Harper Lee on Writing, Reading, Loving and telling the truth

This photograph was taken on May 1, 1961, by Donald Uhrbrock for a LIFE magazine article on Harper Lee. The article appeared in the May 26 issue of LIFE and, according to the caption, the photo shows Lee sitting at a typewriter in her father's law office during a trip back to her home town of Monroeville, Alabama. It was in this office, according to LIFE, that To Kill a Mockingbird was written.

“This photograph was taken on May 1, 1961, by Donald Uhrbrock for a LIFE magazine article on Harper Lee. The article appeared in the May 26 issue of LIFE and, according to the caption, the photo shows Lee sitting at a typewriter in her father’s law office during a trip back to her home town of Monroeville, Alabama. It was in this office, according to LIFE, that To Kill a Mockingbird was written.” – 


This month’s revelation – that a 304-page unpublished book by Harper Lee will soon make for a sequel to To Kill a Mocking Bird – was met with a hysterical response. One insider predicted the book to be – “Game Over – it will be the biggest book of the year”.  While The Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri questioned – “Another book by Harper Lee? Great. Superb. Sign me up. But a (pre-written) sequel to “To Kill A Mockingbird”? Did it need one? Can’t we leave them there?”

As Go Set a Watchman is set to be released on 14th July, insiders report that Lee had thought the typewritten Go Set a Watchman manuscript was “lost” but it was subsequently found by her attorney Tonja Carter.

Meanwhile the media is skeptical as the news of the book comes after the death of Harper Lee’s sister (and lawyer) who protected her from the unwarranted attention the book garnered.

According to NYT “…. Ms. Lee actually wrote Go Set a Watchman first. The 304-page novel takes place in the same fictional town, Maycomb, Ala., and unfolds as Scout Finch, the feisty child heroine of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” returns to visit her father, Atticus.”

Image courtesy: http://typewriter152.rssing.com/

Amasa Coleman “Coley” Lee, the model for Atticus Finch.

I have always been fascinated with Lee’s childhood and her tomboyish personality. I couldn’t quell my excitement when I learnt that Lee’s father had gifted her 20-pound Underwood Typewriter.

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It was also her non-conformist style that caught my fancy. In her biopic in The New Yorker, the writer Thomas Mallon writes: “During the Second World War, Lee, a student at Huntingdon College, in Montgomery, shunned the standard cardigan-and-pearls attire of the all-female institution in favor of a bomber jacket she’d been given by her brother, an Army Air Corps cadet. Her language was “salty,” and she sometimes smoked a pipe, and, while her face seems to have been pleasantly approachable, she described herself as “ugly as sin.” After she transferred to the undergraduate law program at the University of Alabama, mostly to please her father, her lack of polish struck some as ill-suited to the judicial decorum she was being trained to observe. ”

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Before we get hands on the book, there are some interesting pearls of literary wisdom from some of her published non-fiction work. Here, for Vogue, Harper Lee pens her first article Love–In Other Words. Elaborating on Love in its different forms, young , shy Lee writes “ Untitled In May of 2006, 46 years after the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee wrote the following letter to another most amazing woman we all know – Oprah Winfrey – on essence of reading. It was later featured in Oprah’s magazine, “O.” kj

Here’s some great advice from Harper Lee to her fan named Jeremy, who wrote to Lee in 2006 asking for a signed photo. He didn’t get one, but instead received this lovely letter from Lee. The letter read 06/07/06 “Dear Jeremy,  I don’t have a picture of myself, so please accept these few lines: As you grow up, always tell the truth, do no harm to others, and don’t think you are the most important being. “ e795173b56c2556b11fcd603a8b7cc14

 

Before the books hit the stand here are some of here other published non-fiction articles:

Articles
“Christmas to Me”. (December 1961) McCall’s
“When Children Discover America”. (August 1965) McCall’s
“Romance and High Adventure” (1983), a paper presented in Eufaula, Alabama, and collected in 1985 in the anthology Clearings in the Thicket.

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