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Scout, Atticus, and Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird Hardcover – June 8, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Murphy—an Emmy-winning writer, director, and producer—celebrates Harper Lee's only novel with a documentary, Hey, Boo, and this book, a collection of mostly venerating interviews with writers and celebrities, black and white, from Oprah Winfrey to Tom Brokaw, Rosanne Cash, and Richard Russo. A few incisive remarks emerge. James McBride, for example, takes issue with calling Harper Lee brave—doing so absolve[s] yourself of your own racism. Wally Lamb and Allan Gurganus, among others, reveal Lee's influence on their writing. Unfortunately, in Part I, Murphy summarizes the most interesting of her subjects' comments, creating a sense of déjà-vu when the reader gets to the actual interviews. Racism, smalltown America, Lee's 50-year silence since the book's publication, her relationship with Truman Capote, and the appeal of the book's principal characters are touched on by most of the interviewees; such shared themes and opinions result in redundancy. Readers should turn (or return) to To Kill a Mockingbird before bothering to dip into this disappointing collection. 11 b&w photos. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“You come away from Murphy’s book with a renewed amazement at what Lee was able to achieve with a single perfect novel.” (Entertainment Weekly)
“And that’s really what reading this book is like: attending a big book club meeting with 26 lovers of To Kill a Mockingbird.” (Los Angeles Times)
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This book has two parts. The first part is a reflection of Murphy herself. Truly a devotee of the novel, Murphy talks about both the documentary and her thoughts about the movie and the book. Murphy writes her section with love and admiration, starting with Nelle herself. Nelle calls herself Boo Radley, and Murphy goes to great pains in the following paragraphs to assure us that Nelle is a warm gregarious person. Most of the information in Murphy's section isn't new, but it's still welcome nonetheless.
The following section is a collection of small essays written by a wide variety of people that all discuss the impact and legacy of Mockingbird. Oprah Winfrey, Tom Brokaw, and even the movie Scout Mary Badham all add their voices to this part (Badham confessing that she hadn't read the book until she had a daughter herself!). These essays are short and poignant, and talk very personally about how the book touched them, as well as reflected the larger struggle for civil rights in our country.
Nelle didn't write her second book, and America has been hungry ever since. This small book is highly recommended to celebrate 50 years of this classic novel. In the meantime, do what author Wally Lamb suggests in his foreward, watch the movie and read the book as well. We cannot visit Maycomb enough. We cannot sit on the Finch porch long enough. We cannot ever be tired of listening to Atticus defend Tom Robinson. We cannot let Mockingbird go. We will not let Mockingbird go.
The reflections are are set forth in chapters, some from Nelle Harper Lee's family (Alice Finch Lee); many from other authors (Wally Lamb, Anna Quindlen); some from those associated with the film (Mary Badham, who played Scout); and some from a variety of fields from Oprah to the curator of the Monroe County Heritage Museum in Monroeville, Alabama.
Each of the essays brings out something in "To Kill a Mockingbird" that touched that particular reader. There are some who loved Scout passionately for her pluck (even those who thought Scout was a boy for several pages on first reading, an error common to many of us) and others who find the moral center of Atticus to be the resounding inspiration. I loved the lines from Allan Gurganus, who notes what a difference Eisenhower or Jack Kennedy might have made, if either had walked alone up the school house steps, holding the hand of a little black girl, as Atticus walks alone in the novel. Murphy allows the interviewees the latitude to share in their own voices the extraordinary impact of "To Kill a Mockingbird" on their lives. "Scout, Atticus, and Boo" affirmed my own love of "To Kill a Mockingbird," the joy of teaching this novel, reading it aloud, and how much I have missed that part of my teaching career since retirement.
Many of the interviews note the public's fascination with Ms. Lee's seemingly reclusive lifestyle, her unwillingness to be interviewed, and the fact that she has not published a second novel. In this way, "Scout, Atticus, and Boo" is somewhat repetitive, especially since Wally Lamb's foreword and the first chapter carry many of the same quotations from the coming essays. And yet, the reader is reminded of the impact of Lee's achievement for all these fifty years since the book was first published.
Truman Capote (Dill in the book) and Horton Foote (screenwriter for the film) carry a linked presence to Harper Lee, and each writer's role is discussed in terms of Lee's writing. The rift between Lee and Capote is compelling as is the friendship and trust between Lee and her screenwriter, Foote. The gentleman, Gregory Peck, also draws our regard in his good manners and deep caring for those who made the film with him; and for Lee, who made the film possible.
What this book does not do is is rightfully missing: it does not toss around gossip about the author or the film stars; it does not offer strange correlations between residents of Monroeville and the characters, and it does not present odd new themes or symbols in a deconstructionist university theory of literature. Instead, it invites us to ponder the achievement and beauty of a national treasure and to revisit the pages of "To Kill a Mockingbird," picking up the details others have pointed out as life-changing to them. Murphy's "Scout, Atticus, and Boo" urges us to look at the America we once were and the America we are now, not simply in terms of race relations, but also in our ideas of small-town life, neighborliness, manners, and parenting.
"Scout, Atticus, and Boo," a slim volume of 215 pages. It is exactly what it says it is, "A CELEBRATION."