Flaws in Character and Writing

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Two weeks ago Charles Shields, author of 20 histories and biographies for young adults came to the Bud Werner Memorial Library to talk about his knowledge of Harper Lee and her two publications, To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman.

Shields publications Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee and I am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee reveal a multitude of little known facts about Lee’s childhood life prior to becoming an author.

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  • She left law school and moved to New York City to become an author. However, her dreams of becoming a full-time writer were delayed because she needed to find a way to pay her expenses, so she became an airline reservationist for a period of about eight or ten years.
  • A neighbor and playmate was Truman Capote, author of In Cold Blood
  • She and Capote hauled a 12 pound Underwood typewriter up to their tree house where they’d sit for hours and write and discuss ideas for stories.
  • Upon her fathers death, Harper Lee inherited her father’s watch, which she in turn gave to Gregory Peck who played her father (Atticus) in the 1962 movie To Kill A Mockingbird.

In his book talk, Shield’s certainly provided the audience with a wealth of information about the author and her two books. To sum it up, Shields says that “Mockingbird” asks the reader for compassion, while “Watchman” asks the reader for forgiveness. I agree with this statement. It helped me to  lay aside my own profound sadness for Scout when she finds out at the end of “Watchman” her father was not the man she thought he was.

During the Q & A session one of the audience members mentioned that she was bothered by the fact that “Watchman” was released in it the same form the original manuscript was written. I personally appreciated that the publication was released “unpolished.” I hope the lady in the audience can forgive and understand perhaps why “Watchman” was released without copy editing. I believe the “raw state” of the publication adds to the historical value to the writing from a Pulitzer-prize American author whose work has certainly held up to the test of time.

Tonight I look forward to the community discussion to wrap up the One Book Steamboat series, which has received attention from the National Library Association newsletter.

Thanks once again to Bud Werner Memorial Library for a fulfilling opportunity to learn all we can about one of America’s most beloved authors.

This blog is brought to you by EVVY award-winning author Sue Batton Leonard.

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