tv Panel Discussion on Harper Lee CSPAN August 23, 2015 12:00am-1:01am EDT
released this past july. this is live coverage of the inaugural mississippi book festival in jackson, mississippi. [inaudible conversations] >> good morning, ladies and gentlemen. we welcome you to the mississippi book festival, to our harper lee panel. the rules the we have up in esre, there will be no if you actually made it in youe. with beverages and would like ty ask you to go to a garbage can and places in the garbage can. the next thing, please everyone silence your cell phones.hones. we need everyone at this particular moment to please silence your cell phones. i would like to introduce the moderator amanda nelson. she is the managing editor of a riot the largest book site ink
north america. she's also a judge of theal 2016th translated book award and is an expert on the topic she is about to lead on thehe discussion discussion. ladies and gentlemen welcome to the harper lee panel.ea [applause] >> thank you. i'd like being called expert on something. that's pretty nice.ll i'm amended they'll send thet editor of book riot and i would like to reiterate i'm going to quickly introduce my panelists and then we will jump right and in the last ms will be reserved friday's questions and if you have questions during that time. this is my panel obviously. first weio have sterling plumppi the author of 14 books including "home/bass" ornate wood smoke and blues narratives.ters
the university of illinoisssor chicago whereme he served on the faculty and african-american studies and english department had most recently served as the master of fine arts at chicago university. the recipient of numerous awards as a blues poet and african-american cultural storyteller including the 2014 american book awards of literature.4 currently the sponsor the writing residents at sanibel university. [applause] next is beth ann fennelly richie directs the program ad ors message. yer work has been included in the best american poetry series. she has published three poetry breaks her first "open house" sub seven when the first kenyan review prize the writers award in facebook since tope, poetry books.d
heard she has also published a book of nonfiction's. family write essays on travel and science country living oxford american and others.hern thank you so much.. [applause] next is up on the author of the highly acclaimed utility of novel for young adults. f thame critically it claimed coming-of-age story followed byn "up close". in between came grading smart, stories of -- writing smart creative writing advice of stories for screenwriters andd h dozens of short stories and
essays and articles appearing "the los angeles times" or "washington post" salon and others. carrie teaches creative writing at the university of alabama birmingham so welcome kerry madden. [applause]ory and last but not least w. ralphi eubanks is the author of evers, long time.fellowsh i housed at thipe end of the rod a story of three generations of an inter-racial family and the american south. in's a guggenheim fellow and was the recipient of schwartz fellowship at the new america foundation.be in his essays have appeared in the american scholar the "washington post" "the wall street journal" timess and "national public eldio." he now lives in d.c.. so, thank you. [applause] welcome, come on and.ecen we are going to jump right in.el
in light of "go set a i r watchman"'s recent u.s. american readers about their favorite books on race, civil rights is usually at the top of the list. i would like to ask the panel why they think that is, why do many readers consider "to kill a mockingbird" to the america's equality novel when it is not about that at all? you don't have to go down a line. >> a lot of it has to do with
the time "to kill a mockingbird" came out. was released in 1960, the film version, 1962. because of what was going on historically at that time, it is tied in with all of that. i was working on my piece for time on the eighteenth, i randomly asked people what year was "to kill a mockingbird" set in and not a single person said 1935. i think we conflate the timing of it and because of the time we often think it must be a civil rights novel. that is one of the reasons. and the way that harper lee worked with folklore and myth exploring some 7 myths and blowing through the means always. that is another reason. >> i agree that it was the time
and also with "go set a watchman" and what happened to charleston, her books come out at these explosive periods and that is what people think of it as. >> is possible that harper lee is incorrect in her assertion. it would not be the first time a writer doesn't have a good sense of his or her own projects. i think it is a novel about inequality, racial inequality is at the core of the novel and she claims it is not is curious. >> i think it is more subtle. 1991-1995, the anc invited me to south africa, revolution is supposed to change the second
place. there were a lot of discussions and one gentleman said to me directly we will address the issue of race more directly in a country of black majority than you will ever address it in on america, a country of white majority. i think america is somewhat in denial. you have a black man on trial for -- a white southerner defending him come and innocent narrator is seemed not to have
been poisoned by the racist environment. i don't care what harper lee calls it, at social justice, whatever, at the base of civil rights, but it is. america is in denial about race. absolutely in denial. i live in chicago. the mothers of these black boys being shot by police in, that that is not race, nonsense. i thought it was a brilliant novel mischaracterized by its
creator. >> along that line, in "go set a watchman" atticus goes to plan meetings, opposes integration vocally and readers have reacted very visibly to this new version of atticus finch including one instance of a family named their son atticus changing his name legally because of the newport frail. why do you think readers reacted so strongly to a new version of a fictional character? he is not real so why is it so important and what should readers who love atticus, what they think and atticus represents in "to kill a mockingbird" do with this new atticus who is not nearly the same in quality as the original? >> atticus is part of the southern myth. that is the thing. atticus has become very real.
