Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Harper Lee - woman of mystery

I have one hope about Harper Lee and it's that she's been writing her ass off for the last 50 years. She hasn't published anything, but that doesn't mean she hasn't been writing and, maybe, stashing it all under her bed. Fifty years is a long time so maybe she's had to buy a few beds just to cram novels underneath them, or maybe she just has one really enormous bed or maybe she sleeps on top of a storage unit. That would be more convenient if she really stopped to think about it.

And let's say that she will not stipulate in her will that she wants all of it burned in the event of her death. Let's think happy thoughts like that. Because that means that when she dies there will be an entire body of work just waiting to be published. Twenty five new books, maybe? 38? I don't know, however many fits into that storage unit that she sleeps on top of.

I'm not waiting for Harper Lee to die or anything, I'm just saying that when she does, as sad and horrible as that will be, maybe there will be more of her stuff to read. Because I do so love her writing.

I say all of this because on Sunday I went with my friend Thomas to see the play version of To Kill a Mocking Bird. I couldn't imagine it as a play until I saw it. There are so many different settings in the book and then there's a narration which I love even more than the dialogue. The prose in that book is gorgeous. But it works on stage. The narrator was there - Scout as an old woman. She sat on a rocker in one corner of the stage telling the story. She also played the knothole of the tree where Scout and Jem find the presents that Boo Radley leaves for them. Scout would pretend to go up to the tree to take something out of the knothole and she was really going up to the old woman who was handing her the trinkets. I thought that was neat, the old Scout passing things on to the younger version of herself.

And I think what I really love about theater is how much of the setting is in the actor's imagination. When Atticus had to shoot the mad dog down the street, none of us had to see the dog to know he was down there. We didn't even have to see the street. The actors were just pretending the dog was coming down the street, and they pretended so well I forgot that, really, they were flipping out and pointing at a wall.

So I would like to read more by Harper Lee. And I can't because it's all underneath her bed. Why would someone who writes so beautifully keep it all to herself? Seems selfish. But then maybe she's like Boo Radley, just afraid to come out, and maybe I should respect that. Maybe I would be more inclined to if she left me some prose in a knothole. Just a paragraph, perhaps.

Egad, what if she did and I discovered that her style has completely changed? What if she genre-hopped into scifi? I'll get an excerpt from To Drill a Mockingborg. Or mystery! Who Killed a Mockingbird? Or worse. Bird erotica. To Thrill a Mockingbird. You can't make a play out of that! Well, you could but I imagine that it would be restricted to brothels and aviaries.

Jesus. Maybe Harper Lee should have all this stuff buried with her. Who knows how her style has evolved in the last 50 years. Still. It would be nice to know.

You don't have to win another Pulitzer, Harper! We still think you're awesome! And we are torn between wanting to respect your privacy and wanting to raid your storage unit for possible short stories! Or maybe, dare I say it, a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. A western called Scout's Last Stand. Where...she's 45 years old and she finally admits that she should start wearing something besides overalls. Hmm, there's no Western angle to that. Uh ok, also, there's a cow in it. This is gold, Harper! Quick! Write it before I am compelled to!


Heather said...

A few years ago, she wrote a letter for Oprah's magazine. It is actually quite good. Here is a link, but you will have to zoom in on the magazine to read it. I couldn't find the text anywhere

As an aside, did you know that some people believe that Truman Capote actually wrote To Kill a Mockingbird? They were childhood friends.

Genevieve said...

WHAT! Seriously? Omigod, omigod, omigod, I have to read it! Thank you Heather!

I knew that she & Capote were childhood friends and that he was also the basis for Dill in the novel. But I didn't know that there was talk that Mockingbird was his baby. Sacrilege, darling!

Tom said...

"To Thrill a Mockingbird. You can't make a play out of that! Well, you could but I imagine that it would be restricted to brothels and aviaries."

Gold. Gold!

If you watch "In Cold Blood" there's plenty of screen time for Harper Lee's character. It's fun to see her interaction with the other characters when they go, "Oh, I've heard you just wrote a novel! What's the name of it again?"

Word verification: trialia - n. a dessert, traditionally made with a basis of pound cake, most often covered with strawberries, chocolate, and then drenched in half and half. Best served during the cooler months, if at all, honestly.

melissa bastian. said...

"Well, you could but I imagine that it would be restricted to brothels and aviaries."

Yes, Tom already quoted it. But you know what Tom? Before I even got over here to the comments page I had copied it, in order to repaste! YOU WILL NOT PREEMPT ME! So there.

Anyway Gen, excellent use of the word aviaries. And by the way, you are a freaking genius.

Word verification: difiess. noun. like a duchess, but smaller.