” — To Kill a Mockingbird
“Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” — To Kill a Mockingbird
Five Things to Know About Harper Lee (smithsonianmag.com)
Remembering Harper Lee (publishersweekly.com)
Another notable author who recently passed:
Umberto Eco, an Italian author and scholar best known for The Name of the Rose, Foucault’s Pendulum, and Numero Zero, also died on February 19 in Milan, Italy. He was 84.
Quotes by Umberto Eco:
“Books are not made to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry. When we consider a book, we mustn’t ask ourselves what it says but what it means.” — The Name of the Rose
“The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else.” — Travels in Hyperreality
The Parasitic Press: Umberto Eco (publishersweekly.com) [This is an author profile that was posted in October 2015.]