Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Little About the Author and What To Read and When to Comment

First before I get started I'd like to recommend The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs. It's soon to be a movie, staring Julia Roberts. I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. I highly recommend it to all women. It is about women relationships. Beautiful book.

Now on to the subject of the day, reading schedule and a little about the author. Because I'm a writer, I'm always interested in the author of a book I'm reading. Up until a few months ago, I believed Harper Lee had died. I'm not sure why I thought this; other than she doesn't get mentioned much anymore. That's what I got for thinking. I opened an Oprah magazine and found a letter she had written about reading. She was alive and well. So, how does a writer write one book, a book that takes the biggest prize, the oscar of writing, the Pulitzer, and then basically walk away from writing? Here's what I've found about her. Thought you might be interested to know.

Nelle Harper Lee (born April 28, 1926) is an American novelist known for her Pulitzer Prize–winning 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird, her only major work to date. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom of United States for her contributions to literature in 2007.

Harper Lee, known to friends and family as Nelle, was born in the Alabama town of Monroeville on April 28, 1926, the youngest of four children born to Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch Lee. Her father, a former newspaper editor and proprietor, was a lawyer who also served on the state legislature from 1926 to 1938. As a child, Lee was a tomboy and a precocious reader, and enjoyed the friendship of her schoolmate and neighbor, the young Truman Capote.

After graduating from high school in Monroeville,[2] Lee enrolled first at the all-female Huntingdon College in Montgomery (1944-45), and then pursued a law degree at the University of Alabama (1945-49), pledging the Chi Omega sorority. While there, she wrote for several student publications and spent a year as editor of the campus humor magazine, Ramma-Jamma. Though she did not complete the requirements for a law degree, she pursued studies for a summer in Oxford, England, before moving to New York in 1950, where she worked as a reservation clerk with Eastern Air Lines and BOAC in New York City.

Lee continued working as a reservation clerk until the late 50s, when she resolved to devote herself to writing. She lived a frugal lifestyle, traveling between her cold-water-only apartment in New York to her family home in Alabama to care for her ailing father.

Having written several long stories, Harper Lee located an agent in November 1956. The following month at the East 50th townhouse of her friends Michael Brown and Joy Williams Brown, she received a gift of a year's wages with a note: "You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas."[3] Within a year, she had a first draft. Working closely with J. B. Lippincott & Co. editor Tay Hohoff, she completed To Kill a Mockingbird in the summer of 1959. Published July 11, 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was an immediate bestseller and won her great critical acclaim, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961. It remains a bestseller today, with over 30 million copies in print. In 1999, it was voted "Best Novel of the Century" in a poll conducted by the Library Journal.

Many details of To Kill a Mockingbird are apparently autobiographical. Like Lee, the tomboy Scout is the daughter of a respected small town Alabama attorney. The plot involves a legal case, the workings of which would have been familiar to Lee, who studied law. Scout's friend Dill is commonly supposed to have been inspired by Lee's childhood friend and neighbor, Truman Capote, while Lee is the model for a character in Capote's first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms.

Harper Lee has downplayed autobiographical parallels of the book. Yet Truman Capote, mentioning the character Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird, described the details he considered biographical: "In my original version of Other Voices, Other Rooms I had that same man living in the house that used to leave things in the trees, and then I took that out. He was a real man, and he lived just down the road from us. We used to go and get those things out of the trees. Everything she wrote about it is absolutely true. But you see, I take the same thing and transfer it into some Gothic dream, done in an entirely different way."

After completing To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee accompanied Capote to Holcomb, Kansas, to assist him in researching what they thought would be an article on a small town's response to the murder of a farmer and his family. Capote expanded the material into his best-selling book, In Cold Blood (1966). The experiences of Capote and Lee in Holcomb were depicted in two different films, Capote (2005) and Infamous (2006).

