To Kill a Mockingbird

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is 50 years old.
Frankly, I think it’s had work done.
It doesn’t look a day over 35 to me.

All kidding aside, this is a book I have always loved passionately. I read it at just the right age–twelve, I believe–and growing up in a small, southern town, I nodded in recognition at the prejudices, manners, eccentricities, Gothic sensibilities, preoccupation with reputation, and class structure of Maycomb County. I hadn’t read it probably in twenty years, but I’ve spent the past week reliving it, marveling at the way Harper Lee catches you in the web of the story, the spinning-a-yarn pacing that’s probably out of place in today’s jump-cut /let’s-get-to-it world but which allowed me to luxuriate in the telling of the tale. I enjoyed the sly satire I think I missed the first time around and the skillful evisceration of hypocrisy. I ached from the loss of innocence Lee explores and, of course, the terrible scourge of racism, the scar that runs still down the heart of our country.

Tonight, I’ve been asked to participate in a 50th Anniversary Celebration of the novel at Symphony Space.

I truly cannot believe I am getting to discuss one of my favorite books while sharing a stage with these amazing people. Jayne Anne Phillips’ BLACK TICKETS was a book I clutched to my chest in my college years. I’m afraid if I gaze upon her, the light of her genius will reduce me to ash. Will bring the shades just in case. But there’s also the company of Oskar Eustis. Kurt Anderson. Mary McDonagh Murphy. And Stephen Colbert. Stephen “I’ll see you in hell” Colbert? Dude.

Not sure what I’m wearing to this event yet, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be packing a Depends.

If you’re in NYC tonight and looking for wonderful party, come on down. Curtain time is 8:00 PM. Boo Radley masks optional.

By the way, I first discovered TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD in the place where many such wonderful discoveries were made: the public library. Libraries, as you may know, are in trouble these days. So if you’d like to honor a great book on its 50th anniversary, show your local library some love. Do what you can to save and support them.

I’ve got a deadline to meet, so I’m back to it. But tomorrow, I promise to give you a full report on the evening.

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