Dear Commons Community,
Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a book about racial injustice in a small Alabama town that sold more than 40 million copies and became one of the most beloved and most taught works of fiction ever written by an American, died yesterday in Monroeville, Ala. She was 89. Hank Conner, a nephew of Ms. Lee’s, said that she died in her sleep at the Meadows, an assisted living facility. The following is from a New York Times obituary.
“The instant success of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which was published in 1960 and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction the next year, turned Ms. Lee into a literary celebrity, a role she found oppressive and never learned to accept.
“I never expected any sort of success with ‘Mockingbird,’ ” Ms. Lee told a radio interviewer in 1964. “I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers, but, at the same time I sort of hoped someone would like it well enough to give me encouragement.”
The enormous popularity of the film version of the novel, released in 1962 with Gregory Peck in the starring role of Atticus Finch, a small-town Southern lawyer who defends a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, only added to Ms. Lee’s fame and fanned expectations for her next novel….
But for more than half a century a second novel failed to turn up, and Ms. Lee gained a reputation as a literary Garbo, a recluse whose public appearances to accept an award or an honorary degree counted as important news simply because of their rarity. On such occasions she did not speak, other than to say a brief thank you.
Then, in February 2015, long after the reading public had given up on seeing anything more from Ms. Lee, her publisher, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins, dropped a bombshell. It announced plans to publish a manuscript — long thought to be lost and now resurfacing under mysterious circumstances — that Ms. Lee had submitted to her editors in 1957 under the title “Go Set a Watchman.”
May she rest in peace.