Up Close: Harper Lee
Kerry Madden
Viking, 2009
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Up Close: Harper Lee (Foreword, continued)

All week long, Keely and I walked the streets of Monroeville and drove the back roads out along the Alabama River. In Wayne Greenhaw’s book, Alabama on My Mind, he wrote: “This is a beautiful, remarkable, complex country…Such names as Murder Creek, Burnt Corn community, Fort Mims massacre, Chief Red Eagle of the Creeks peppered conversations. The land was scarred with human tragedy."

At the Old Courthouse, we climbed the worn pine staircase painted brown to the oval-shaped courtroom, of which an exact replica was built for Atticus Finch to defend Tom Robinson in the movie version of To Kill A Mockingbird. We listened to the museum curator, Jane Ellen Clark, describe how some visitors walk inside and break down crying because of powerful memories evoked by the book and film.

The back-to-back interviews with the people of Monroeville lasted eight to ten hours a day, and what we came away with was a sense of Nelle Harper Lee as very much a regular person. She loves to fish and listen to gospel music in the little churches on the back roads of Alabama. She hates eggs, which was why she always skipped breakfast while a college student at the University of Alabama in the 1940s. She has great sea legs and enjoyed gourmet meals on the QE2 from England in the 1960s in the middle of a thunderstorm when most of the other passengers could barely stand to think of food as the ship bucked in the turbulent waters.


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