I had the great pleasure of being the guest speaker at a celebration of Harper Lee held at the Smyrna Public Library on Monday, July 13, 2015, and it was just about the nicest event a person could possibly imagine. We had a wonderful crowd of fifty people - four of whom actually bought copies of Beyond Casablanca! - and a fabulous spread of Southern treats made by the library staff. My talk was called "Maycomb, Past and Present: Reading Harper Lee in 2015." In it I discussed the ways in which To Kill a Mockingbird addresses tough issues that are still very much with us today, including racial prejudice, a biased legal system, class divisions, and mental illness. I had a lively audience with lots of good questions and comments, so I was glad that I had planned the talk as a conversation rather than a prepared lecture. Of course, we talked some about the 1962 film, Gregory Peck's performance as Atticus Finch, and how we think a film adaptation of Go Set a Watchman might approach the major characters in the new story. We also speculated about Go Set A Watchman and how it might change readers' feelings about the original novel, although most of the people in attendance were eager to read the new book for themselves. I'm sure the next few weeks will see a flood of reviews and commentaries as people digest the new novel's content.
Huge thanks to my friend, Mary Wallace Moore, for inviting me to speak and spend some time with her excellent staff and delightful library patrons. If you happen to be in the neighborhood of Smyrna, GA, do check out the lovely library facility and the nearby shopping village, especially The Corner Taqueria, where I had a very tasty lunch. You can read more about the Harper Lee event in this article from the Marietta Daily Journal.