Friday, February 03, 2006

The Writing Life, And How To Live It, Maybe

Cheers to Harper Lee, who wrote one book that was neither tract nor tome, changed people's lives, won a Pulitzer, and then was hardly ever heard from again, on purpose, while people went on reading it and reading it and naming their children after her and her characters. Without ever shtupping 18-year-old Joyce Maynards in the process.

An excerpt from the recent Times article, which you can read here.

With more than 10,000,000 copies sold since it first appeared in 1960, "To Kill a Mockingbird" exists as one of the best-selling novels of all time. For decades, Ms. Lee has remained fiercely mindful of her privacy, politely but resolutely refusing to talk to the press and making only rare public appearances, in which she always declines to speak. She has maintained her resolve despite renewed attention in the wake of the film "Capote," in which Ms. Lee is portrayed as the moral conscience of her childhood friend Truman Capote; the coming "Infamous," another Capote movie in which Sandra Bullock plays Ms. Lee; and a biography of Ms. Lee scheduled for May.


But since the essay contest, sponsored by the Honors College at the University of Alabama, got going five years ago, Ms. Lee, who is 79, has attended the ceremony faithfully, meeting with the 50 or so winners from most of the state's school districts and graciously posing for pictures with the parents and teachers who accompany them.

At a book signing after the ceremony on Friday afternoon, a little girl in a velvet dress approached Ms. Lee with a hardback copy of "To Kill a Mockingbird," announcing that her name was Harper. "Well, that's my name, too," Ms. Lee said. The girl's mother, LaDonnah Roberts, said she had decided to make her daughter Ms. Lee's namesake after her mother-in-law gave her a copy of the book during her pregnancy. Another girl, Catherine Briscoe, 15, one of the essay contest winners, had read the novel six times. She trembled and held her hand to her heart as she spoke of its author: "It was breathtaking to meet the most important person in my life."

I read this and thought So just shut the %@#*& up already, Philip Roth! Take a lesson! Longer, more coherent post to follow.