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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Harper Lee Rights Case

Receiving Presidential Medal Of Freedom

This morning I read that Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird, is in a legal battle with her agent's son-in-law. Apparently, he has been enjoying the rights and royalties of her one and only classic novel for the last few years, due to her having signed something while recovering from a stroke. She has the rights back, but is now trying to get back the royalties for the last few years. She is in her eighties, but seems to be quite a feisty lady still. Good on her!

If you're going to write only one book, it might as well be a classic. Who will remember anything I have written so many years from now?  I did once get a pleasant surprise when a young blogger told me he had had my first book, on monsters, in his teens, and it had inspired him to write horror fiction. But it's out of print and who else remembers it? I doubt Mockingbird will ever go out of print.

 Why only one book? I heard that its success was so overwhelming, she worried she couldn't come up with something as successful second time around. And that's understandable - when someone has written a massive bestseller the next one sells because it's by them, but people invariably say,"Oh, it's just not as good as XXX..." 

I remember the novel from my own school days. And the movie is a classic in its own right. A couple of years ago, I chose it for my virtual readout in Banned Books Week. I didn't choose any of the more dramatic bits from the trial or even a Boo Radley bit, but the scene where Scout goes to school for the first time. She can read already, which sort of spoils things for the enthusiastic young teacher just out of her studies. The novel is as much about childhood as about the injustice of the treatment of African Americans in that time and place. If you're curious, my reading is on YouTube still, here. Last year, when the students of my book club were reading, Ryan chose this book too. Oddly enough, it was challenged for racism! 

It gets a mention in the novel The Help, which is set in the south in the 1960s, seen from the viewpoint of maids. One of them finds a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird on the bedside table of a young woman who is being snubbed by the middle class women of the town. 

I love this book to bits! I even bought the fiftieth anniversary edition when it came out. I will probably be buying another copy for the library, because it has been requested and our only copy, which is still out, is a bit battered. 

And it's interesting to know that even the writer of a classic has been ripped off, if not by pirates. 

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