Friday February 19, 2016
Reclusive 'To Kill A Mockingbird' author Harper Lee takes mysteries to her grave
Harper Lee shied away from the spotlight most of her life. And today, with news of her death, she is again the centre of attention for those who adored her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
But her death at the age of 89 means that she will now remain inscrutable.
"So many questions that we would all like to ask her, answers that we'd all like to get, have now gone to her grave," documentary maker Mary McDonagh Murphy tells As It Happens host Carol Off.
Murphy not only made a film about Lee and her immensely popular novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. She wrote a book about it. After all that, there are still many things she longs to know.
"We want to more about how she wrote the book and what she would say about Atticus (Finch). She created these heroes and people think of her as a hero because she created them and, from what I know, she had a very complicated response to fame," says Murphy.
Lee, it seems, found the attention To Kill A Mockingbird brought her too intense. She gave her last interview in 1964 and said almost nothing else publicly in the 52 years that followed.
Murphy met her briefly last year when her second novel, Go Set A Watchman, was published. Lee actually wrote the book before To Kill A Mockingbird. The manuscript was lost and rediscovered. It has the same characters, but it is set later, in the 1950s. Many readers were shocked because the father character, Atticus Finch, displays racist attitudes.
Murphy was allowed to ask the author one question. Her query: "Did you ever think you would ever see this novel published?"
"She said, in the feisty, kind of grown-up Scout way her close friends say that she really behaves, she said to me, 'Of course, I did. Don't be silly,'" Murphy recalls.