Paul Mc Cabe, Features Editor
Lemmy, Alan Rickman, Umberto Eco, David Bowie…we are just two months into 2016 and already we have so many talents to mourn. But now we add one more to the list – Harper Lee has passed at age 89. The beloved author of the seminal To Kill a Mockingbird, and its recent sequel Go Set a Watchman, Lee stood as one of the greatest writers of the American literary pantheon, sharing the stage with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Mark Twain. The Pulitzer Prise winning writer passed in her hometown in Alabama, early on Friday morning, unexpectedly according to sources.
Harper Lee gained recognition more than 60 years ago for her publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, the simple yet evocative tale of a young black man accused of rape in the American south, and the family of the lawyer who defends him. The novel over the years has never lost any of its charm and subtle truth, and the story, as seen through the eyes of young Jean Louise ‘Scout’ Finch, survives as one of the most enduring and powerful pieces of American Gothic ever written.
After the initial success of her first publication Lee shied away from the limelight, famously avoiding the press. While the fame of To Kill a Mockingbird grew and grew Lee continued to retreat from the spotlight. While To Kill a Mockingbirdbecame a worldwide success, while it was studied in schools and universities (and is still studied there today), while it was becoming one of the most important pieces of fiction in American history, Lee published nothing further. She would go on, and publish nothing for the next 65 years.
In July 2015 Lee’s second and final novel was to be released. Go Set a Watchman exists as a direct sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, picking up with Scout twenty years after the events of the first book. However, the novel was not to reach the heights of success that its predecessor achieved, its release being marred by accusations of racism against once heroic protagonist Atticus Finch, and suggestions that Lee had been pressured into releasing the novel by her publishers and lawyers. Regardless these two novels are all that the literary world has left of her earnest and beautiful writing.
Another great has passed from the world of literature, the likes of which will most likely never be seen again. Never before and never since has a piece of work sailed so extremely and so quickly to the heights of popularity and critical success as To Kill a Mockingbird. The world has lost a great writer, a woman with deep, gentle, rocketing prose, and a fantastic diviner of the trials and troubles of childhood. Now Nelle Harper Lee has passed on and we can only hope her last moments were peaceful for she has left an impression on all of us, more powerful and more lasting than we know.