In 1993, Lee penned a brief foreword to her book. In it she asks that future editions of To Kill a Mockingbird be spared critical introductions. “ Mockingbird, ” she writes, “still says what it has to say; it has managed to survive the years without preamble.” The book remains a staple of high school and college reading lists, beloved by millions of readers worldwide for its appealing depiction of childhood innocence, its scathing moral condemnation of racial prejudice, and its affirmation that human goodness can withstand the assault of evil.
David Baker: Well, it’s certainly it’s about prejudice, it’s about pride, it’s about prejudgment. But you know the thing that struck me most about it is the universality of traits that are found in all human beings are in this book. Particularly, the fact that it’s a book told through the eyes of a little girl as she becomes a woman. And I find that very beautiful…‘cause it’s almost biblical in the sense a child, a little child shall lead them. And I guess I’m also struck by the way that Harper Lee characterized the various players in the book. For instance, the fact that there is that duality that all human beings have that nobody’s essentially all bad or all good. And I thought that, more than anything else, she was able to capture that. And I thought about an ad that I happened to be seeing on TV the other night when I was, you know, going through the book again, and it’s the ad that Kobe Bryant does. And he talks about, “People hate me because I swagger, they hate me because I score too many points, they hate me because I’m a pro.” And then when he finishes all of that, he says very quietly, “It’s the same reason that some people love me.” And I thought about that when I thought about, you know, some of the characters here who are very, very bad, are very evil seemingly in intent. And yet then there’ll be somebody who happens that says there’s something redeemable about them.
Starred Review. Lee's beloved American classics makes its belated debut on audio (after briefly being available in the 1990s for the blind and libraries through Books on Tape) with the kind of classy packaging that may spoil listeners for all other audiobooks. The two CD slipcases housing the 11 discs not only feature art mirroring Mary Schuck's cover design but also offers helpful track listings for each disk. Many viewers of the 1962 movie adaptation believe that Lee was the film's narrator, but it was actually an unbilled Kim Stanley who read a mere six passages and left an indelible impression. Competing with Stanley's memory, Spacek forges her own path to a victorious reading. Spacek reads with a slight Southern lilt and quiet authority. Told entirely from the perspective of young Scout Finch, there's no need for Spacek to create individual voices for various characters but she still invests them all with emotion. Lee's Pulitzer Prize–winning 1960 novel, which quietly stands as one of the most powerful statements of the Civil Rights movement, has been superbly brought to audio. Available as a Perennial paperback. (Aug.)
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