Friday, June 28, 2019

the last book I ever read (Casey Cep's Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, excerpt thirteen)

from Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep:

To be fair, Lee let her novel do the talking about almost everything. In 1964, when Mockingbird was four years old and she was thirty-seven, she embarked on a fifty-year silence. Her final interview of any length was with a book critic named Roy Newquist who had also sat down with Jessica Mitford, Ian Fleming, John Fowles, Doris Lessing, Lillian Ross, and scores of other notable writers for his radio program, Counterpoint. Newquist met Lee at the Plaza Hotel, turned on his tape recorder, and, for the next hour, asked her questions about her childhood and education, literary craft and discipline, her life in New York City and her ambitions as a writer.

“I’ve been writing as long as I’ve been able to form words,” Lee told him. She also said that her vocation was a kind of regional specialty, like grits or collard greens; the South, she claimed, “naturally produces more writers than, say, living on 82nd Street in New York.” But for all that she’d always been a writer, she had been utterly unprepared for the avalanche of praise that greeted her novel; it was like “being hit over the head,” and it left her in a state of “sheer numbness.” That feeling was starkly at odds with the conditions she regarded as essential to writing. Good writers, she said, treated work “Something like the medieval priesthood” and sequestered themselves to do it well. “He writes not to communicate with other people,” Lee said of any writer worth his salt, “but to communicate more assuredly with himself.”

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