The Mockingbird Next Door, by Marja Mills

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Readers of daeandwrite not living under a rock will have seen that Harper Lee is about to publish her second novel, entitled “Go Set a Watchman,” a “newly discovered” novel written in the early 1950s, according to Harper Lee’s legal representative and her publisher Harper Collins.  Harper-Collins has today revealed the cover of Go Set a Watchman, above, which recalls the look of the original cover of To Kill A Mockingbird with elements of black tree branches and light green leaves against a solid background. http://www.harpercollins.com/books/9780062409850

Readers of daeandwrite may also remember that I’ve written of my concerns about the publication of this new find before:  https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/the-tale-around-the-tale-harper-lees-new-novel-go-set-a-watchman/.

My concerns have not lessened after reading Marja Mills’ recollection of her years of friendship with Harper and Alice Lee.  Mills, a former reporter and feature writer for the Chicago Tribune, went to Monroeville, Alabama, hoping against hope to meet with Harper Lee, the famously reclusive author for an interview about the Chicago Public Library’s selection of To Kill a Mockingbird as the first selection in its One Book, One Chicago program.  Although initially given the Lee run-around, Mills eventually became not only friendly with, but confidantes and neighbors of Harper and Alice Lee.

Mills gets no further than page 46 before she detailing Harper Lee’s aversion to publishing another book.  This incident below is in 1963, mind you.  Well after the publication of To Kill A Mockingbird.

Questions about her second book began to rankle.  She wasn’t making the progress she hoped, and preferred not to disclose the specifics of the novel she had been working on for more than a year at that point.  The expectations of a second novel were overwhelming.  When you start at the top, she told those close to her, there is nowhere to go but down.

Her decision never to publish another book took on the aura of a dramatic decision she had made early on after the overwhelming success of To Kill a Mockingbird  Her choice to live out of the public spotlight and begin a half century of silence seemed equally stark.

But the decision not to publish again was far more gradual than that.  As I got to know Nelle (Harper Lee) and her friends, I learned that, rather than a grand decision, the shape of her life was dictated by a series of choices made at different points along the way  For many years, she thought there might be a second book.

At age thirty-four, Harper Lee had a stunning achievement behind her, and a world of promise before her.  Naturally, she planned to write more.  She would turn her keen eye once more to the complexities of character and community.  In To Kill a Mockingbird and in future work she envisioned, the rich particulars of her corner of the Deep South could illuminate something universal.

“I hope to goodness every book I write improves,” she told an interviewer, only half in jest, in 1964.  “All I want is to be the Jane Austen of south Alabama.”

Then:  silence.

(Emphasis mine).  In 1964, Harper Lee was well-aware of having written what would have been the forerunner of To Kill A Mockingbird.  And clearly, had no intention of publishing it.  She made no reference to it, or even considered it.  She was thinking of, considering and planning future work, not thinking of past.

In the epilogue, Mills recounts that Nelle suffered a serious stroke in November 2007 and thereafter underwent months of hospital treatment and rehabilitation in hopes of being able to walk again.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and Nelle moved permanently into an assisted living center.  Nelle was, according to Mills, “able, for a time, to keep up with some reading, to hold the kind of conversations she used to with friends, to get out a fair amount.  She had good days and bad days.”

But, according to Mills, in her at least annual visits over the next several years, Harper Lee continued to decline.  Although the time frame is not completely clear, it appears that sometime between 2009 and 2011:

Things became increasingly difficult as Nelle’s condition worsened and her memory failed, as had [her sister] Louise’s, who died in 2009 at age ninety-three.  By the time I saw her a couple of visits later, she was not the Nelle I knew.

Another recent update is that, based on an anonymous tip filed by a self-proclaimed doctor and friend of Harper Lee concerned she was unable to give informed consent, the Alabama Human Resources Department is investigating a claim of elder abuse.  Articles from the Washington Post and New York Times outline the issues and cover the story in varying depth:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/03/12/report-alabama-investigating-possible-elder-abuse-in-connection-with-harper-lees-new-novel/http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/12/arts/artsspecial/harper-lees-ability-to-consent-to-new-book-continues-to-be-questioned.html?_r=0

Harper Lee wrote these beautiful words:  “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

It would be a sin to take advantage of one as well.

