|To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee said she wanted to be the Jane Austen of south Alabama.|
Many stories from classic books come to some of us first via the movies - for me, certainly, "Pride and Prejudice" and more recently, "Little Women" (see February's Tea and Tomes) but, surely my very first such introduction was "To Kill a Mockingbird" circa, 1963 at a drive-in movie, sitting in what a five-year old mind thinks is luxury accommodations: a Ford Country sedan station wagon, filled with popcorn, soda, my three older brothers and my Mom and Dad up front.
I don't recall understanding much of the plot from that summer night in a long-gone drive-in show, but I do remember being frightened when the little girl in the movie and her brother were being chased by something in the woods. Since that first viewing, reinforced by many TV airings of "To Kill a Mockingbird" in my formative years, I became very familiar with the story of Scout, her brother Jem, and Atticus, the sibling's wise and principled father who stood up to racism in a 1930's Alabama courtroom.
|To Kill a Mockingbird on Broadway|
Fast forward to August, 2019, while visiting my son, Matt, in New York City, Aaron Sorkin's version of "To Kill a Mockingbird" was playing at the Shubert Theater, featuring Michigan native, Jeff Daniels. Walking by the marquis on our way to dinner our first night in Manhattan, we unanimously decided, if we could secure tickets, we'd make that our Broadway outing for the weekend.
To our surprise, and great fortune, we did get tickets and, in an AARP-member's idea of "luxury accommodations" we nabbed front-row seats at same-day-order-risk/reward discount prices. Half a century-plus since I first saw "To Kill a Mockingbird" on the big screen, I was experiencing this incredible story up-close and personal, with a greater appreciation of the heroes and villains of Maycomb County, Alabama, but without having to roll down the window to get the sound hooked up.
|Front row seats at the Shubert Theater, To Kill a Mockingbird. So great and no need to attach a speaker to the car window!|
All of this is my long way of getting to the actual book written by Harper Lee, published in 1960, and yet, until 2020, unread by this tea blogger. Prompted by my daughter, Rachel, who, while we were talking about a bunch of stuff that somehow lead to "To Kill a Mockingbird" and my confession of never actually reading it before, said that if I did pick it up, she would reread it and we could discuss it together afterwards. Motivation accepted. . . and now accomplished!
I’ve often heard that the “To Kill a Mockingbird” movie is one of the best adaptions of book-to-film, and after reading the three-hundred and twenty-two pages of Scout Finch’s narrative of two both ordinary and extraordinary years in a small town in the deep south, I subscribe to that opinion as well. But, it's definitely a great read and I highly recommend it - whether you have seen the movie twenty times or the play once. The book brings you closer to the Finch narrative. Like Atticus often advised his children, Scout forces us to “walk in the shoes” of Tom Robinson, Bob Ewell and Boo Radley. Often an uncomfortable - if not odious - fit, we're given the backstories of the intertwining townsfolk that provides a deeper understanding of the acts of bravery as well as cowardice.
I recently viewed a rare interview of Harper Lee in 1964, four years after her book had been published and two years after the film had been produced. Asked why many great books come from southerners, Lee reflected that there weren't as many great activities like movies or concerts (at the time) to go to as there were in the north. Without such ready-made entertainments, folks were forced to create their own through great story telling . . . or gossip. She said she wrote about her particular life, but one that had characters and tales that were universal. She concluded the interview stating "all I want to be is the Jane Austen of south Alabama".
And, who can argue with that?