Since the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee has granted almost no requests for interviews or public appearances, and with the exception of a few short essays, has published no further writings. She did work on a second novel for years, eventually filing it away unpublished.[citation needed] During the mid-1980s, she began writing a book of nonfiction about an Alabama serial murderer, but she put it aside when she was not satisfied with the result.[citation needed] Her withdrawal from public life has prompted persistent but unfounded speculation that new publications are in the works. Similar speculation has followed the American writers J. D. Salinger and Ralph Ellison.

Lee said of the 1962 Academy Award–winning screenplay adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird by Horton Foote: "If the integrity of a film adaptation can be measured by the degree to which the novelist's intent is preserved, Mr. Foote's screenplay should be studied as a classic."[citation needed] She also became a close friend of Gregory Peck, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Atticus Finch, the father of the novel's narrator, Scout. She remains close to the actor's family. Peck's grandson, Harper Peck Voll, is named after her.

In June 1966, Lee was one of two persons named by President Lyndon B. Johnson to the National Council on the Arts.

When Lee attended the 1983 Alabama History and Heritage Festival in Eufaula, Alabama, she presented the essay "Romance and High Adventure."

Lee has been known to split time between an apartment in New York and her sister's home in Monroeville. She has accepted honorary degrees but has declined to make speeches. In March 2005, she arrived via Amtrak in Philadelphia — her first trip to the city since signing with publisher Lippincott in 1960 — to receive the inaugural ATTY Award for positive depictions of attorneys in the arts from the Spector Gadon & Rosen Foundation. At the urging of Peck's widow Veronique, Lee traveled by train from Monroeville to Los Angeles in 2005 to accept the Los Angeles Public Library Literary Award. She has also attended luncheons for students who have written essays based on her work held annually at the University of Alabama.[6][7] On May 21, 2006, she accepted an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame. To honor her, the graduating seniors were given copies of Mockingbird before the ceremony and held them up when she received her degree.

In a letter published in Oprah Winfrey's magazine O (May 2006), Lee wrote about her early love of books as a child and her steadfast dedication to the written word: "Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books."

While attending an August 20, 2007 ceremony inducting four new members into the Alabama Academy of Honor, Lee responded to an invitation to address the audience with "Well, it's better to be silent than to be a fool."

Thanks to Wikipedia for this info.

Reading and Comment schedule: (Comments can be made online through blog or sent to me through email)

April 5th you may comment on chapters 1-7
April 12th comments on chapters 8-15
April 19th comments on chapters 16-22
April 26th comments on chapters 23-31 complete book
April 22th announcing book for May

Okay guys, buy your books and have at it. I look forward to everyone's comments.

Writer Woman


heather r. lowe said...

i'm so excited! i'm going to get the book today...

just a suggestion, but i think it's a pretty valid one. i feel like we should go with something by truman capote next, for obvious reasons, but also because he himself was such a fascinating character and a brilliant writer. maybe i'm getting ahead of myself but perhaps we should do in cold blood? of course we could do other voices, other rooms as he said himself that harper lee was a basis for a character in the book. anyway, i'm just putting that out there...happy reading everyone!

Ann Hite said...

I think that sounds wonderful. We'll put both on the list of books to be voted on for next month. I've read In Cold Blood, but it was when I was a teenager and it was a forbidden book. Now, I have to laugh at that. It's tame compared to most books out there, but I do love Capote's short stories. He was a southern writer with a twist.


Melissa @ From Melissa's Desk said...

I got my copy yesterday and have already read 3 chapters and in the middle of the 4th! I can't believe I've never read this before. It's really good!

Can't wait to discuss it! :)
Happy Reading!!

Darlene said...

I can't believe I am 50 years old and have never read this book. It is remarkable reading. I think I like Atticus the best, one reason is, is that he is always refered by his first name and not dad or father. My Becca calls me by my name "Darlene" which she has learned gets my attention. I am a slow reader and have just read to the part about the dirt and snow snowman the children make... I love thise scene. I love the imaginations of the children, I can see them running free in the summer time looking for things to spike their interest, Those days are gone by for us but can be relived in books like this. I am so glas we picked this book!