Stand up. Ms. Lee's passing.
February 19, 2016 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Harper Lee, Author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ Dies at 89 [The New York Times]
Harper Lee, whose first novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” about racial injustice in a small Alabama town, sold more than 10 million copies and became one of the most beloved and most taught works of fiction ever written by an American, has died. She was 89. Her death was confirmed by Mary Jackson, the city clerk in Monroeville, Ala., where Ms. Lee lived. Ms. Jackson could not say where or when Ms. Lee died. [Previously.]
posted by Fizz (131 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 8:19 AM on February 19, 2016


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posted by sektah at 8:20 AM on February 19, 2016


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posted by dlugoczaj at 8:20 AM on February 19, 2016


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posted by Fizz at 8:20 AM on February 19, 2016


Stand up, everybody. Miss Jean Louise's passin'.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:20 AM on February 19, 2016 [18 favorites]


(Sorry, Fizz -- didn't notice.)
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:22 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


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posted by kellyblah at 8:22 AM on February 19, 2016


Bye Scout.
posted by Oyéah at 8:22 AM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I can't even. Her masterpiece (like for so many others) has meant the world to me throughout different periods in my life. A crushing loss...
posted by kuanes at 8:22 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Don't you mean "her only novel, 'To Kill a Mockingbird' […]"?

(Come join me in my reality, it's a much better place.)

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posted by cjorgensen at 8:23 AM on February 19, 2016 [25 favorites]


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posted by Doc Ezra at 8:23 AM on February 19, 2016


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posted by mumimor at 8:24 AM on February 19, 2016


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posted by ogooglebar at 8:26 AM on February 19, 2016


As I went to primary school in the county to the south of Monroe County (of which Monroeville is the seat) one of the few benefits of said locale was that I was lucky enough to go up there for a field trip while I was young and impressionable, not to mention driving through on various rambles / trips across the state.

Let me tell you, it is very much like the book. As I understand it, this is a known thing among fans of Harper Lee and the book(s) but it's really interesting to see in person. Coming from a moderately sized place to the south it really strikes you how removed from the hustle and bustle many of those, county seats even, cities are in the Black Belt of Alabama. Also how stagnant, and at times backwards, they can be. But there is something to be said for a smaller town with older buildings and an impressive, if understated compared to something you'd find in a larger metro area, courthouse in the city center.

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She was a treasure and will be missed.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:27 AM on February 19, 2016 [13 favorites]


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posted by Atom Eyes at 8:28 AM on February 19, 2016


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posted by Cash4Lead at 8:28 AM on February 19, 2016


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posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:28 AM on February 19, 2016


mockingbird-shaped .
posted by Gelatin at 8:30 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


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posted by pearlybob at 8:32 AM on February 19, 2016


"First of all," he said, "if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view ... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:32 AM on February 19, 2016 [11 favorites]


🐦
posted by Mayor West at 8:33 AM on February 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


"Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I'd have the facts."
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Thanks to her also for her contributions to In Cold Blood, which influenced so many people (and our culture) in ways too numerous and complicated to tally.

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posted by sallybrown at 8:33 AM on February 19, 2016 [13 favorites]


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For the last years of her life she was a literary estate kept on life support and plundered by those closest to her. I hope they feel appropriately about their choices now that her time has come.
posted by holgate at 8:34 AM on February 19, 2016 [13 favorites]


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posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:41 AM on February 19, 2016


Tweet from Tim Cook
Rest in peace, Harper Lee. "The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:42 AM on February 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


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posted by Iridic at 8:43 AM on February 19, 2016


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posted by little onion at 8:44 AM on February 19, 2016


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posted by mixedmetaphors at 8:46 AM on February 19, 2016


beholden' to nuthin' and no one

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posted by j_curiouser at 8:48 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


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posted by pan at 8:48 AM on February 19, 2016


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posted by MexicanYenta at 8:48 AM on February 19, 2016


the light has gone out of my life
posted by boo_radley at 8:49 AM on February 19, 2016 [22 favorites]


Don't you mean "her only novel, 'To Kill a Mockingbird' […]"?

