Wednesday, March 9, 2016


by Dotti

Let’s have a show of hands –

How many of you have read, “To Kill a Mockingbird”? Yes, I see a lot of hands, as I expected. Is there anybody out there today who hasn’t read it? If so, you may want to think about getting a copy either at your bookstore or on your Kindle/e-reader.

I have totally lost count of how many times I’ve read the book and watched the movie but it’s definitely in double digits. When the movie first came out, I was a young teen ager and my mother took me to see it. When it came to the courthouse scene where Tom Robinson is on trial, I remember sneaking a sideways glance at my mother – was she really letting me watch this movie? (Remember – this was the 60’s.) I knew she’d read the book even though I hadn’t at that point; she read everything. It was also the occasion of my falling in love with Gregory Peck.

It’s always hard to answer when people ask me what my favorite book or movie is. It’s kind of like asking me to choose my favorite photograph. Or child (even though I have only one). Or song. Or whatever. Is it really possible to have only one favorite anything? There are so many that we love. But when pressed, I answer that “To Kill a Mockingbird” is my favorite book and movie.

The prose in this book captured me in the opening chapter as Scout describes the small town of Maycomb. “A day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with … “. But it wasn’t just the beautiful writing, there is much more inside this gem of a story.

Perhaps the most compelling reason I can think of for my answer is that each time I read the book or watch the movie, there is some other kernel of wisdom that I learn, that I somehow missed the other thirty three times I read the book.

Take a walk down memory lane with me to talk about just a few of my favorites.

We’ve all heard Atticus telling Scout that, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  I often think about this although we tend to characterize it as walking a mile in another man’s shoes. I think I like Atticus’ characterization better.

And then there is the passage when Atticus is speaking to Scout about the trial of Tom Robinson, “This time we aren’t fighting the Yankees, we’re fighting our friends. But remember this, no matter how bitter things get, they’re still our friends and this is still our home.” Gosh. Do you think maybe, just maybe, we should remember that in this prickly society we seem to find ourselves living in here in the 21st century?

During a family Christmas, after he evaded a question from Scout, Atticus’ brother Jack tells Atticus what happened and how evasive he was in answering her too-grown up question. Atticus tells his younger bachelor brother, “When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness’ sake. But don’t make a production out of it. Children are children but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles ‘em.” Oh, my! Now that is wisdom every parent and grandparent should know, something we should repeat to ourselves daily. Maybe more than once!

And, then, of course, the iconic quote; again, Atticus speaking to Scout, “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em. But remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

Oh, there are so many more! But I know you have other things to do today so I’ll stop here. I re-read the book last fall but after reading all the recent articles after Harper Lee’s passing and reminiscing on some of my favorite parts, I may have to read it again soon. After all, I’m sure there is still something for me to learn.

I have not read, “Go Set a Watchman”. In fact, the release of that book is what prompted me to re-read “Mockingbird” for the ump-hundredth time. I wanted to visit it again before deciding whether or not I should read “Watchman”. After reading this dear-to-my-heart story yet again, I decided to forgo “Watchman”. But tell me - have you read “Watchman”? What did you think?


AFishGirl said...

"Stuart Little." "The Humans." "The Dog Stars." "The Tent Dwellers." "Abel's Island." "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe." I spent much of my childhood safely settled inside a book. It was my refuge, my respite from the chaos around me. I read and I read and I read. All of those stories stay with me, the characters, the flow of beautiful sentences, the evocation of place and time. Books. I love the touch and the smell of them, libraries are in my top five of places where I feel happiest. Thank you for this post, Dotti. Lovely shots and ah yes, that book. Indeed.

Carol said...

Oh my gosh ! That book truly, truly deserves its reputation as a masterpiece in this over-hyped world! (And I am right there with you about Gregory Peck too!) What a perfect time to read it. Maybe if everyone did ( including our politicians) we could get some kindness and dignity back in our world. As you say, there are so many wonderful teachings in it besides the main story.
I can't bring myself to read Watchman. Harper Lee lived a very long life. I feel that if she wanted it published, she would have done it. Some critics frame it as a result of her reticent personality, or fear of failure, but many say Watchman was simply practice, story development on the way to her masterpiece. I prefer to go with the second. I just can't face tarnishing Atticus in my mind!
Great inspirational post today, Dotti . I will have to read it again soon.

kybarb said...

Love your photo Dotti! And I see why you were interested in my post on FB about the play coming to Cinti Playhouse soon! Your post makes me want to re-read the book.

kimmanleyort said...

Beautiful writing, Dotti. I sense your deep connection to this book. A book I re-read every ten years or so is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Cathy said...

It is so hard to pick a favorite, but years ago, way back in my college days I read The Dollmaker by Harriet Simpson Arnow and was mesmerized. I have read at least four or five times. It was made into a movie, which I resisted watching until just a few years ago, so afraid it would ruin the magic this books seems to hold for me. It was okay, but as always the book is much better.

janice said...

An all time favorite...Beautiful post Dotti.

kelly said...

it's always interesting to me how some books can stay with you can always find some new perspective. been a while since I've read 'mockingbird'....may have to dust it off and read it again. xoxo

Cathy H. said...

I wouldn't want to imagine a world without books and the memories they bring. I rarely read a book more than once. It's a fear I guess, that I'm not going to have enough time to read all the books I want if I take time out to reread one. Crazy, I know, but that's just me! Great post today!

Susan Licht said...

That's my favorite book of all time. After reading many reviews of "Watchman", I decided not to read it. I felt that it would ruin my love for "Mockingbird" and also felt that the publishing of that book was a bit of a marketing ploy. Wonderful post, Dotti!

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