© 2021 KALW
KALW Public Media / 91.7 FM Bay Area
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
NPR News

'Mockingbird' Moments: 'Scout, Atticus And Boo'

Gregory Peck won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his 1962 portrayal of Atticus in <em>To Kill a Mockingbird.</em>
Gregory Peck won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his 1962 portrayal of Atticus in <em>To Kill a Mockingbird.</em>

To Kill A Mockingbird remains a publishing phenomenon, even 50 years on. Harper Lee's story of racism and rebirth in a small Southern town was published to great acclaim in the summer of 1960 and still sells nearly 1 million copies every year.

In Scout, Atticus And Boo, Mary McDonagh Murphy gathers essays by fans of Lee's book that reflect on its enduring meaning.

The collection includes interviews with and remembrances from well-known figures like Oprah Winfrey, Wally Lamb, Rosanne Cash and Tom Brokaw.

Murphy says that when she asked her interview subjects to name and read their favorite scenes from the book, she was impressed at the variety of answers.

"There were only two passages that were repeated -- the classic, 'Miss Jean Louise, stand up, your father's passin',' and both Rick Bragg and James McBride read from the beginning of the book," she tells NPR's Neal Conan. Beyond that, everyone read from different sections.

Murphy's says her personal favorite is when Scout scatters the lynch mob with the choice line, "Hey, Mr. Cunningham ... I'm Jean Louise Finch. I go to school with Walter; he's your boy, ain't he?"

In such a rich text, filled as it is with themes of race, tolerance, judgment, loneliness and childhood, Murphy thinks "the actual writing and construction of the novel itself" tends to get overlooked. But, says Murphy, Lee's writing and the way she structured the novel is "magnificent."

Tell us: What people and places from To Kill A Mockingbird mean the most to you?

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.