By some (alright, maybe close to millions) deemed an epic story – albeit with the initial appearance of being as a nostalgic, maybe fictional, childhood memoir – it still took me years before I considered investing time to explore To Kill a Mockingbird (i.e. not simply skimming through it). I am not one to go get me a book, just because it sold some 30 000 000 copies. If anything, I probably would shy away from it.
Not until finding out the story had made it to Broadway last year, did I search through my book-shelves, like the maniac I usually am when looking for something I know definitely is there, just not where. (Do you really expect me to order all the books I got according to some alphabetical order? Really? Let me spell it out: I am not that person).
I found my yellowed copy of To Kill a Mockingbird months later, when, due to a serious writer’s block (the never-ending one), I embarked on a project re-arranging my modest “library”, moving all books around, until I found an acceptable system. Still not alphabetical. For obvious reasons.
I’m rambling. As per usual.
To be clear: It is advised taking the time reading Mockingbird, or else one might miss out on some of its more subtle aspects. If you have the inclination or ability, I would suggest you read an English edition, as some of the language dynamic and feel might be lost in translation, especially with regards to understanding how effectively (but not fairly), the American modes of speak, at the time, could define a person, and thus determined her destiny (and, I guess, nothing has really changed, in principle).
Apparently, Truman Capote knew this one “rare” storyteller Harper Lee, who penned a most magical, amusing as well as seriously troubling account. I am in no position to question T.C.’s judgement about the writer’s character. I am rather inclined to second that motion. Especially since he might even have inspired one of the characters of the story.
As I read Mockingbird, it came clear to me how many an American writer aspire to crack its code, with the hope to write an equally compelling saga as Harper Lee’s magnum opus. Now I realize how many an American novel I’ve read who clearly has the aspiration to be what Mockingbird is, but most definitely has failed in its attempt, and is far from it. Really, it has changed my view of many a post-Mockingbird American Novels, in a profound way. Well, you can’t blame any writer who aspires to write an equally honest and truthful story; it is not easy to accept the position of a truth-teller with very little to lose.
Mockingbird is a unique story. A significant merit is that it truly came out of the land, and the people, where the story is set. I also dare to claim (not that this statement would ever be questioned) it is an extraordinary achievement, even though the story initially might appear as having rather modest aspirations, as it plays out through the mind of a child. But it is not. Modest. It cracks open the myth that true justice always prevails, and exposes illusions we have about any society being truly fair. It exposes this in the most elegant (and sometimes quite amusing) of ways. So it exposes the inherent weakness of a judicial system, and thus its society: the very people that built it and represent it. But you can’t do without it, as it is all you really got to prevent chaos and mayhem. The way the truth is exposed, in Mockingbird, allows the opportunity for you to consider this, and its consequences.
Most of all it is unique because of Lee’s fearlessness as a writer, her authenticity and courage. Clearly, Lee knows what true love is, because she was loved. She understood the importance of community, dignity and respect of the other, for a just and fair society.
The only thing that bothers me with Mockingbird is to do with the rest of us, rather than Mockingbird itself. Why is it that we accept the status quo, when we have access to the accounts of brilliant truth-tellers, such as Harper Lee, who do not fear telling the truth?
It amazes me how easily the truth can be disregarded.
It amazes me that some still chose to look the other way, when this happens.
And I regret not knowing what to do about it.
Still, I feel like a better person for having read Mockingbird.
Because it taught me so much.
About letting go, and not being afraid of the dark.
Anita B Krišto © 2020