Quick, before it goes behind the New York Times pay wall, read this feature from last Monday. Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird, does not venture out much and declines most interviews — for which there have been many requests of late because she is depicted in “Capote.” But she does make an annual appearance in Tuscaloosa, Alabama:
They come with cameras dangling on their wrists and dressed, respectfully, as if they were about to issue an insurance policy or anchor the news. An awards ceremony for an essay contest on the subject of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the occasion attracts no actor, politician or music figure. Instead, it draws someone to whom Alabamians collectively attach far more obsession: the author of the book itself, Harper Lee, who lives in the small town of Monroeville, Ala., one of the most reclusive writers in the history of American letters.
With more than 10,000,000 copies sold since it first appeared in 1960, “To Kill a Mockingbird” exists as one of the best-selling novels of all time…. But since the essay contest, sponsored by the Honors College at the University of Alabama, got going five years ago, Ms. Lee, who is 79, has attended the ceremony faithfully, meeting with the 50 or so winners from most of the state’s school districts and graciously posing for pictures with the parents and teachers who accompany them.
That just sets the scene. Read the story.