A Legend Has Passed: Harper Lee

Harper Lee (April 1926 — February 2016)
Harper Lee (April 1926 — February 2016)

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

Additional reading:

Harper Lee, Author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ Dies at 89 (nytimes.com)

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

Additional reading:

Umberto Eco, 84, Best-Selling Academic Who Navigated Two Worlds, Dies (nytimes.com)

The Parasitic Press: Umberto Eco (publishersweekly.com) [This is an author profile that was posted in October 2015.]


4 thoughts on “A Legend Has Passed: Harper Lee

  1. Foucaults pendulum and the name of the rose were excellent reads, I’m sure you’d love them if you ever get the chance.
    I’m still yet to read,to kill a mocking bird, i have it, i attempted it awhile ago, i think at the time i had too many other books of lesser known adventure to make it appeal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Eco’s books do sound interesting, like something that would provoke deep thought but I’d also enjoy. I’m really interested in Numero Zero.
      I just wish I hadn’t read that his books are difficult to get into. I read that in one of the articles. For some reason, that made me wary when recently considering his books.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t remember either of his books being hard to get into, Foucaults pendulum was the first book i read in the bus i live in, i remember opening it and emerging days later. the copy of the name of the rose i had, had been studied by someone, it was covered in notes and translations and underlinings in a very neat, red hand.
        Yes, yes, yes, oodles of deep thinking to be had 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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