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Vintage Arthur Singer illustration

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The Tale Around the Tale: Harper Lee’s New Novel “Go Set a Watchman”

gregory peck

Atticus Finch, Harper Lee’s beloved fictional attorney from her American masterpiece To Kill A Mockingbird, embodies the strongest morals, ethics and actions.  He is an attorney who protects his client’s interests above his own, a father who teaches his children to respect other views and opinions even if they are different, and a neighbor who recognized and valued the unique in all.

“Atticus, you must be wrong.”

“How’s that?”

“Well, most folks seem to think they’re right and you’re wrong. . .”

“They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions,” said Atticus, “but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

On Tuesday, the literary world was rocked by the announcement that Harper Lee would publish a new book this summer.  Harper Lee!  Author of one novel in her 88 years of existence had a new novel coming out.  I heard the announcement on NPR as I was driving and very nearly had to pull off the road I was so excited.  When I reached my computer, I began looking up the news articles.  Harper Collins would publish in July; initial run of two million copies; Harper Lee thrilled that the book was so well-received; manuscript thought to be lost until Ms. Lee’s attorney found a copy of it attached to an original manuscript of To Kill A Mockingbird; story revolves around grown Scout going home to Macomb; written first.  You’ve probably seen the announcements too.  http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-31118355http://www.npr.org/2015/02/03/383578242/55-years-after-to-kill-a-mockingbird-harper-lee-to-release-new-novelhttp://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/02/How-the-Long-Sequel-to-Harper-Lees-To-Kill-A-Mockingbird-Was-Found/385131/.

A day later, concerns began to be raised.  Ms. Lee’s sister Alice who died in November, 2014 at the age of 103, had been Harper’s attorney, protector and essentially her guardian.  That is when Harper Lee’s new attorney, Tonja Carter, became involved.  In 2011, Alice Lee wrote: “Harper can’t see and can’t hear and will sign anything put before her by anyone in whom she has confidence.”

Tonja Carter is the attorney who located the manuscript of Go Set a Watchman.  According to the Wall Street Journal:

Shortly after getting her law degree from the University of Alabama in 2006, Ms. Carter started working at Alice Lee’s century-old law firm, Barnett, Bugg, Lee & Carter, LLC doing probate and criminal law work.

“Ms. Alice just loved her. She’s almost like family to [the Lees]” said William R. “Bob” McMillan, the circuit clerk of Monroe County who said he got to know Ms. Carter through his professional work, in an interview with Law Blog.

She’s also married to a pilot who is the son of a cousin to the late author Truman Capote, who was a close friend of Ms. Lee’s and also from Monroeville. In 2013, the couple opened a restaurant called “The Prop and Gavel” in Monroeville’s historic downtown square, according to the Alabama Tourism Department. The business is temporarily closed, according to its Facebook page.

http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2015/02/04/meet-the-lawyer-who-found-harper-lees-new-novel/.

According to the Martingale-Hubbell Law Directory, Tonja Brooks Carter graduated from the University of Alabama school of law in 2006.  Ms. Carter’s linkedin profile shows that her work experience as an attorney has been solely at the law firm of Barnett, Bugg, Lee and Carter in Monroeville, Alabama.  The Lee in firm was Alice Lee.  At this point, the firm consists only of John Barnett, III and Tonja Carter.  I have not been able to locate a website for the firm or a photo of Ms. Carter.  Her practice areas are listed on linkedin as including litigation, criminal law, family law and wills.

Ms. Carter appears to be as publicity-shy as her client, Harper Lee.

As do all states, the Alabama Supreme Court has established Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys, to which Ms. Carter and all attorneys in the state are subject.  For example:

Client-Lawyer Relationship
Rule 1.7.

Conflict of Interest: General Rule.

(a) A lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation of that client will be directly adverse to another client, unless:

(1) The lawyer reasonably believes the representation will not adversely affect the relationship with the other client; and

(2) Each client consents after consultation.

