Sunday, February 1, 2009

The End of the Big Read

I intended to go to one of the discussions of To Kill a Mockingbird sponsored by local booksellers and libraries as part of The Big Read but the weather didn't cooperate on the night there was one near me. I also intended to go see an exhibition at the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission today, done in connection with The Big Read. At least, I thought it was today. But when I looked again this morning to see the times I discovered that it was yesterday.

So my final Big Read post will be this, a talk given by Charles J. Shields, the author of A Portrait of Harper Lee:

This was given in San Francisco and it is about an hour in length. But very interesting. Harper Lee will give no interviews and did not cooperate at all in the writing of this biography. Part of me respects her privacy. Another part of me hopes that she leaves all of her papers to a research library so that they can be studied after she dies.

Harper Lee was known as Nelle and she was one of four children. Her father really was a lawyer and her older sister became a lawyer and joined the father's firm. Nelle's father wanted Nelle to also become a lawyer and join them but Nelle never finished her degree because she didn't like the law and she wanted to be a writer. I find her sister's story fascinating. There were very few women lawyers in the 1950's - some, but very few. According to Mr. Smith, Nelle's sister still goes into her law office even in her 90's.

Also, there really was someone in the town on whom Boo Radley was based.

Another interesting part of the talk is about the role Harper Lee played in helping Truman Capote with his book In Cold Blood. A few years ago a film was made, called Capote, about the writing of that book. The actress who played Harper Lee was Catherine Keener, here's the trailer: