Lum: Harper Lee’s second coming
Harper Lee’s second and last book (presumably, though rumors abound about a third) was released Tuesday. I preordered the CD version of “Go Set a Watchman” and can hardly wait to hear it.
Before our marriage shattered on the rocks, Burt and I used to read aloud to each other almost every night. Burt was a high school English teacher and my mother was president of the school board, so we came by it naturally.
We had no TV and didn’t want it. Instead, we read. “Borstal Boy,” “Catch-22,” “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” “Arctic Adventures,” “The Once and Future King” and “Winnie the Pooh” spring to mind as a sampling of our choices.
Oh, and Faulkners’ “The Bear” — I’ll never forget that. And anything to do with living in the wilderness (all lies!).
Burt did most of the reading — he was much better at it than I and could go on for hours while I, who grew up being read to by my mother, was perfectly content to listen.
Shortly after it came out in 1961, we read Harper Lee’s book “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which we thought was, to use the superlative phraseology of the day, a total nonstop double-clutching gas.
Two years later, we were in a cabin in Alaska without any electricity, much less TV, a scant few hours away from welcoming our daughter Skye to the planet.
We wanted to be sure this was really the moment of truth before we left for the Palmer hospital, some 50 miles away, so Burt was busily timing what we thought might be contractions, and I was getting increasingly pissed off feeling him looking at me and glancing at his watch.
“Read to me,” I said. “Read ‘Mockingbird.’”
This was a perfect choice. I was familiar with the book, so I didn’t have to pay unwavering attention but could weave in and out. Reading gave Burt something to do besides watching me — he could participate without interfering.
The twinges were erratic, but it was a long way over a four-wheel-drive road, and when some contractions were two minutes apart, we thought we had best get going. En route, Burt wanted to discuss what name we should choose if the baby was a boy, but I was way past the discussion stage. Skye was going to be a girl, and if not, name him whatever you want.
At the hospital, Burt was encouraged to time my contractions — clearly an exercise designed only to keep him occupied and amused — while I demanded, with increasing urgency and volume, “Keep reading!”
That’s what I most remember about “To Kill a Mockingbird” — Burt reading it aloud just as Skye was arriving and the subsequent movie being one of the very few that I thought was almost as good as the book — the book, the movie and Skye, all a double-clutching gas.
I have no idea what to expect of the new book. Lee, who is 89, was quoted as saying something like, “I wrote it, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.” Hell, I don’t blame her. She wrote it before “Mockingbird” and what could possibly follow it?
Still, I am champing to hear it.
Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks it’s no surprise that Skye named her dog Scout. This column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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