Thursday, June 3, 2010

Scout, Jem & Atticus Turn 50

Somehow I had never gotten around to reading To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. When I read that there were a number of celebrations this summer to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of the work I decided it was time to find a copy and read it. When I casually mentioned to others that I hadn’t read the book, or even seen the movie, they all looked at me in sort of a stunned disbelief. I’m not exactly sure how I had gotten to this point in my life without ever reading the work. But I did know how to remedy the situation. The copy I read I found in the oversized paperback collection just to the right of the paperback carousels and just to the left of the VHS collection at the SLFL.

I’m not going to review the work from the storyline standpoint. There is no need. The book won a Pulitzer Prize; it is considered an American classic and has been in print continuously for fifty years. If it wasn’t good on a number of different levels it never would have lasted this long. What I do want to talk about is my personal experience to the crafting of the work and the development of the reader that the characters and the events written about provide.

Ms. Lee leaves nothing to chance. The work is crafted in the most wonderful of ways. Part way through the work the reader realizes that when Ms. Lee brings in a new character, encounter or setting you can be sure that this character or event will reverberant forward and add to the unfolding of the story. As a reader I found that nothing was wasted and that, if I choose too, I could delve into what might be coming round the bend. I didn’t. And the reason I did not was because I was happy to leave my imagination and intellect in the good hands of Ms. Lee. She did not disappoint me and like all good reads, she did at times surprise me. She also caused me to wonder. I thought about the characters, time and setting. I also thought about when the work was published and about life in America right now. The story takes place in 1935. The work was first published in 1960. It is now 2010. A lot has happened in the past 75 years but the story still has power. The moral and ethical questions examined and pursued in the work continue to be wrestled with even today. I would not doubt that human beings will continue to raise and think about the issues surrounding human dignity and the frailty of human institutions for many centuries to come. At least, I would like to think so.

I am still confused as to why I had never read the book prior to this week. I must have been in the wrong English or American Literature classes. What I will say is that I’m glad to have met the characters in To Kill A Mocking Bird. I’ll also say that I personally believe that when you read you only get out of the book whatever you are ready to take in from that work. Now, because of my age, education and experiences I can appreciate the Ms. Lee’s efforts on a number of different levels. It is rich writing and rich reading. You can also be sure that I won’t wait another fifty years to reread the book.

See you at the Library,

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