on harper lee’s death

Posted: February 19, 2016 in writing about writing
Tags: ,
when i was 16 or so, an adult leader in boy scouts handed me two books to read
one was ‘a separate peace’ by john knowles
the other
‘to kill a mockingbird’ by harper lee
in one transaction, i was gifted with two of the best books i have ever had the pleasure of reading
i have those copies still today
the pages are loose, and i keep a rubber band around the paper back so i don’t lose any of them

my sons have read them- either in school or at home
we lost mr knowles in 2001
and sadly we lost ms lee today
i dabble at writing
it is an outlet i choose sometimes when i am in pain
i prefer short writings myself- 6-800 words or so
with short writing, there is no extra room for superfluous words, or even syllables
each word must convey a precise meaning that ties the reader’s current position in the story to the next word or phrase
and it must do so seamlessly, without it being noticeable to the reader
the spell that is created with the opening phrase, must not be broken or disturbed until the closing exhalation as the reader releases the breath they’ve been holding until they have processed the end of the story
and i believe, maybe to my own deception, that i do this fairly well
but i could not maintain such a trance over the length of even a short novel, or over the raw subject matter of small southern town racism and rape
but harper lee did just that
she wrote in a way that compelled the reader to turn the page- but not with a sense of compulsion, but rather a sense of urgent anticipation
it is one of the books, that no matter how many times i read, which causes me to cheat sleep and ignore aching arm muscles as i hold the book aloft (and in my case, together)
some books do that for me once or maybe twice
but ‘to kill a mockingbird’ does that for me each and every time i read it
this weekend, i think i’ll sit with a good cigar, a nice single malt scotch, and a fine piece of wtiting as i toast the talent and mourn the loss of harper lee.

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