If you’re on the North Shore this Sunday, I hope you’ll consider dropping by Cornerstone Books in Salem, where I will be among several people reading excerpts from Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The event begins at 2 p.m.
I came very late to “Mockingbird,” published 50 years ago this year. On the recommendation of my wife and daughter, I rented the movie this past spring. It was, I realized, one of the best I’d ever seen. The racial drama is compelling. But what riveted me was Mary Badham‘s performance as Scout, as realistic a depiction of childhood as has come to the screen. She should have won the Oscar for Best Actress.
As for Lee’s original work, I finished it just a few days ago. I found it odd to read a good novel after having seen such a first-rate film depiction of it. And, frankly, the reason I call it good but not great is that there’s a certain one-dimensional quality to it that we expect in movies but not in books. This Slate essay by Stephen Metcalf is too harsh, but I agree that “Mockingbird” is essentially a children’s book.
But what a children’s book. Lee’s achievement is worth celebrating, and I’m excited to be part of it.