Tuesday, July 13, 2010

To Kill a Mockingbird

Yesterday I participated in a reading of To Kill a Mockingbird at Malaprop's bookstore in Asheville.

Billed as a celebration of  the 50th anniversary of Harper Lee's renowned work, the Read-A-Thon began with Sarah Addison Allen at 4pm after which a lineup of regional authors each read for 15 minutes before passing the microphone. Authors included Brian Lee Knopp, Maria Fire, Charles Gershon, Mark de Castrique, Rose Senehi, Rob Neufeld, Peter Loewer, Howard Hanger, Sallie Bissell, George Ivey, Cynn Chadwick, Glenis Redmond, Allan Wolf, John Lane, Gene Cheek, Vicki Lane, and Wayne Caldwell.
It had been a shamefully long time since I read Harper Lee's great book -- my maiden name is in the paperback copy on my book shelf -- I'm guessing I purchased it in '62.  So I read it again to be prepared for my fifteen minutes at the mic. 

Oh, my! What a revelation!  It was like revisiting my childhood -- my memories of my grandparents and my Alabama relatives. Peach pickles and camellias and those timeless summers . . .

As I read the description of the small town, I couldn't help remembering my visit to my brother's home in Headland, Alaama -- the same town square surrounded by small shops.
Of course, the book's not all nostalgia and moonlight and magnolias -- the ugly racism of the times is the story -- the racism and one decent man's attempt to stand up to it. I think this book did a lot to help bring awareness of these backward attitudes to many people who hadn't thought beyond 'that's just the way things are.'


It was a pleasure to be a part of the read-a-thon -- there were no introductions -- just each of us reading our 15 minutes and wordlessly passing the mic to the next reader.  It seemed to me a charming way to honor the 50th anniversary of this important American novel
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24 comments:

R. Burnett Baker said...

It was required reading in high school. I'm thankful that is was!!

Rick

Bernie said...

This is one of my favorite books although I didn't get to read it until later in my life.....what an author he was, I am sure you enjoyed your reading.......:-) hugs

Martin H. said...

I'm almost ashamed to say, I've only seen the film. However, I intend to put that right sooner rather than later.

The read-a-thon was an interesting way to mark the anniversary. I like the idea that regional authors were invited to take part.

Miss_Yves said...

lirenfete08.blogspot.com/2008/08/nancy-scali.html

A great novel! I discovered it with an artwork sent to me by Nancy Scali, a mail art artist, two years ago .
This book is now read and studied in France.

Callie said...

A wonderful book. I loved the relationship of the father and daughter. I haven't read the book since the 70's. I think it is time I read it again too.

Brian Miller said...

yeah i was required in ours as well...and i am glad it was....bet that reading was fun...

Deborah said...

A very nice pay to pay hommage to an excellent book, Vicki. I rarely re-read books, but this has prompted me to get out my copy and discover it again.

willow said...

What a beautiful tribute. I would have liked to have been there! I need to read it again, as well.

Vicki Lane said...

It's an odd thing but back when TKAM was published, I was SO not into Southern writing -- I read mostly stuff set in England. So I didn't really appreciate it that much when I read it over forty years ago. And somehow, I never got around to rereading it till now.

I'll be rereading it again -- and I won't wait another forty years!

NCmountainwoman said...

I re-read it a couple of years ago when it was selected for "North Carolina Reads." Over the years I have read this book at least six times, probably more than any other single book. I love it every single time.

Jon Lee said...

This is one of my favorite novels. All of our students read it in sophomore year, but I think everyone should read it as an adult. It has so many issues that it deals with, and the characters, especially Attitus, are some of the most memorable in all of literature.

Jon Lee said...

Of course Atticus. I think it's too early for me to see my screen. I hate to make typos.

Merisi said...

I read that book when I was a child, but did not know until a few years ago that there was a hardcover 1960 edition - published by J. N. Lippincott - on my family's bookshelves, with the same dust jacket design as the 50th anniversary edition. On the inside flap of the dust jacket is says "Book Club Edition" - I wonder who published the first edition, in July 1960, I have not been able to find that out. Would you have any further information on your copy of the book?

tori said...

I just reread it this past winter. Everytime that I have read it I get something new from it. It will always be one of my all time favorite books.

Star said...

Yes, indeed, a great idea. I love the story, the book and the film. All wonderful. Never did I think, when I was younger and reading the story for the first time, in England, that I would one day live in that part of the world. Just amazing how life carries us along.
Thank you for the memories.
Blessings, Star

Mel said...

Thanks for reminding me that I really need to reread this book. I read it when I was very young, maybe 11 or 12, and it made an imprint on my conscience that has resonated through four decades. That is too long to wait to read again the book that changed the way I saw the world, and is likely to blame for my life's obsession with reading.
I love the read-a-thon tribute and think Ms. Lee might have found it a touching tribute. No fuss, just the story.

Stephanie D. said...

You know, it's been years since I read that book--as in maybe 30+. Thanks for the reminder that I need to hie myself over to the library and borrow a copy soon!

joanny said...

Vicki
Interesting a charming Proustian note of nostalgia remembering feelings and emotions a delightful co-mingling of some ponderous thoughts in this post - your early life, cultural values and norms, the good and the not so good part of our American history - a time of significant change in the US. all wrapped around 15 minutes.

Did you have fun at your 15 minute mic moment in time? It seems you gained a greater appreciation for this book and a look back at what was good and not so good in American history.

Deanna said...

Interesting. I re-read To Kill A Mockingbird and did a post on it several months ago. I was amazed at how little I remembered of the story from my first reading many years ago.

When you get a chance, hop by my blog and check out what I'm reading!

Vicki Lane said...

If ever there was a good book to reread, TKAM is it!

Merisi -- my paperback says published by arrangement w/ JB Lippincott. Possibly they had a regular edition and a book club edition that came out at the same time. There's a first edition going for 30,000 dollars at one bookseller.

No fuss, just the story -- just like Harper Lee herself! Well put, Mel!

Joanny -- it was great fun -- I was trying to read with my Alabama grandmother's accent rather than the mountain twang that has infiltrated my own way of speaking.

Deanna! I left a comment the other day but Blogger seems to have eaten it. Thank you so much! I've left another now.

Friko said...

One of the best books I ever read; like you, I read it a long time ago and I must re-read it soon.

Vagabonde said...

I am sorry to say that this book is here, it is one of my husband’s, but I have not read it yet. I shall do so. What a wonderful way to celebrate the anniversary of this book. I wish I had been there to listen to y’all.

gayle said...

I am sure that I read this book when I was much younger but can't remember. I need to read it again...I think it's here somewhere. My daughter teaches this book to her 9th graders!!

Tipper said...

I've been wanting to re-read it too. My girls read it for the first time in school this past year.