I'm just back from the 50th anniversary publication party for To Kill a Mockingbird" in Monroeville, Alabama. It was hot, and we all sweated together on the courthouse lawn (I skipped the "Tequila Mockingbird" and went for a gin and tonic) and had a grand time talking about this specific book, books in general, and whether Katie Couric was going to show, and if the Jimmy Buffett concert at Gulf Shores would come off. I got to participate in the marathon reading of the book, seated in the judge's seat in the courtroom, and to hear my husband, Don Noble, read the final chapter from the courthouse steps and then toast the book with the assembled crowd. A highlight of the event was seeing a rough cut of Sandy Jaffe's film Our Mockingbird with a full (court)house of viewers. Sandy asked how many people there were not from Alabama, and at least half the room raised their hands. The rest of us applauded. People were there from Canada, San Diego, and who knows where else, not on the way somewhere else but because they felt moved to come to Monroeville and pay tribute to the book and its author. They were moved by the film, as well--and I think everyone felt a little astonished and happy at the power of literature and of this book in particular to bring people together.
There was, of course, a little buzz about whether Harper Lee might be present at some point, but I think just about everyone there knew it was unlikely, and didn't mind. It's exciting to see or meet the author of a book you love, but as Mary McDonough Murphy said on the piece Katie Couric did for CBS' "Sunday Morning," it's not about the person, it's about the book. I've even had the experience of meeting an author and wishing I hadn't. Writers put their best selves into their work and don't always measure up in person--and who could, on a day to day basis, be the ideal writer, any more than we, as readers, can always be the person the best books make us want to be?
The people of Monroeville obvously worked hard, and worked together, to make the event happen--and I hope they enjoyed themselves as much as I did.
Growing up with a lawyer father of my own who taught me the importance of respecting the dignity of every person, I can relate to Scout's--and Harper Lee's--admiration for their fathers. My dad started practicing law three days after I was born, and he remembers reading the book around the time it came out. Those were days of change, days of beginnings, and it's good to be here to look back on it all, and look forward to what's to come.
- Jennifer Horne
- I’m a writer, editor, and teacher, and I enjoy connecting with readers and other writers. I grew up in Arkansas and am a long-time resident of Alabama, and in November 2017 I was commissioned Alabama Poet Laureate, for a four-year term. My latest book is a poetry chapbook, "Borrowed Light," and my current writing project is a biography of the writer Sara Mayfield. I call this blog "A Map of the World" because I think that, as writers, we each map our own lives, imaginations, and world. Welcome to my particular map!