Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and “To Kill a Mockingbird”
Here’s a book that could easily qualify as the Great American Novel. It’s certainly on my Top Ten, and it has moved and influenced a great many others since its publication over 50 years ago. This is a movie about that. Novelists, mostly from the south, tell us of their thoughts about and reactions to this novel, along with a few celebrities like Oprah and Tom Brokaw, and read passages from it. It also is a pretty good biography of Harper Lee, who wrote this and never published another novel. Part of it seems to be that she came to hate her celebrity and became a “recluse,” though all she was avoiding was the glare of the spotlight. In our society, this is seen as tantamount to mental illness, so we have to label her as at least a little weird. There is also a lot of agreement that a big reason she never wrote another novel is the To Kill a Mockingbird II syndrome. Sure, we’d all like to see the further stories of these people, but don’t you just know the critics would be lurking out there with their sharp knives? “Harper Lee Just Doesn’t Have It Anymore.” “One-shot Wonder Strikes Out.” Even without a sequel, there are idiots out there who believe Truman Capote, that asshole, wrote most of the book. Actually, idiot is too kind a term for them. And the daunting fact is that, when you write something like this as your first novel, maybe you can’t top it, or even equal it again. Luckily, she made millions off of this one, and never has to worry about assholes again.