(b) A lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation of that client may be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client or a third person, or by the lawyer’s own interests, unless:

(1) The lawyer reasonably believes the representation will not be adversely affected; and

(2) The client consents after consultation. When representation of multiple clients in a single matter is undertaken, the consultation shall include explanation of the implications of the common representation and the advantages and risks involved.

Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct Client-Lawyer Relationship
Rule 1.8.

Conflict of Interest: Prohibited Transactions.

(a) A lawyer shall not enter into a business transaction with a client or knowingly acquire an ownership, possessory, security, or other pecuniary interest adverse to a client unless:

(1) the transaction and terms on which the lawyer acquires the interest are fair and reasonable to the client and are fully disclosed and transmitted in writing to the client in a manner that can be reasonably understood by the client;

(2) the client is given a reasonable opportunity to seek the advice of independent counsel in the transaction; and

(3) the client consents in writing thereto.

(b) A lawyer shall not use information relating to representation of a client to the disadvantage of the client unless the client consents after consultation, except as permitted or required by Rule 1.6 or Rule 3.3.

(c) A lawyer shall not prepare an instrument giving the lawyer or a person related to the lawyer as parent, child, sibling, or spouse any substantial gift from a client, including a testamentary gift, except where the client is related to the donee.

(d) Prior to the conclusion of representation of a client, a lawyer shall not make or negotiate an agreement giving the lawyer literary or media rights to a portrayal or account based in substantial part on information relating to the representation.

(e) A lawyer shall not provide financial assistance to a client in connection with pending or contemplated litigation, except that:

(1) a lawyer may advance court costs and expenses of litigation, the repayment of which may be contingent on the outcome of the matter;

(2) a lawyer representing an indigent client may pay court costs and expenses of litigation on behalf of the client;

(3) a lawyer may advance or guarantee emergency financial assistance to the client, the repayment of which may not be contingent on the outcome of the matter, provided that no promise or assurance of financial assistance was made to the client by the lawyer, or on the lawyer’s behalf, prior to the employment of

the lawyer; and

(4) in an action in which an attorney’s fee is expressed and payable, in whole or in part, as a percentage of the recovery in the action, a lawyer may pay, from his own account, court costs and expenses of litigation. The fee paid to the attorney from the proceeds of the action may include an amount equal to such costs and expenses incurred.

(f) A lawyer shall not accept compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless:

(1) the client consents after consultation or the lawyer is appointed pursuant to an insurance contract;

(2) there is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the client-lawyer relationship; and

(3) information relating to the representation of a client is protected as required by Rule 1.6.

(g) A lawyer who represents two or more clients shall not participate in making an aggregate settlement of the claims of or against the clients, or in a criminal case an aggregated agreement as to guilty or nolo contendere pleas, unless each client consents after consultation, including disclosure of the existence and nature of all claims or pleas involved and of the participation of each person in the settlement.

(h) A lawyer shall not make an agreement prospectively limiting the lawyer’s liability to a client for malpractice unless permitted by law and the client is independently represented in making the agreement, or settle a claim for such liability with an unrepresented client or former client without first advising that person in writing that independent representation is appropriate in connection therewith.

(i) A lawyer related to another lawyer as parent, child, sibling, or spouse shall not represent a client in a representation directly adverse to a person who the lawyer knows is represented by the other lawyer except upon consent by the client after consultation regarding the relationship.

(j) A lawyer shall not acquire a proprietary interest in the cause of action or subject matter of litigation the lawyer is conducting for a client, except that a lawyer may:

(1) acquire a lien granted by law to secure the lawyer’s fee or expenses; and
(2) contract with a client for a reasonable contingent fee in a civil case.
(k) In no event shall a lawyer represent both parties in a divorce or domestic

relations proceeding, or in matters involving custody of children, alimony, or child support, whether or not contested. In an uncontested proceeding of this nature a lawyer may have contact with the nonrepresented party and shall be deemed to have complied with this prohibition if the nonrepresented party knowingly executes a document that is filed in such proceeding acknowledging:

(1) that the lawyer does not and cannot appear to serve as the lawyer for the nonrepresented party;

(2) that the lawyer represents only the client and will use the lawyer’s best efforts to protect the client’s best interests;

(3) that the nonrepresented party has the right to employ counsel of the party’s own choosing and has been advised that it may be in the party’s best interest to do so; and

(4) that having been advised of the foregoing, the nonrepresented party has requested the lawyer to prepare an answer and waiver under which the cause may be submitted without notice and as may be appropriate.

