Harper Lee

Biografie şi Bibliografie

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Nelle Harper Lee (born April 28, 1926) is an American author best known for her 1960 Pulitzer Prize winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, which deals with the issues of racism that were observed by the author as a child in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. Despite being Lee's only published book, it led to Lee being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom of the United States for her contribution to literature in 2007. Lee has also been the recipient of numerous honorary degrees, but has always declined to make a speech.

Biography

Early life

Nelle Harper Lee was born in Monroeville, Alabama, the youngest of four children of Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch Lee. Her mother's name was Finch. Her father, a former newspaper editor and proprietor, was a lawyer who served in the Alabama State Legislature from 1926 to 1938. As a child, Lee was a tomboy and a precocious reader, and was best friends with her schoolmate and neighbor, the young Truman Capote.

In 1944, Lee graduated from Monroe County High School in Monroeville, and enrolled at the all-female Huntingdon College in Montgomery for one year, and pursued a law degree at the University of Alabama from 1945 to 1949, pledging the Chi Omega sorority. Lee wrote for several student publications and spent a year as editor of the campus humor magazine, Rammer Jammer. Though she did not complete the law degree, she studied for a summer in Oxford, England, before moving to New York City in 1950, where she worked as a reservation clerk with Eastern Air Lines and BOAC.

Lee continued as a reservation clerk until 1958, when she devoted herself to writing. She lived a frugal life, traveling between her cold-water-only apartment in New York City and her family home in south-central Alabama to care for her father.

To Kill a Mockingbird

“I never expected any sort of success with Mockingbird. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers but, at the same time, I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I'd expected.     ”

—Harper Lee, quoted in Newquist, 1964

In high school, Lee developed an interest in English literature. After graduating in 1944, she went to the all-female Huntingdon College in Montgomery. Lee stood apart from the other students—she could have cared less about fashion, makeup, or dating. Instead, she focused on her studies and on her writing. Lee was a member of the literary honor society and the glee club.

Transferring to the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, Lee was known for being a loner and an individualist. She did make a greater attempt at a social life there, joining a sorority for a while. Pursuing her interest in writing, Lee contributed to the school’s newspaper and its humor magazine, the Rammer Jammer. She eventually became the editor of the Rammer Jammer.

In her junior year, Lee was accepted into the university’s law school, which allowed students to work on law degrees while still undergraduates. The demands of her law studies forced her to leave her post as editor of the Rammer Jammer. After her first year in the law program, Lee began expressing to her family that writing—not the law—was her true calling. She went to Oxford University in England that summer as an exchange student. Returning to her law studies that fall, Lee dropped out after the first semester. She soon moved to New York City to follow her dreams to become a writer.

In 1949, a 23-year-old Lee arrived in New York City. She struggled for several years, working as a ticket agent for Eastern Airlines and for the British Overseas Air Corp (BOAC). While in the city, Lee was reunited with old friend Truman Capote, one of the literary rising stars of the time. She also befriended Broadway composer and lyricist Michael Martin Brown and his wife Joy.

Having written several long stories, Harper Lee located an agent in November 1956. The following month at the East 50th townhouse of her friends Michael Brown and Joy Williams Brown, she received a gift of a year's wages from them with a note: "You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas."[6] She quit her job and devoted herself to her craft. Within a year, she had a first draft. Working with J. B. Lippincott & Co. editor Tay Hohoff, she completed To Kill a Mockingbird in the summer of 1959. Published July 11, 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was an immediate bestseller and won great critical acclaim, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961. It remains a bestseller with more than 30 million copies in print. In 1999, it was voted "Best Novel of the Century" in a poll by the Library Journal.

Details

Many details of To Kill a Mockingbird are apparently autobiographical. Like Lee, the tomboy (Scout) is the daughter of a respected small-town Alabama attorney. The plot involves a legal case, the workings of which would have been familiar to Lee, who studied law. Scout's friend Dill was inspired by Lee's childhood friend and neighbor, Truman Capote,[7] while Lee is the model for a character in Capote's first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms.

Harper Lee has downplayed autobiographical parallels. Yet Truman Capote, mentioning the character Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird, described details he considered biographical: "In my original version of Other Voices, Other Rooms I had that same man living in the house that used to leave things in the trees, and then I took that out. He was a real man, and he lived just down the road from us. We used to go and get those things out of the trees. Everything she wrote about it is absolutely true. But you see, I take the same thing and transfer it into some Gothic dream, done in an entirely different way."[8]

Writings

    * To Kill a Mockingbird. (1960) New York: J. B. Lippincott.
    * "Love—In Other Words". (April 15, 1961) Vogue, pp.64–65
    * "Christmas to Me". (December 1961) McCall's
    * "When Children Discover America". (August 1965) McCall's
    * "Romance and High Adventure" (1983), a paper presented in Eufaula, Alabama and collected in 1985 in the anthology Clearings in the Thicket.
    * Open letter to Oprah Winfrey (July 2006), O: The Oprah Magazine

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