(Come join me in my reality, it's a much better place.)


I've thought about it a lot in the last year, and I have to agree -- if Ms. Lee had meant to publish that book, she would've gotten around to it some time in the last 50 years. I don't trust vultures. I'll re-read her one novel soon.

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I know we all have to go, but if 2016 could slow the fuck down with the heroes...
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:50 AM on February 19, 2016 [24 favorites]


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posted by Existential Dread at 8:53 AM on February 19, 2016


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posted by condour75 at 8:55 AM on February 19, 2016


Mockingbird was an important book for me. Few authors have had such an effect on my worldview as she did.

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posted by tommasz at 8:56 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


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I guess I'm always just looking for the best in people, but I like this comment from the previous thread: "I can see her thinking, 'Tonja found that old novel and wants to publish it. What the heck. I'm old, blind, and deaf. Nobody's gonna be after me to go out in public to talk about this thing. I'm not going to be getting a zillion phone calls from reporters. Sure, why not.' Sometimes when you get older you look back on something you cared passionately about when you were younger and realize you really don't care about it anymore."

I really, really hope that was the case.
posted by Melismata at 8:57 AM on February 19, 2016 [17 favorites]


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posted by Bacon Bit at 9:03 AM on February 19, 2016


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Haters gonna hate, but GSAW is worth reading if only for the hilarious story of the Methodist music minister. We'll never know the full and secret story of how that book got rejected, revised, and reborn. It has its flaws as a novel, but it's written in Harper Lee's true authentic voice. The real tragedy is that she wrote so little when she wrote so goddamn well. I believe the reason for that is tied up in the forced transformation of Watchman into Mockingbird, and anyone who refuses to read the "new" book is cutting off their nose to spite their face. It's truly funny, truly touching, truly disturbing, and truly maddening. It's great literature. We've been missing Harper Lee for so long now, that her death changes nothing. That's what breaks my heart.
posted by rikschell at 9:04 AM on February 19, 2016 [15 favorites]


I bet a lot of really great jr. high English teachers are crying right now.

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posted by brennen at 9:06 AM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


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posted by Elly Vortex at 9:06 AM on February 19, 2016


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posted by rougy at 9:09 AM on February 19, 2016


To Kill A Mockingbird is one of the few books I'm glad I was made to read in school. Thank you, Harper Lee, for making sure that some of my scholastic reading was as satisfying as my recreational reading.
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:10 AM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Thanks, Mrs. Tenth Grade English Teacher Whose Name I Forgot, for having us read To Kill a Mockingbird.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:12 AM on February 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


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I wish I had something more to add than this but I sort of feel like these emotions at the moment don't have the appropriate words, although doubtless Ms. Lee would have known them.

Thank you Ms. Lee, and safe travels now.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 9:15 AM on February 19, 2016


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Sweet Christ, is 2016 ever the year of "no fucking chill whatsoever..."
posted by ersatzkat at 9:16 AM on February 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


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posted by JoeXIII007 at 9:19 AM on February 19, 2016


Oh, oh. oh.


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posted by droplet at 9:21 AM on February 19, 2016


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posted by willF at 9:21 AM on February 19, 2016


My ninth grade English teacher was, as far as I can tell, either in the wrong job or completely burned out when I attended her class. TKAM shined so brightly that, 30+ years later, I can still vividly remember sitting in the classroom with Lee's words flowing into my brain.

I cannot remember anything else we read during that year.

(My 10th and 12th grade English teachers made up for the dismal 9th and 11th teachers, instilling a love of poetry, reading and writing that has stayed with me to this day....)
posted by 1367 at 9:28 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


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posted by colie at 9:29 AM on February 19, 2016


perfect post title.

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posted by wabbittwax at 9:32 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh goodness. It is rare that one person has so much impact on so many generations of lives. Stand up, indeed. (and seriously 2016, knock it off)

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posted by hippybear at 9:36 AM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


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I learned to speed read in high school using this book. I have been in love with Ms. Lee since. I am sorry to see her pass.
posted by evilDoug at 9:37 AM on February 19, 2016


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posted by thelonius at 9:39 AM on February 19, 2016


It's [GSAW] truly funny, truly touching, truly disturbing, and truly maddening.

