Connor Sheets reports: Author Nelle Harper Lee, who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961 for her book, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” passed away in her sleep Friday morning at the age of 89, her family has confirmed.
“This is a sad day for our family. America and the world knew Harper Lee as one of the last century’s most beloved authors,” Hank Conner, Lee’s nephew and a spokesman for the family, said in a statement Friday morning.
“We knew her as Nelle Harper Lee, a loving member of our family, a devoted friend to the many good people who touched her life, and a generous soul in our community and our state. We will miss her dearly.”
— Hank Conner, Lee’s nephew
Conner’s statement indicated that “Ms. Lee passed away in her sleep early this morning. Her passing was unexpected. She remained in good basic health until her passing.”
Services for Lee have not been announced, but Conner said the funeral will be private as per her request.
Lee was born April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, the youngest of four children of lawyer Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch Lee.
As a child, Lee attended elementary school and high school just a few blocks from her house on Alabama Avenue. In a March 1964 interview, she offered this capsule view of her childhood: “I was born in a little town called Monroeville, Alabama, on April 28, 1926. I went to school in the local grammar school, went to high school there, and then went to the University of Alabama. That’s about it, as far as education goes.”
She moved to New York in 1949, where she worked as an airlines reservations clerk while pursuing a writing career. Eight years later, Lee submitted her manuscript for “To Kill a Mockingbird” to J.B. Lippincott & Co., which asked her to rewrite it.
On July 11, 1960, “To Kill a Mockingbird” was published by Lippincott with critical and commercial success. The author won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction the following year.
Lee’s novel tells the story of small-town lawyer Atticus Finch of Maycomb, Ala.—based on Monroeville — and his children, Scout and Jem. Told from Scout’s point of view, the book reflects the innocence of children growing up in the early 1930s. It also depicts the various social classes that existed then, and brings the undercurrents of racism to light.
More than a half-century after its publication, the novel continues to be studied by high school and college students. It has sold more than 30 million copies—still selling nearly a million copies per year by the 50th anniversary of its publication in 2010, according to Publishers Weekly–and has been translated into more than 40 languages.
The film adaptation of the novel, with Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham as Scout, opened on Christmas Day of 1962 and was an instant hit. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won four, including Best Actor for Peck and Best Screenplay for Horton Foote, who wrote the screenplay for the movie based on the book. Lee became close friends with both of them. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the first chapter of Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ which will be published July 14
Titled ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ it was set in the ’50s and opened with a woman named Jean Louise Finch returning home to Alabama. Ms. Lee’s editor found the story lacking but, seizing on flashback scenes, suggested that she write instead about her protagonist as a young girl. The result was a Pulitzer Prize-winning classic: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’
‘Go Set a Watchman’ will be published on Tuesday. It has undergone very little editing. “It was made clear to us that Harper Lee wanted it published as it was,” Jonathan Burnham, publisher of HarperCollins’s Harper imprint, said in a statement. “We gave the book a very light copy edit.”
The first chapter of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ introduces Ms. Lee’s beloved character, Scout, as a sexually liberated woman in her twenties, traveling from New York to Alabama to visit her ailing father and weigh a marriage proposal from a childhood friend. It also includes a bombshell about Scout’s brother.
Much has been said lately about the discovery of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ and when it occurred. Here’s the full story…
Tonja B. Carter writes: Accidents of history sometimes place otherwise unknown people in historic spotlights. Such was my fate when last August curiosity got the best of me and I found a long-lost manuscript written by one of America’s most beloved authors. The manuscript was titled “Go Set a Watchman,” and its author was Harper Lee.
“As Nelle’s estate trustee, lawyer and friend, I would like to tell the full story, fill in any blanks that may be in people’s minds, and provide a historical context for those interested in how this book went from lost to being found.”
In the time since it was announced that “Watchman” was found and Harper Lee—or Nelle, her first name, used by family and friends—decided to have it published, much has been said about how it was found, who found it, who knew of its existence, and when it was first found. As Nelle’s estate trustee, lawyer and friend, I would like to tell the full story, fill in any blanks that may be in people’s minds, and provide a historical context for those interested in how this book went from lost to being found.
