Friday, September 3, 2010

Scout, Atticus and Boo by Mary McDonagh Murphy

I remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee for the first time in ninth grade Honors English class. It was one of the few books where our English teachers also showed us the move, which is also one of my favorite movies. I liked it then and I liked it now, albeit for different reasons.  For me, Atticus was the main figure, where for others it may have been Scout or Boo Radley.

Anyways, this book by Mary Murphy is based upon a video documentary that she is working on, in book form. The first of two sections is written aby Murphy's own personal experiences with the book. She discusses her feelings, thoughts and reactions to the book version and the movie version and why she was inspired to compose her own documentary and accompanying book. The second section is composed of essays written by famous people, including Oprah Winfrey, Tom Brokaw and Mary Badham (who played Scout in the movie) and which includes their own impressions of the book.

I generally enjoyed the first section and the first few essays of the second section, but the book quickly grew repetitive. A lot of the essayists had the same reactions and many focussed on how Harper Lee didn't write a second novel, was a very private person and how Truman Capote, one of Lee's friends, didn't ghostwrite or otherwise assist Lee in writing the novel that garnered her a Pulitzer Prize. Because of the repetitiveness, the book took me a little bit longer to read than it normally would have - the writing style is such that if it had been more unique, I would have flown right through everything. I did appreciate that gossip and speculation about Harper Lee was not included in this book - smut like that has no place in a celebration of a book that is still extremely important to American society 50 years after its first printing.

Worthwhile read, but get it out from the library instead of purchasing.

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