Rest in Peace, Scout.
Harper Lee will always be known for her integrity, even if her lawyer, Tonja B. Carter, has none.
I admired Lee for reasons most did not. Like Austen, Alcott, and Dickinson, Harper Lee never let marriage define her and never settled in order to go with the status quo. Like all of these women, there were suitors but they were happy with their own selves. Feisty, brilliant, and hard working, they kept company with the characters they loved and created. Lee’s writing was a reflection of her own opinions and her life, growing up with Truman Capote and her own lawyer father, the basis for Atticus. Her friends and loved ones will continue to live on thanks to the greatest American novel of the 20th century, To Kill a Mockingbird.
Harper Lee was one of the very few writers left who are complete. Stephen King is another. So are Michael Chabon and Jhumpa Lahiri. Authors who are talented to the core, who don’t use ghost writers or teams of people to come up with a bestseller. So much of the literary world is corrupt and I’ve watched the slow decay through my years at Barnes & Noble. Someone like Harper Lee who loves writing and relies solely on their raw talent without hopes of celebrity or attention or movie deals is going by way of the dodo.
What makes me so sad is that she passed so shortly after her pristine literary reputation and the image of her most revered character, Atticus Finch, took a nosedive. Happily, considering her ill health, she unlikely knew any of this was happening just like she unlikely knew what she was doing by waving forward the printing of a book she swore all her life should never see the light of day.
So let the lawyer’s vulture circling begin and let’s all pull out our dog eared copies of To Kill a Mockingbird to reread this weekend as a salute to a dying breed and one hell of a woman.