Friday, February 19, 2016

Saying Goodbye to Scout

From New York Times, publisher's image of covers of Harper Lee's two novels.
If Truman Capote was the model for Dill, that would make Harper Lee Jean Louise Finch.

Well, goodbye, Scout. You lived life on your own terms. In an era of self-aggrandizing celebrity, it’s nice to recall a successful writer who preferred a more graceful, private life. From the obituaries I’ve read, you were not Boo Radley—you were never holed up, away from the world, you were not a recluse—but you preferred not to deal endlessly with reporters.

From New York Times:
Donald Uhbrock/The LIFE Images Collection,
via Getty Images, Lee and her dad, 1961.
I was a reporter, once, and I’m glad I was never assigned to do a story about you. But then again, you did media interviews in the wake of publishing “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and some time in the 1960s decided it was enough.

As a journalist, I almost feel guilty saying it. But, good for you.

Your second book did not touch me as your first one did. And I know some school kids forced to read “To Kill a Mockingbird” in class don’t enjoy it much. But for me, it was one of the defining books of my childhood.

It was a book I read that I did not have to read. And as a boy, I was quickly smitten by Scout.

There is something about a strong, fearless, honest female voice.

Last night, not knowing that sad news would come today from Alabama, I watched “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” for the first time—not the movie, but the first few episodes of the late 1990s TV show.

Man, it’s odd to look back at 1996. The “net” was something cool and new that a computer hacker used, but not a librarian. Factually, I think that’s false—I was using the net in a university library in 1989—but it’s still an interesting cultural artifact of its time.

Most of all, I was surprised at how much I liked Buffy. There’s a wry sense of humor there, a cute snide commentary on what life in a high school or a California town is “like” even if no town is actually a Hell Mouth.

While Buffy isn’t exactly Scout, and the librarian isn’t exactly Atticus Finch, I do see some parallels.

Most of all, tough girls rule.

We’ll miss you, Harper Lee, even if we’ll also always have you. Maybe only one of your books will be of enduring fame, but then again, what a book. Life was slower then. Yet, when we want to, we can always get back to Maycomb.

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