May 1st, 2013


Two Days after Harper Lee's Birthday

A few days ago, it was Harper Lee's birthday. She was eighty-seven.

I first read To Kill a Mockingbird in my twenties and it quickly became one of my favourite books. It is not original to say that that: many people love it, after all. I cannot claim to have any new insight into it, but I will admit that I had read Truman Capote's In Cold Blood first, a book I also greatly love, and when I found out the connection between the two, it made me love both, even more. But I am like that: I like the little lines and webs between authors and books and I like the stories that nestle between books.

Perhaps one memory I will share, however, was one I had years after I'd read it, while I was teaching in a coaching college. A girl in year nine had been assigned to read it, and, "My teacher said he had only written one book?"

"He? Harper Lee is a woman."

"My teacher said he was a man."

"She's still a woman. Her first name is Nelle."

"So," the girl said, "she's a black woman?"

"No, she's a white woman."


The following week, she told me that her teacher didn't believe her. I told her she was free to look it up and she told me she had already done so. A week later, however, she told me that she quite enjoyed the book, which put her one up on me. At fifteen, I doubt I would have appreciated it.

One day, I reckon I'll buy a nice copy of it. According to Abebooks, it's only twenty five thousand dollars for a first edition, signed by the author herself.

Only, as they say.