Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" has had an enormous impact on our culture, has been part of the educational curriculum, has been referenced, studied, analyzed and interpreted. Her second novel, "Go Set a Watchman", was a publishing sensation, surrounded by controversy and intrigue. As an author she was both inspiration and cautionary tale, her life probed and interpreted. "I am Scout: a biography of Harper Lee" by Charles Shields and "The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee" by Marja Mills are but two of many biographies and profiles showing an artist reluctant to be in fame's spotlight. Harper Lee stopped directly interacting with the press in 1964 and even the documentary Harper Lee: American Masters, available until February 29th for free streaming through PBS, lacks her voice, her work and life represented by others.
For an author whose work has had such cultural impact, it's not surprising her death on Feburary 19th provoked public remembrances but it's the personal stories that have been coming out this week that have been most touching. Everyone seems to have a story of how Lee's work or life has impacted their own. The comic strip Bloom County, currently being published via Facebook after the author was inspired by Lee to begin publishing again, memorialized Ms. Lee's passing with a strip. Opus, the lovable penguin finishes "To Kill a Mockingbird." Tearing up, he places the book in a cigar box with treasured mementos. He gathers it up, and, using a tire to prop himself up, tucks it in a tree hollow and reflects, "We should prob'bly remember something about Miss Lee... Folks thought she was Scout. Nah. She was always Boo."