(l) A lawyer shall not engage in sexual conduct with a client or representative of a client that exploits or adversely affects the interests of the client or the lawyer-client relationship, including, but not limited to:

(1) requiring or demanding sexual relations with a client or a representative of a client incident to or as a condition of legal representation;

(2) continuing to represent a client if the lawyer’s sexual relations with the client or the representative of the client cause the lawyer to render incompetent representation.

(m) Except for a spousal relationship or a sexual relationship that existed at the commencement of the lawyer-client relationship, sexual relations between the lawyer and the client shall be presumed to be exploitive. This presumption is rebuttable.

(n) While lawyers are associated in a firm, a prohibition in the foregoing paragraphs (a) through (h) and in paragraphs (j) and (k) that applies to one of them shall apply to all of them.

Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct Client-Lawyer Relationship
Rule 1.14.
Client with Diminished Capacity.

(a) When a client’s ability to make adequately considered decisions in connection with the representation is diminished, whether because of minority, mental impairment, or for some other reason, the lawyer shall, as far as reasonably possible, maintain a normal client-lawyer relationship with the client.

(b) When the lawyer reasonably believes that the client has diminished capacity, is at risk of substantial physical, financial, or other harm unless action is taken, and cannot adequately act in the client’s own interest, the lawyer may take reasonably necessary protective action, including consulting with individuals or entities that have the ability to take action to protect the client and, in appropriate cases, seeking the appointment of a guardian ad litem, conservator, or guardian.

(c) Information relating to the representation of a client with diminished capacity is protected by Rule 1.6. When taking protective action pursuant to paragraph (b), the lawyer is impliedly authorized under Rule 1.6(a) to reveal information about the client, but only to the extent necessary to protect the client’s interest.

     Atticus Finch would definitely have upheld these rules of conduct.  He exemplified them.  Let’s all hope Ms. Carter does as well.

To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

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Hush little baby, don’t say a word,

Mama’s gonna buy you a Mockingbird.

And if that mockingbird don’t sing

Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring

  To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s 1960 coming-of-age novel won the Pulitzer Prize, made the names Boo Radley, Scout and Atticus Finch cultural touchstones and arguably, at least in the case of Atticus Finch, archetypes, and may well have helped pave the way for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

    The story is a familiar one, not only in terms of this book, but to childhood itself.  There’s a new kid in town who challenges the norms.  Figuring an offensive burst is better than defending himself for his exotic background and petite frame, Dill taunts Scout and her brother Jem into confronting the stranger who lives in the spooky house within their midst:  Boo Radley.

   All the while, Jem and Scout’s widowed father Atticus Finch, a small town lawyer in the town of Macomb, Alabama, is fighting the struggle of his life, in court and out, in defending a black man, Tom Robinson, from the unfounded accusations of Mayella Ewell and her father Bob Ewell.  The book, and the film adaptation, are so full of iconic moments that one simply needs to see an image or read a brief quote and be reminded of the fullness of feeling contained throughout this beautiful novel.

.   Atticus and Tom   mocking book     to_kill_a_mockingbird_photo

  On the eve of the novel’s fiftieth anniversary, American media outlets celebrated the novel in the way only American media outlets would:  by unleashing venom upon the book, Harper Lee and the novel’s fans.  The Wall Street Journal said, “It’s time to stop pretending that “To Kill a Mockingbird” is some kind of timeless classic that ranks with the great works of American literature.”  http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748703561604575283354059763326.  The New Yorker published Malcolm Gladwell’s interestingly harsh criticism of To Kill A Mockingbird on the eve of the novel’s 50th anniversary.  Gladwell’s hypothesis is that Atticus should have been a stronger defender of civil rights and lacked moral fiber.  http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/08/10/the-courthouse-ring.

