A Classic Turns 50, and Parties Are Planned
By Julie Bosman
Published New York Times: May 24, 2010
In Santa Cruz, Calif., volunteers will re-enact every word and movement in the famous courtroom scene. In Monroeville, Ala., residents dressed in 1930s garb will read aloud from memorable passages. In Rhinebeck, N.Y., Oblong Books will host a party with Mocktails and a performance by the indie band the Boo Radleys.
Left ,a 50th-anniversary edition of “To Kill a Mockingbird”;..
All summer “To Kill a Mockingbird” will be relived through at least 50 events around the country, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the publication of a book that became a cultural touchstone and an enduring staple of high-school reading programs.
Its publisher, HarperCollins, is trying to tap into what appears to be a near-endless reserve of affection for the book by helping to organize parties, movie screenings, readings and scholarly discussions. The publisher has recruited Tom Brokaw and other authors to take part by reading from the novel — which tells the story of the small-town lawyer Atticus Finch, who defends a black man accused of rape, and his family — in their hometowns.
Of course, there is also the hope that the events, which are scheduled to run through Sept. 22, will drum up more sales of the book. HarperCollins plans to issue four new editions of the novel next month, each with a different cover and all to be placed on special “Mockingbird”-themed floor displays in bookstores.
Perhaps the largest concentration of celebrations for the book are in Monroeville, which calls itself the “literary capital of Alabama” after its most famous resident, the “Mockingbird” author Harper Lee. The city is planning four days of events, including silent auctions, a walking tour of downtown, a marathon reading of the book in the county courthouse and a birthday party on the courthouse lawn.
The festivities are not expected to attract an appearance by the mysterious Ms. Lee, who is 84 and still living quietly in Alabama after never publishing another book. “Harper Lee has always been a very private person,” said Tina Andreadis, a spokeswoman for HarperCollins. “The legacy of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ speaks for itself.”
Few novels have achieved both the mass popularity and the literary cachet of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The book was originally published in 1960 by J. B. Lippincott and Company (now part of HarperCollins), won a Pulitzer Prize and has not been out of print since. It has sold nearly one million copies a year and in the past five years has been the second-best-selling backlist title in the country, beaten out only by the novel “The Kite Runner.”
Interest in the book intensified after the 2005 film “Capote,” in which Catherine Keener played Ms. Lee, and grew even stronger the next year, when Sandra Bullock played her in “Infamous".
The full story at NYT.
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