I just finished listening to the audio book, and it's exactly that. Read it for the adult Jean-Louise, and read it if you've ever had to love someone who was also a racist.

And, as it turned out, Ms. Lee had a hand in the return of Opus.
posted by gladly at 9:43 AM on February 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


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posted by macrael at 9:43 AM on February 19, 2016


My only hope is that perhaps the income from the sale of the most recent novel (about which I am also skeptical) made her last year somewhat more comfortable than it might have been otherwise.

Perhaps.

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posted by chicainthecity at 9:44 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


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from the Bookish household that bonded over loving TKAM all those years ago when we first met.
posted by kariebookish at 9:46 AM on February 19, 2016


2016 just keeps sucking on. Rest in Peace, Ms Lee.

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posted by Joey Michaels at 9:49 AM on February 19, 2016


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posted by thejanna at 10:00 AM on February 19, 2016


I really can't think of a book that has had more of an impact on more disparate groups of people within my life than To Kill a Mockingbird (Facebook right now at the news of this death is proof of that); that's a hell of a legacy.

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posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:04 AM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


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posted by drezdn at 10:10 AM on February 19, 2016


How many of us aspire to be exactly like Atticus Finch, Scout, and Jem in our every day lives?
We owe that to Ms Lee.

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posted by bitteroldman at 10:12 AM on February 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


Go to Google. Enter "to " in the search bar. See what the first auto-fill result is.
posted by bitteroldman at 10:13 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I rediscovered Mockingbird a few years ago after my other half talked it up. Hadn't read it since high school or before. I was amazed at how strongly it affected me -- so well-written, such a unique voice, and such a completely evocative sense of setting and mood. Harper Lee will be missed by untold numbers and Mockingbird (and Watchman, I assume, too) will live on in immortality alongside other classics of literature.
posted by blucevalo at 10:14 AM on February 19, 2016


I have very distinct memories of reading TKAM in Grade 10 and of the teacher assigning us to produce a dramatization of the courtroom scene. I had a crush on the boy who was chosen to play Atticus. Was it because of him, or because he played Atticus? Probably a bit of both.

RIP Harper Lee.

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posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:18 AM on February 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


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posted by allthinky at 10:26 AM on February 19, 2016


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I'm reeling this morning about this, as I finished reading Go Set A Watchman on the bus yesterday evening, and then put To Kill A Mockingbird in my briefcase as soon as I got home to start re-reading today. Further proof that the world does revolve around me, I suppose. Watchman is not nearly as bad as the reviews suggested. I enjoyed meeting grown up Scout, and Lee's writing is as electric, familiar and compelling as in the first book.

Scout and what she represents will live on.
posted by dubwisened at 10:27 AM on February 19, 2016


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posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:29 AM on February 19, 2016


Well, and Truman Capote was the kid next door, in both books? Interesting idea.
posted by Oyéah at 10:32 AM on February 19, 2016


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posted by but no cigar at 10:45 AM on February 19, 2016


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I think my 9th grade English teacher is still around, and writes editorials to the local newspaper. Ms. Gherity, you inspired me with your recommendation of this book. I couldn't take The Sun Also Rises, but To Kill a Mockingbird was right up my fourteen year old alley.
posted by Sphinx at 10:46 AM on February 19, 2016


I haven't read Go Set but it does kinda seem like people who are upset about the change in the character of Atticus are missing the point. However the way it got released seems kind of unscrupulous.
posted by atoxyl at 10:46 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


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posted by maryr at 11:13 AM on February 19, 2016


I had this idea when David Bowie died that all the people around the world were listening to his albums as they mourned him and it was like we were helping to carry his soul into the afterlife on the wings of his own music. I imagine tonight Harper Lee's soul will travel to heaven, lifted by her own words as the readers of the world pick up To Kill a Mickingbird in unison.
posted by double bubble at 11:17 AM on February 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


And, as it turned out, Ms. Lee had a hand in the return of Opus.

