I got the very great pleasure of reading up to page 9 when I went to visit my mom, who lives in Alabama, last June. She had it amongst the books in her library, which I've loved browsing through since I was a kid. My mom always had the most interesting, if not eclectic, range of books on her shelf. She had everything from Heather Graham's saucy romances to lined-spines Dean Koontz tomes. I am guessing she's been a fan of genre for a long time. She also had ones like, Drum, Roots, The Executioner's Song and Giants in the Earth. There was a bit of a mixture of tastes to be had on her swaybacked shelves.
That day last June, Harper Lee stood out.
I don't know why, maybe because I'd read everything else. Or because it was because of the relatively new look of the book. Maybe because the paperback's pages were still crisp and tight against one another, like they hadn't even been fanned or smelled yet. (Am I the only one that does that? I really, really hope not.) Inside was an article about Harper Lee.
Turns out, Harper Lee is a woman! I didn't know that. Also, she is from Alabama! Which is where my mom lives, and where I was visiting at that specific moment in time. I thought this added a bit of, I don't know, mise-en-scene to reading the first nine pages. I sat on the porch and was swept away. My thumbs melted a dimple on the side of each page left and right, because the heat was so strong. Lee wrote about heat there in her first chapter, the swelting heat of Alabama days, where ladies took two baths and covered themselves in talcum powder and walked around like soft, powdery cupcakes all day.
Ah, those were the days. (Except for, of course, the racial injustices.) Meanwhile I was just sweaty. Sweaty, but transported into 1930s southern Alabama life, where everybody has funny but endearing names like Scout and Jem and Dill.
Neatly packed between the pages of my mother's copy was that article on how shy and secretive Harper Lee is. I had no idea. This was the first novel she ever wrote. Wow! A Pulitzer Prize winner!
This was the last novel she ever wrote.
She doesn't appear in pictures, she very rarely, if ever, does interviews. She lives in a small town in Alabama and the residents know that when she goes out for a coffee, to leave her alone.
She doesn't really talk to anyone.
Why doesn't she write again? Is it because she doesn't think she can achieve perfection - again - in another book? Is it because she's out of ideas? Is it because, simply, she's said all she's needed to say, and the world heard her?
From what I can gather: she says she sees To Kill a Mockingbird as a simple love story. Everyone else sees is it as a gutsy way to show how Alabama and the rest of American society needed to learn to treat everyone as equals.
I guess not everybody's in it for the fame. Perhaps that's the way it should be.
I see it as a beautiful story. My mom as kindly sent me a copy of my very own this past Christmas.
Have a lovely Saturday, everybody.