I recently re-read and reviewed Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. (Click to read my review). In re-reading, I found it to be every bit the timeless classic of its reputation. In the review, I only touched on a controversy that has raged since the book’s publication–is it really the product of Harper Lee’s pen, or did her childhood friend, Truman Capote, write it?
Mockingbird is the only book Lee claims to have written. Could she have really only had this one brilliant masterpiece in her, or is her brilliant masterpiece not really hers?
The literati in Alabama (so far as such a thing exists) is obsessed with Mockingbird. Every so often, the question of authorship resurfaces. It has again arrived, in a piece originally appearing in the Mobile Register in 2001, and republished in today’s (April 4, 2012) Birmingham News, by author Jim Gilbert.
I won’t spoil his conclusion, but I’ll offer my assessment–Harper Lee and Truman Capote probably collaborated on the book, but like all fiction, it is autobiographical, and not of Capote’s life. The main character, Scout, is undoubtedly modeled after Lee in her childhood. Maycomb, the setting for the tale, is modeled after Monroeville, Lee’s lifelong home. Capote may have helped Lee put the story to words–his literary talents were almost as legendary as his penchant for riotous living. But it was Lee’s story. And it is masterfully told, regardless who might have been looking over her shoulder as she put pen to paper in the telling.