It just seems to me that to judge Atticus Finch by 2009 standards is unfair.  Atticus was a man of his time and place, as Harper Lee makes very clear.  “He liked Maycomb, he was Maycomb County born and bred; he knew his people, they knew him and because of Simon Finch’s industry, Atticus was related by blood or marriage to nearly every family in town.”  He treats everyone with respect; including some people the New Yorker and the Wall Street Journal writers deem unworthy.  And everyone, almost everyone, in the town respects him.

A jury never looks at a defendant it has convicted, and when this jury came in, not one of them looked at Tom Robinson.  The foreman handed a piece of peer to Mr. Tate who handed it to the clerk who handed it to the judge. . . .

I shut my eyes.  Judge Taylor was polling the jury:  “Guilty . . . guilty . . . guilty . . . guilty . . . ”  I peeked at Jem:  his hands were white from gipping the balcony rail, and his shoulders jerked as if each “guilty” was a separate stage between them.

. . .

Atticus took his coat off the back of his chair and pulled it over his shoulder.  Then he left the courtroom, but not by his usual exit.  He must have wanted to go home the short way, because he walked quickly down the middle aisle toward the south exit.  I followed the top of his head as he made his way to the door.  He did not look up.

Someone was punching me, but I was reluctant to take my eyes from the people below us, and from the image of Atticus’s lonely walk down the aisle.

“Miss Jean Louise?”

I looked around.  They were all standing.  All around us and in the balcony on the opposite wall, the Negroes were getting to their feet.  Reverend Sykes’s voice was as distant as Judge Taylor’s:

“Miss Jean Louise, stand up.  Your father’s passin’.”

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MENU

The book is plumb full of great food, from Calpurnia’s summertime daily does of lemonade, to the many angel food cakes, to the Halloween pageant costumes of Maycomb County agricultural products including ham, beef, butter beans and peanuts.

My book club menu for To Kill A Mockingbird would include:

County ham and biscuits

Butterbeans (baby lima beans) with butter, salt and pepper

Roasted new potatoes (400 degree oven, salt & pepper and olive oil til crispy)

My grandmother’s angel food cake

1 1/4 up soften cake flour

1/2 cup sugar

12 egg whites at room temperature

1 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/3 cup sugar

Measure sifted four, add 1/2 cup sugar and sift four times.  Combine egg whites, cram of tartar, salt and flavorings in large bowl.  Beat at high sped until soft peaks form.  Sprinkle in rest of sugar in 4 additions beating until blended after each addition.  Sift in flour mixture in four additions, folding in with large spoon, turn bowl often.  Pour into ungreased 10 inch tube pan and bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes.  Cook cake upside down in pan on cake rack.

And of course, Tequila Mockingbirds

  • 1 Jalapeño pepper slice
  • 2 oz Patrón Silver Tequila
  • 1.5 oz Watermelon-Basil Purée*
  • .75 oz Fresh lime juice
  • .75 oz Agave syrup (one part agave nectar, one part water)

In a shaker, muddle the jalapeño slice. Add the remaining ingredients and fill with ice. Shake for 10 seconds and double strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.

*Watermelon-Basil Purée

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups Chopped fresh watermelon
  • 7 Basil leaves

PREPARATION:
Purée both ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Refrigerate until needed.

 MUSIC

Must start with James Taylor and Carly Simon’s Mockingbird!  This video is too much fun, to see Sweet Baby James and Carly dancing the shag mid-song.  http://youtu.be/4WM_R-6AKHE

Rocking Robin, Jackson Five

Blackbird, the Beatles

Freebird (if you can stand it)

Little Bird, Annie Lennox

MOVIE CASTING

There’s no need to remake To Kill a Mockingbird, but if Hollywood should ever decide it wants to, I can only hope George Clooney will be cast as Atticus Finch.

 

Happy Reading & Eating!

 

 

Mockingbird illustration by Jon Janoski, credit Encyclopedia Britannica