The story begins in June 2011 when Sam Pinkus, who was Nelle’s literary agent at the time, contacted her sister, Alice, and asked that he be allowed to examine and inventory Nelle’s assets. Alice, who has since died, was an attorney and until the last few years of her life handled most business matters for Nelle, who lives in an assisted-living facility. Mr. Pinkus was particularly interested in having the original manuscript for “To Kill a Mockingbird” examined and appraised. He said he needed to open Nelle’s safe-deposit box, where it was assumed the manuscript was held.
The box was opened some months later, on Oct. 14, at a bank in Monroeville, Ala., Nelle’s hometown and mine. Present that day: Mr. Pinkus, Justin Caldwell, an appraiser from Sotheby’s, who came to Monroeville at his request, and myself. Nelle’s safe-deposit box contained several items, including an old cardboard box from Lord & Taylor and a heavy, partially opened but tightly wrapped mailing envelope sent from Lippincott, the original publishers of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” to Alice Lee and postmarked Jan. 3, 1961.
“The story begins in June 2011 when Sam Pinkus, who was Nelle’s literary agent at the time, contacted her sister, Alice, and asked that he be allowed to examine and inventory Nelle’s assets.”
The Lord & Taylor box contained several hundred pages of typed original manuscript. After we all read a couple of pages, someone mentioned that the first page was not the first page of “Mockingbird,” but rather seemed to be a later chapter. I was then asked to retrieve a copy of the “Mockingbird” book so that Mr. Caldwell could compare what actually ended up in the book with the first page of the manuscript. After returning with a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” I then left the meeting and didn’t return. According to recent press reports, Mr. Pinkus and Mr. Caldwell spent about an hour examining the documents.
The next day I received an email from Mr. Caldwell, the Sotheby’s appraiser, saying “it was so nice to meet you yesterday and to get to see that manuscript.” He made no mention of the existence of a second, unknown book. And the following day, Sam Pinkus wrote to me that “Nelle is under no obligation to Sotheby’s whatsoever, including no obligation for Nelle to sell or auction the items.” Again, no mention of a second book.
One of the few unambiguously heroic figures in American literature was originally conceived as a segregationist
Sam Sacks writes: Ever since the announcement in February that a second novel by Harper Lee had been found among her papers, untold numbers of readers have been counting the minutes until its publication. And why not? Ms. Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1960) is the most beloved novel in American history—more popular than even the Bible in numerous polls.
[Order Harper Lee’s classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” (Enhanced Edition) (Harperperennial Modern Classics) from Amazon.com
But the anticipation has somewhat obscured the awkward details about “Go Set a Watchman,” as the novel is called (the title comes from the Book of Isaiah). Although it is set in the mid-1950s, around 20 years after “To Kill a Mockingbird,” it is not a sequel. Ms. Lee, who is now 89, wrote it first, submitted it to a publisher in 1957 and, on an editor’s advice, refashioned it into the book that’s now assigned in grade schools all over the country.
Properly speaking, “Go Set a Watchman” is a practice run for “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and it existed before anybody could have known that small-town Alabama lawyer Atticus Finch would become a symbol of the nation’s moral conscience. All this throat clearing is not meant to damp the enthusiasm of expectant readers but to introduce a friendly word of caution. “Go Set a Watchman” is a distressing book, one that delivers a startling rebuttal to the shining idealism of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” This story is of the toppling of idols; its major theme is disillusion.
There’s little hint of darkness as the novel begins. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch, better known to us by her childhood nickname Scout, is returning to Maycomb, Ala., for a two-week vacation. For the past five years, Jean Louise has been living in New York City trying to make it as a painter. Her older brother Jem—I regret to report—has died of a heart attack. But her father, Atticus, is still hanging on. Seventy-two and suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, he is cared for by his priggish, busybody sister Alexandra.