there is a plaque to atticus at the courthouse. i was in monroe vote for the literary festival and after the performance of "to kill a mockingbird" with fellow writers will standing by that statute, we were talking about him as if he actually existed and i think it is that idea that what atticus represented, these values we wanted to have, white southerners wanted to have and atticus served as a proxy for a lot of that. we also refer to southern heros, he is a real atticus, that is the highest compliment and that complement is now gone with this change in who atticus is. they are two fictional universes and not on the continuing based
on the way if you really study "to kill a mockingbird" and "go set a watchman" they are very different fictional universes. they overlap but there's also a bizarre quality to "go set a watchman". >> speak into the microphone. >> gregory peck's portrayal made in this iconic white savior, it is important to remember in "to kill a mockingbird," a woman i heard speak at auburn and montgomery said in "to kill a mockingbird" he wasn't at the school when scout was playing that ham, he was human in "to kill a mockingbird," he was not perfect and he is fiction too.
i do think gregory peck and -- he makes compromises in "to kill a mockingbird". >> there is the sense of betrayal for a lot of people who really worshiped atticus and did accept him not just as a character but as a symbol. maybe many of us came to that book as younger readers. to me it was one of the first serious books i ever loved that i still love and it is hard to match those two kinds of knowledge and look in hindsight act "to kill a mockingbird" and what do we make of it now? one thing, the different age of the point of view character which is to say in "to kill a mockingbird" scouts is young looking at her father through the point of view of a girl and she does see it more simply and
the older spouse is looking at the point of view as an adult and is more nuanced and i don't think atticus seems mortal. the dog is dead in the street, he can do anything. gregory peck who apparently harper lee call yummy adds to the way we view him and it is hard to wrap our new knowledge around. >> speaking of "go set a watchman" let's talk about the release of that novel. the official story is atticus at -- harper lee's and lawyers founded in a safe deposit box and it is a first draft of "to kill a mockingbird" better editor said pull out some aspects and it took two years to turn "go set a watchman" into "to kill a mockingbird" and there have been a lot of thick
pieces about whether harper lee is able to consent to the book being published at all. i want to ask what you thought of the release of the novel and the way it has been handled and the publishing of it, should it have been published at all? >> i would argue no. should have been left in an archive for scholars to study. the other thing, i know that it was not edited and someone who's spent a lot of my career as an editor that it was just when i read "go set a watchman" i knew as an editor that these flashbacks to childhood are really working so why don't you go back and use that as the way you are constructing your narrative. i am almost certain, we know that is what happened. once you know that it is hard to
read "go set a watchman" and not think of it as you are reading a rough draft. at least for me as an editor. i have spoken to other people who don't have that editorial mindsets and they are perfectly fine with it, seeing it as a separate fictional universe almost, i understand and respect that. i also think as i was trying to write about "go set a watchman" i was trying to get a copy in advance but i couldn't and was told only two people had read the manuscript. that is something about six weeks before publication kind of as an editor and publishing professional made me -- made my ears perk up a little bit.
