Friday, January 6, 2012

Hey, Boo

So, the Mr. and I were fed up with Time Warner Cable's usurious rate hikes, and finally did something about it: we ditched the cable portion of our package, got an Xbox Live Gold Membership (around $60 per year) and got streaming Netflix and Hulu. It's not exactly the same experience. One upside is that Netflix has all sorts of offbeat stuff streaming that you'd really have to hunt for on cable TV. The documentary "Hey, Boo" is one of them, and we watched it tonight.

It's a strange coincidence that I was just writing yesterday about how I'd like to interview Harper Lee, then I watched a documentary about her. I learned many interesting factoids about her life and her book, for example:

The courtroom in her hometown, where her lawyer father used to work, was replicated precisely for the movie, and is now a museum.

When Harper Lee was a young woman, working at the airline reservation counter in New York and trying to hone her writing, a very good friend of hers who had made a big pile of cash off music royalties gave her a year's worth of living expenses so she could write. "To Kill a Mockingbird" was the result.

She had a brother who died of a brain aneurism at 31, and a sister who turned 99 in 2010 (the year of the documentary) and was still practicing law.

The documentary was studded with many literary stars, including Richard Russo, Wally Lamb, and Allan Gurganis. Oprah Winfrey was also in it, as was the girl who played Scout in the movie. It included footage of teachers discussing the book with their students. The writers talked about their favorite parts of the book, and what it meant to them. Richard Russo highlighted the father-daughter relationship, and the conversation Atticus had with Scout after she told him that other kids were saying he defended niggers. Oprah Winfrey choked up, reading the moving passage in the book after Tom is found guilty and the entire black community stands to honor Atticus' efforts to defend him. Anna Quindlen said that she collected incendiary, non-conventional heroines growing up, and counted Scout among them.

I had no idea that Harper Lee hadn't granted an interview since the 1960s, although I knew she'd stepped back from the public eye. The documentary made me wonder even more, how she felt about the tremendous, enduring reaction to her book and what her intent was when she wrote it.