Harper Lee: All the honors

President Bush is awarding Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Bravo, Mr. President, and Brava, Ms. Lee.

From the press release:

Harper Lee has made an outstanding contribution to America’s literary tradition. At a critical moment in our history, her beautiful book, To Kill a Mockingbird, helped focus the Nation on the turbulent struggle for equality.

To Kill A Mockingbird is on my top ten favorite books list. I have read it dozens of times, and will doubtless read it dozens more. IMHO, it should be in the list of the top three American novels, with Huckleberry Finn in the number one slot and The Great Gatsby third. (Hemingway doesn’t come on the list at all. I think he’s an overhyped hack.)

So good for you, Ms. Lee. You deserve it.

George W Bush has announced that Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, is to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honour that can be bestowed upon a civilian.

The medal, established in 1963, is awarded for an “especially meritorious contribution” to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, or for their accomplishments in the areas of culture or “other significant public or private endeavours.”

Lee won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for the novel, which is credited with helping to focus the country at the height of the civil-rights movement by raising awareness of the injustices of discrimination.

It tells the story of a small-town Alabama lawyer, Atticus Finch, who defends a black man accused of raping a local white woman. The narrator of the story is six-year-old Scout, the daughter of Atticus.

Although downplaying the idea that To Kill A Mockingbird is semi-autobiographical, it bears a striking resemblance to her early life. She was born in Monroeville, a small town in Alabama, and her father was also a lawyer.

In 1931, when Lee was six, nine young black men in Scottsboro, Alabama, were accused of raping two white women, and, despite the lack of any evidence, the men were convicted by an all-white jury.

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4 Responses to Harper Lee: All the honors

  1. Paul says:

    Congratulations to Ms. Lee !!

  2. John M says:

    She should get a Nobel, in my opinion.

  3. Charles Polak says:

    I remember when reading “Mockingbird” at age 14 that I didn’t like Lee’s attributing the statement that Jews were “the best people in the world”, and tears over their persecution in Germany, to a(n anti-Black) racist teacher. I already had a feel for the “new antisemitism”, often so sympathetic to darker “victim” peoples – and isn’t Lee friends with one of their worst, Gore Vidal? Possibly, like the late Patricia Highsmith, Lee may be a link between the old and the new in this “distinguished” tradition…

  4. Charles, I’ve always taken that particular incident as a comment on the idiot teacher, who is both racist and anti-Semitic. You just know that the second she got the chance, she’d go on about the Jews in a negative way. I never took that as a nod by Lee to casual Semitism of the Depression-era south. In any case, you may want to read the book again now that you’re no longer 14, and get a better understanding of it.

    Are you really going to slam Lee for being friends with Gore Vidal? Vidal may be a son of a bitch, and you may not agree with his politics, but how is it a crime to be friends with him? It’s not like he’s a mass-murdering piece of shit like, say, Yasser Arafat. Whom Jimmy Carter counted among his friends.

    If you’re going to tear down Ms. Lee, you’re going to have to come up with a lot more than what you’ve got so far.

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