>> what i appreciate about it being published and is confusing all the difference stories that have come out but when i like about the publication of "go set a watchman" is we discover how a young writer finds her a voice and that is most important, how she found her voice and it is also a novel of redemption and reconciliation like trying to find a way to make peace, seeing atticus as -- as an adult and not taking away the hero worship as a child. i get it but i also -- it was exciting for me as someone who wrote her biography to see how she came to write it and imagine i wish we had letters, i wish there were letters we could see
their relationship. >> i read an excellent piece on the publication of "go set a watchman" and he end ed with this beautiful line after all it is a sin to kill a mockingbird suggesting the new book shouldn't have been published and part of the agreed and part of me thinks if i heard a second manuscript exist out there and someone decided not to publish it i would be furious. i want to read, let me decide. i would say it does sound like a pr concoction that they found the book in the safety deposit box. that seems very unlikely to meet but coming from a ryder's perspective i also think those of us who loved "to kill a mockingbird" tend to think that this book sprang into creation and was destined, ordained, a 26-year-old terrified woman everyday facing a blank page and
trying to work forward in the dock. this is also a writer who didn't have publishing history, a handful of short stories, so what? then she publishes a book that wins a pulitzer prize, what is she going to write next? imagine the pressure, she was writing the whole time. i took a lot of comfort, she said what she had to say. and next door, talking about the fact that the whole time harper lee was writing it must've been painful for her to be writing and never to publish. then i think why now? why take his old manuscript she is not adding and really can't edit and publishing it now? part of me thinks who are we to say she shouldn't, and also she is 89. maybe she doesn't care what we
think anymore. >> speaking of atticus. kerry madden mentioned "go set a watchman" is about a child discovering her hero is not as heroic as she fought and that closely mirrors american readers's experience with the book, we read this and think he is not this mythological person that i thought he was and i want to talk about-as it intersects with is happening in current events with race relations in america and how atticus seems when i talk to readers they say things like i loved "to kill a mockingbird," i can't be a racist, that the represents to people a false sense of how far we have come when we haven't really. i heard people say atticus is
not the hero we love but the hero we deserved in "go set a watchman". is that true? having a more realistic portrayal of a white man in the 30s, "go set a watchman" is what we need now as opposed to the atticus of "to kill a mockingbird". >> you are giving the look. it is difficult. i am a southerner. i was born in clinton, mississippi, grew up on a plantation, raises a difficult thing, to try to discuss. let me begin with one comment.
stoically carmichael was an activist, he relates an incident where he was beaten by the plant in alabama. in fact he was kicked. and he says five years later he was in washington d.c. and a young man tapped him on the shoulder, are you mr. carmichael? and he said yes and the gentleman said i am the one who kicked you in alabama. i was wrong. part of the problem with the
these impressions. harper lee is a brilliant novel. i will get it this way she is an incredible novelist, deserves all of the accolades for "to kill a mockingbird". when you reach that height, i don't care what the right to love novel or not, very few novelists in the 20th century have written a book as well or is important. it's just that simple but we ari discussing race and i'm in mississippi valley state in the delta. i don't know anything about the opinion of the whites but i dotr know m i go to a restaurant and
people treat me kind, you know what i mean? but i almost have a heart attack. i go in there and all of the people cooking are black and i'm the only black diner. you know i'm trying to say, don't know that's race or not. i don't know if it's getting into my head but it does not look like or feel like anything has changed over the last 30 years although you have any number of black electedeaso officials in sunflower county. i'm sitting down their eating and for some reason they won't let any other black people and except for me or something. i'm the only one that'sic dinin. i really don't know how to discuss race in america.
we need to listen to b.b. you build an academy that one ot two black people go to it thethy most and we say we need to lock arms. was it b.b. king, the singer ane the other thing i find interesting about mississippi they said muddy waters was born in rolling park and i go out to rolling part and people say hef was not born here. he was born down there in some y
field in a house that no longer exists. .. , it seems that the whites have not made -- availed themselves of it. >> i think there is this -- this is one of the things i wrote about. i think there's this myth of equality that permeates southern culture. think about it. we're a region that developed something called separate but equal, and there's this whole myth of equality. one thing i think that harper lee was trying to do was trying to shatter that myth that we have.equality. we setting thises up so erv has -- thinks up so everybody has -- we have separate but
equal. she was trying to break through some of the myths. today, because we have "black lives matter" movement and that a really important movement, but also a movement that is trying to find its voice and finding policies that will actually work with that, and which is very complex. that the issue of race in america today is an incredibly complicated issue. during the civil rights movement, there were dissecrete policy resolutions that the naacp and sncc had. voting rights, equal ckesmmodations but with the >>
>> and that is a really difficult thing. and diphenyl she was trying to give us a platform i am not sure that she knew exactly but give her credit for at least trying to put it out there. we may have placed our own apology on top of that over the last 50 years. but a least it gives us a platform. >> she was friends with mary tucker and because of all the publicity of mockingbird they became good friends and she helped to provide a lot of scholarships to students of color but none of that
was known. that was just talked about one month ago because she didn't want that known. she provided a lot of scholarships. there is so much publicity in that town. is all the mythology. >> we will move off of this topic but to talk about her as an author gsa ink and author could do that now? a debut novelist to put out a book like this then never do publicity and succeed? as backwash that ability? >> authors today our children said the best thing
for ago we were talking about the same thing and they said if the book did not hit it big she would be of hustling like the rest of us. it is hard to imagine in the face of a page but obviously we don't have a facebook or twitter but the only one i can think of nobody knows who she is or anything about her. but it is exhausting of what you are expected to do. because they can. so a friend of mine is not odd facebook it should never will be i think it is great. i love that she did not have to do that. >> title think that would ever ever ever ever happen today.
