Sunday, September 15, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Fifty-eight - Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & To Kill A Mockingbird, "To write beautifully, and walk away..."

...if only some other well read (but, not well remembered) authors did the same.

The story of Hey, Boo focuses not only on the work itself, but also the life and times of the author and her choice to recede from the both public life and the medium itself.

Bouncing back and forth between the creative moments that lead up to the novel, to her early life in rural Alabama, to the fame she almost instantly garnered in the 60's and on to her reclusive life since then, Hey, Boo gives both a character portrait of the woman (and some of her contemporaries) and a long view of the impact of her work.

I was particularly interested in the opinions of the half-dozen or so authors and entertainers who claim its influence on their own reading habits and how it might have shaped them as people and writers. Being an aspiring writer, myself, these kind of analytic documentaries hold up the mystique of the process to a light, albeit slightly obscured, as never does the woman, herself, speak directly on the subject save for those rare moments caught on tape back when she was still giving interviews in the 60's.

I'm not exactly sure I appreciate Andrew Young's comments, as his first remarks come across a bit self-righteous, but as the interview wore on his testimony became a bit more balanced and gracious. Maybe it's just that I've grown cynical over the years, listening to his slightly bombastic and self-gratifying commentary about his work doing the era, but I suppose he deserves a bit of latitude in that regard.

Still annoys me a little, though.

Oddly enough, the other dominating personalities that show up in the documentary don't really bother me so. I really rather liked Oprah Winfrey's accounts both on how she was influenced by the book and her personal meeting with Harper Lee. The same could be said for the others, including: Lizzie Skurnick, Scott Turow, James Patterson, Anna Quindlin, Tom Brokaw, and more.

I think what got me the most about the piece was Ms. Lee's personal connection to Truman Capote and the character in the novel that was supposedly based on him, Dill. It shames me to admit that I never knew of this connection before and it adds a layer of context to both the novel and their personal life together that is fascinating, more than a little scandalous, and somewhat depressing.

Hey, Boo is tremendously interesting and compelling, for its look at the author, its analysis of the impact of both the novel and the movie, and the testimonials of so many people... writers, teachers and students, family and friends. If you're any sort of writer (or would just like to know more about the author), I'd definitely recommend this documentary.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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