Thursday, June 25, 2009

13. Two for one.

13. I Am Scout: A Biography of Harper Lee (Charles J. Fields) was found in the school library as I walked out of the computer lab following a day spent answering the same ten questions five thousand times (does NO ONE read directions?) as my students worked on a stock market project. To Kill A Mockingbird has always been a favorite book of mine (I know I am not the first to say that) and I find it interesting that the author, Harper Lee, never wrote anything else. (But, seriously-talk about pressure!) Thus, I thought a peek into her life would be quite interesting.

Apparently Mr. Shields wrote a first biography directed at adults, and I Am Scout was his edition for the teen could kind of tell. It was a little choppy at times, but still a good read. We find that Ms. Lee's real name is Nelle but went by her middle name, as she did not want it mispronounced "Nellie." Her close childhood friend Truman Capote, upon whom the character Dill is based, basically screwed her over following the monumental success of In Cold Blood, refusing to acknowledge the integral role she played in gaining information about the case. (Side note: What is the big deal about his book? I think the man just knew how to market himself well. I thought it was meh, and we all know my opinion is the only one that truly matters.) I recommend it to anyone who loves her book...and if you have not yet read this masterpiece, go sit in the corner. Seriously. Of course I had to pick it up when I should have been doing a hundred other things (this was when school was still in session) and it is definitely a book that transcends the ages. The following quote by Clifton Fadiman is very apropos: "When you reread a classic you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than was there before."

During my time reading TKAM, I got into a, well, we'll call it a discussion with a student. This kid is the type who thinks he is always right and quibbled over every single point I ever docked him. I basically told him he was prejudiced/racist, and advised him to read the book, showing him the following quote: "If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it." (Atticus Finch. Coolest name ever.) I doubt he took my little literary lesson to heart.

PS-I am always reminded of Grandma and Grandpa Urmston when I read To Kill A Mockingbird; on one of the trips they took Nicole and me on, I remember watching the movie for the first time. Interestingly, Gregory Peck's role was much smaller initially, but it was built up, paving the way for his Oscar. Harper Lee's first choice for the role of Atticus (based upon her on father) was Spencer Tracy.

PPS-This was assigned reading in Mrs. Reider's 8th grade literature class (one of the best teachers), and the final project included creating a map of the fictional town of Maycomb, AK, the book's setting. Laura O'Rullian and I spent hours at Erin McCarthy's house (the night before, of course) putting this flipping thing together. You had to hunt through the book to make sure the post office was on the correct corner and that Ms. Dubose's house was just so. What is in I Am Scout? A map of Harper Lee's town of Monroeville, upon which Maycomb was based. What. Ever.

Holy crap. I need to pick up the pace if I am going to read 50 new books this year.


Courtney said...

mrs. reiders class was AMAZING!!! although she did tell me to read George Orwells 1984 in 8th grade and i cried during the whole thing. TKAMK is the best, almost good as Great of my favs. I love in benny and Joon when Joon says "having a Boo Radley Moment are we"

Jensen's Funny Farm said...

You read intense books!! I can read almost a book a night/day. But they are more like Nora Roberts, Carly Phillips. You know the stuff our moms call "porn" books. (Even though my mom reads them too!) I love to read you blog. And see new pics of you. You are sooo Beautiful! Love, Angie