[laughter] that is a publishing industry has changed so much. i did my best i wrote my book and here it is. my last book was a novel and i don't have a facebook page and the publisher boz's frustrated with me and to i with lot e-mail people to ask them to buy my book. but then i would hire somebody some day to treat. [laughter] en then we talked about it i don't even know how to do that.
>> to save my party is over. >> those days are gone. and it is sad react a point we have turned it into your shameless hucksters. has the publishers do that for us. they would push you out the you were to be the talent and you could pull away from that and unfortunately now the way things evolved. >> is of a mystery they
don't know the crazy things that people do. like stipe. >> did canby helpful but where is that place he went to to get it in the first place? >> and shea is the exception because it is so notable and she gets some notoriety. >> it is a brilliant the hour scheme. >> i believe she is a woman. >> this is my last question. what is harper lee open the legacy? and will she re-read 100
years from now? will we forget about her? she is still selling almost 1 million copies per year. >> we have had this exchange i do think it is time for "to kill a mockingbird" to agree taught in history class is there is so much to learn about american history with "to kill a mockingbird" set in 1935 and in a lot of ways inspired by the trial then publication dates 1968 lot happens in between there talk about robinson and the great migration, the trial trial, a brown v. board of education now the you have "go set a watchman" so there is a way for this to be taught in history class is
so i think she will have a big is a talking about this period in american history because that will be more of a historic legacy. >> that is a great idea but also i think it is such a beautiful book is about home that we return teheran to it has its place and we will be reading that but they grew up door -- up next door to each other and the bravery it sure to drop out of law school one month before graduating to try to become a writer with they said come home to work up the "journal". so finding voices and a
sense of home. >> i think it will re-read 100 years and from now and her legacy is a. >> it will re-read 100 years from now will the americans be reading 100 years from now? [laughter] [applause] >> we will open the floor so go up to the microphone if you have questions for the panel. >> in "go set a watchman" we
learn tom robinson was acquitted so it is an alternate universe. so what difference is that of the story and the characters? >> with the scouts character as well? >> the point that you make is that is a different fictional universe but the way that the novel is set up with "go set a watchman" and atticus character to have that acquittal paul so have atticus as a racist basically, from the standpoint of the tension in the works as opposed our works differently with the
perjury trial in "to kill a mockingbird" so it makes you think differently about atticus but also about scope to one dash scout because you can see she is looking at her father in a different way without that idealized view in the reasons are different from "go set a watchman" and then they are with "to kill a mockingbird." >> we have all had that experience to see an author referred to an earlier novel where you've field the you get the joke and that was very different with "go set a watchman" when she referred to something from a year earlier bookish seem to interact and to am i to say
that a sad story detailed to be changed. didn't you know, ? so i had to approach the book as something different as a continuation or a sequel but on its own heritage is not as well written or edited my experience to understand the al literary value how when i teach this to my own graduate students? i begin to think a bit as it was written before mockingbird and how he positions different figures to understand how they are in relation to each other and how she is working certain things out in mockingbird but she would pull through and return to
in "to kill a mockingbird". >> as she was revising her writings she went back to where real trial that was basically the same as robinson and her father was the editor and she was eight or nine with the trial so i think she used that as the basis. >> any other questions? >> talk about the legacy of the book and what concerns me is the book reminds me from college or high school and i wonder with the electronic book that you don't see that spine to remind you of the 30's with the impact with that love of
books because they don't have a position. >> but not a lot of millenials are using the e-books they actually prefer print. so maybe, i know they are worried, but there may be a ray of hope with the electronic version is not the same to have the book the changes the way you interact with the text or perceive that text were the way that you take it.