Then there’s a brand-new character, Henry Clinton. Henry is Atticus’s protégé at the law firm, and he has carried a torch for Jean Louise since high school. She is hardly off the train before he is again proposing marriage, which she coyly declines: “I want to be like Dr. Schweitzer and play until I’m thirty.” This is how the two talk, trading enough sassy banter to fill a Hepburn-Tracy movie.
“Go Set a Watchman” is told in the third person, but it stays close to Jean Louise’s perspective and contains the familiar pleasures of Ms. Lee’s writing—the easy, drawling rhythms, the flashes of insouciant humor, the love of anecdote. Read the rest of this entry »
Madeleine L’Engle’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ has sold 14 million copies since its publication in 1962. Now, a never-before-seen passage cut from an early draft is shedding surprising light on the author’s political philosophy.
Jennifer Maloney writes what I believe might be the most-read item in this week’s Wall Street Journal. Where to begin? When I think of the popular library material that influenced me and every one of my classmates in elementary school, I’d include the original “Little House on the Prairie” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, dog-eared collections of Charles Schultz’s “Peanuts”, “The Outsiders“, by S.E. Hinton, and Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time“. Easily one of the most-loved, most-read books of the second half of the 20th century.
Fresh on the heels of the announcement of the publication of an unseen novel by ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ Author Harper Lee, now we learn that an unknown three-page passage in the 1962 book “A Wrinkle in Time” has surfaced, sure to stir new interest among the author’s many fans and admirers.
“…the book wasn’t a simple allegory of communism. Instead, it’s about the risk of any country—including a democracy—placing too much value on security. The tension between safety and personal freedom is an idea that resonates in today’s politics…”
Jennifer Maloney writes: Madeleine L’Engle, the author of “A Wrinkle in Time,” resisted labels. Her books weren’t for children, she said. They were for people. Devoted to religious study, she bristled when called a Christian writer. And though some of her books had political themes, she wasn’t known to write overtly about politics. That is, until her granddaughter, Charlotte Jones Voiklis, came across an unknown three-page passage that was cut before publication.
The passage, which Ms. Voiklis shared with The Wall Street Journal so it could be published for the first time, sheds new light on one of the most beloved and best-selling young-adult books in American literature. Published in 1962, “A Wrinkle in Time” has sold 14 million copies and inspired a TV-movie adaptation, a graphic novel, and an opera.
“‘Security is a most seductive thing,’ he tells his daughter. ‘I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the greatest evil there is.'”
Meg Murry, the novel’s strong-willed misfit heroine, has been a role model for generations of children, especially girls. Now, Jennifer Lee, the co-writer and co-director of the Oscar-winning animated film, “Frozen,” is writing a film adaptation for Disney.
A witches’ brew of science fiction and fantasy, Christian theology and a hint of politics, “A Wrinkle in Time” has long been considered influenced by the Cold War. It explores the dangers of conformity, and presents evil as a world whose inhabitants’ thoughts and actions are controlled by a sinister, disembodied brain.
Many readers, then and now, have understood the book’s dark planet Camazotz—a regimented place in which mothers in unison call their children in for dinner—to represent the Soviet Union. But the passage discovered by L’Engle’s granddaughter presents a more nuanced worldview.
In it, Meg has just made a narrow escape from Camazotz. As Meg’s father massages her limbs, which are frozen from a jarring trip through space and time, she asks: “But Father, how did the Black Thing—how did it capture Camazotz?” Her father proceeds to lay out the political philosophy behind the book in much starker terms than are apparent in the final version.
“As an 11-year-old, I read ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ and spent many a daydream and sleepless night imagining what it would be like to break free from the limitations of time.”
He says that yes, totalitarianism can lead to this kind of evil. (The author calls out examples by name, including Hitler, Mussolini and Khrushchev.) But it can also happen in a democracy that places too much value on security, Mr. Murry says. “Security is a most seductive thing,” he tells his daughter. “I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the greatest evil there is.”
Ms. Voiklis said she wanted readers to know the book wasn’t a simple allegory of communism. Instead, it’s about the risk of any country—including a democracy—placing too much value on security. The tension between safety and personal freedom is an idea that resonates in today’s politics.