so in in trying to write my piece was to download at midnight to have something to work with and it isn't the same as the annotated version of "to kill a mockingbird" and actually has my daughter's invitations. -- indications but that is a different experience. >> so you can download but i have said a part of that three students and children. >> anymore questions? >> i have been reading the
book "to kill a mockingbird" and "go set a watchman" with my 12 year old son by 50 drolled an effete -- nephew also read it at a family weekend recently we had a book discussion tuesday dash atticus was a racist and what was the difference and i started to wonder if all of us would regard atticus if he was not cracked out of a time capsule it was published in the 1860's six or 67 would we judge him as harshly as we do today? with african-american population we seem to get wall -- along well together but there is abide territories -- you are racist or not.
and with "go set a watchman" it is not yes or no. to have authentic values but would we see "go set a watchman" in a different light if it came out 50 years ago? >> at that time we had "go set a watchman" to see as a citizen's council member advocating for eugenics, i don't think we would have been ready to have that discussion with those organizations really meant because they were still in existence them part of the social fabric of the south. it would have been very difficult. that is one of the reasons that teeeighteen revised the book because we were not
ready to have that discussion and yet. does that answer your question? >> i agree. >> you just answered my question of. [laughter] because unfortunately i cavemen is late but was very interested in attending this session and where question did pertain to how much this novel was somewhere along the series in a partnership and whether not you have any opinion in that partnership
to you have an opinion? >> i am reluctant to have an opinion on that because i have nothing to base it on. i was asked to break a peace with that desist and i said no because i have nothing factual to link it to so that is difficult to you have any thoughts about that? >> i heard the rise of book but i thought it would be the reference in the fatal - - in the vein of cold blood. so when i heard this centcom mount but that it was said the reverend there was "go
set a watchman". i don't know any of the other particulars. >> as a social advocate to write to her own biography to be relative labor now and quite to the social activist and his activist was in fact, a model for atticus. and it appeared in the "washington post" article. are you familiar? actually publish 1959.
>> i am not a lawyer. >> paris is a of a fascinating stuff coming out i wish i was here for the first half. >> we were fabulous. [laughter] [applause] you have very efficient and gatekeepers. figure very much. >> i have not gotten the signal yet. one more question. how was very interested in the book "to kill a mockingbird" to be used as a book for literary instructions in the future. in light of the present racial divide, with
portrayal of "to kill a mockingbird" where we have a heroic person who is the defender of african-americans should we continue that portrayal as say literary tool to teach about race relations? >> i think "mockingbird" is a viable text for teaching race relations but i would pare its with other writers of color it is just one forays in concert that we can learn a great deal. >> edits exactly the way turgot. -- to go because that generates a robust
discussion. one of the things i thought about was up confessions of nat turner. when it came out because they did not tell their own stories. you can have a more robust discussion and. >> wavey day point of view with tom robinson with a range of choices. >> we need diver's books. >> teeeighteen no doubt about it she is celebrated. tueber knowledge and i don't know that she supported or
audiences for years there is a second novel to be published after her death senate comes during her lifetime and it is like attending your own funeral. [laughter] i think it is fabulous sounds l, perhaps a safe deposit book, and comes across the manuscript with "go set a watchman" on the title. what is this? >> host: and alice said it had been stolen. alice 20 yearsing ago was asked what happened to the novel harper lee was working on, and her sister alice says we had a break-in and it was stolen. somebody made -- me talking -- somebody made off with a ream of paper. no. that was deposited in the law offices of what were at one time barnett and lee, and it's been there all this time, and now
that alice lee is gone, the figurative skeleton key has been found. >> guest: was this -- always wanted it published and when alice wasn't in charge anymore, she said -- and maybe her lawyer presented it to her and said, we'll show this to some people. what do you think happened there? >> guest: well, there's always been, as is typical in all families, a sibling competition there. alice was a very conservative woman, and about 17 years older than her younger sister, and as a result, she saw herself as surrogate parent, and nell was always extroverted and a little bohemian in her opinions and her appearance, and alice, for all of her life, served as the buffer between her younger sister and the world that was hungry to know more about her. >> you can watch this and other