“It’s normal to be afraid,” said Ms. Voiklis, who manages her late grandmother’s estate full-time in New York. “But you can’t let the fear control your decisions. Otherwise, you risk becoming like Camazotz.”
Ms. Voiklis found the excerpt a few years ago, as she was doing research for the release of the book’s 50th-anniversary edition. It was part of the earliest surviving typewritten manuscript, which for years was stored in L’Engle’s home and later moved to storage.
“A Wrinkle in Time” is a cultural touchstone. The Newbery Medal-winner was the first of five books in L’Engle’s so-called Time Quintet. On “Lost,” the television series whose cult following dissected its frequent literary references, the bookworm Sawyer reads a copy of “A Wrinkle in Time.”
The novel inspired author Rebecca Stead to write her own Newbery Medal-winning book, “When You Reach Me,” whose protagonist, Miranda, reads “A Wrinkle in Time.” L’Engle’s works have also sparked the interest of scholars in the U.S. and abroad. In 2012, Farrar, Straus and Giroux published an oral history titled “Listening for Madeleine: A Portrait of Madeleine L’Engle in Many Voices,” by literary historian and biographer Leonard S. Marcus. Read the rest of this entry »
Agency Ends Probe Into Publication of New Novel ‘Go Set a Watchman’ by ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ Author Harper LeePosted: March 12, 2015
Surprise news of second book prompted speculation over whether she is capable of consent
(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) —Kim Chandler reports: Alabama investigators looked into whether the recent deal to publish Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” sequel involved financial fraud, but they have closed the inquiry, a state official said Thursday.
“’To Kill a Mockingbird’ is among the most beloved novels in history, with worldwide sales topping 40 million copies. It was released on July 11, 1960, won the Pulitzer Prize and was adapted into a 1962 movie of the same name.”
Alabama Securities Commission Director Joseph Borg said his agency sent an investigator to speak with Lee at the request of the Alabama Department of Human Resources. Borg said the department, which handles complaints of elder abuse, asked his investigators to look into the situation because of their expertise in financial matters.
“We closed the file. Let’s just say that she was able to answer questions we asked to our satisfaction from our point of view.”
— Alabama Securities Commission Director Joseph Borg
The surprise news that the 88-year-old author would publish a second book prompted speculation over whether she is capable of giving consent to the publication.
“We don’t make competency determinations. We’re not doctors. But unless someone tells us to go back in, our file is closed on it.”
— Joseph Borg
A high-ranking state official said the Department of Human Resources began an investigation into Lee’s treatment following news that her second novel would be released. The official wasn’t authorized to release the information publicly and spoke only on condition of anonymity. It’s unclear whether that investigation entails anything beyond the interview the commission employees did with Lee, who lives in an assisted-living facility in her south Alabama hometown of Monroeville, the inspiration for “Mockingbird.”
Barry Spear, a spokesman for the department, declined comment. Read the rest of this entry »
More than 50 years have passed since Harper Lee published To Kill a Mockingbird, her gripping novel about racial injustice in deeply segregated Alabama. Now the town where Lee was born and raised, and which served as the inspiration for her best-selling book, has once again become the scene of an unsettling legal dispute that has divided the community.
This time Lee, who at 87 is profoundly deaf and almost totally blind, is not the author of the story but – on the surface at least – its protagonist.
In a move which has shocked Monroeville, Lee, who resides in an assisted-living facility in the town, is bringing a lawsuit against the local museum, accusing the small, not-for-profit institution of exploiting her fame and the prestige of her Pulitzer-winning book without offering compensation. The museum is fighting back, condemning Lee’s lawsuit as “false” and “meritless” and warning that the legal action could destroy an institution that honours the author’s legacy and provides an economic boost to the town.
It is the kind of ugly public dispute that Lee, an intensely private figure who has spent her life avoiding the spotlight, might have been expected to avoid. Unsurprisingly, Monroeville has been awash with with rumour about whether Miss Nelle, as the author is known locally, was personally responsible for the decision to sue the museum. Read the rest of this entry »