Breathed posted a tribute along with an image of Lee's letter to him today.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:31 AM on February 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


Of all the Harper Lee quotes floating around today, I remain steadfast in my choice as favourite: "Busts up a chiffarobe."

Godspeed, Ms. Lee.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:39 AM on February 19, 2016


Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescat in pace.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:15 PM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


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posted by Smart Dalek at 12:18 PM on February 19, 2016


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posted by saulgoodman at 12:26 PM on February 19, 2016


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I'm grateful to her for starting a discussion on racism, for some, that may never have otherwise happened. I'm also sad racism is as popular, but quieter, as it ever was.
posted by taff at 12:27 PM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Sad news, obviously, but hopefully her agent, publisher, lawyers, and heirs will move quickly to ensure the completion of her epic Mockingbird Trilogy based on her notes. I believe Kevin J. Anderson and Brandon Sanderson are available. They could write under the pseudonym "K.J.B.S. Anderson".
posted by The Tensor at 12:35 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


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posted by quazichimp at 12:38 PM on February 19, 2016


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We all want to change the world, but in her quiet way, she did just that.

Rest in peace, Ms. Lee, and thanks.
posted by jessian at 1:07 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I appreciate To Kill a Mockingbird, because it revealed to me how many misogynists I knew in high school, who spent a lot of time complaining about Scout's "annoying, girly whininess" rather than focusing on the racism in the book and her experiences as a witness of it. I learned that a book was a very good litmus test for one's sense of place and education and thoughtfulness, and it has the ability to transform one's understanding and empathy of others, or reveal one's lack of inclination to do so.
posted by yueliang at 1:49 PM on February 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


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posted by homunculus at 3:00 PM on February 19, 2016




I teach high school English and have had sparkly tear drops in my eyes all afternoon. I first read TKAM when I was in 7th grade. I'd found a dusty copy in the basement and liked the cover enough to read the first couple of pages. The experience was transformative.

No one in my life at the time was talking about social justice. I fell in love with Atticus, with his courageous compassion. At the ripe old age of twelve, he became my romantic gold standard.

Years later, I introduced TKAM to my younger brother. I'm still moved as I remember that fall, talking about the kind of people we wanted to be and how important it is to consider life from the perspective of others. To really imagine what it's like to walk around in their skin.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 3:29 PM on February 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


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posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 1:50 AM on February 20, 2016


I've taught this novel every year of my Lit teaching life, and I love it so much even so. Ironic, since as a great reader but less enthusiastic English student in my teens I refused to read the book because I hated the cover. Dear oh dear.

Every time I re-read it I find a new prism for understanding life matters. Race, gender, legal procedural, empathy, addiction, class. etc etc.

Lately I've been pondering Maudie Atkinson, who is dolled up and beatific in the film, yet Harper Lee gives her overalls, cropped hair and an unthreatening, non-dramatic, non-sexualised or otherwise cheesy, boringly functional male/female friendship. I was a teen with male friends and it was good to see an uncomplicated presentation of that kind of relationship. And she's awesome in so many ways. Lee gives her morality, solidarity with children as a respected adult in their lives. Often I think about Atticus' loss of his wife, and how lonely and hard those decisions he was making must have been. How much he relies on Maudie's sensible friendship. Each time I read TKAM I also see Scout emulating her in attire, learning from Maudie's reactions to local politicking, and absorbing her moral thinking. She understands Jem and helps to decipher his existential realisations. I guess I see Maudie as Lee's alter ego. (Yeah yeah - characters are literary constructs, sites for explorations of value systems in conflict, blah blah not real people blah blah whatever)
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When I was married my partner and I would take turns to read the book to each other. Whenever I've been sick or in hospital he has read the bits about Boo and Scout meeting for the first time, which always, always tears me up. Two weeks ago I was in hospital, and my ex of four years, former husband for 16 years, came over to visit me with a copy of TKAM to real aloud to me as I rested. What a champ. I'm glad that book is such a treasure between us, no matter whether we are married to each other or not we will still sit and read Lee's work for many years to come.
posted by honey-barbara at 1:54 AM on February 20, 2016 [13 favorites]


;-(
posted by bjgeiger at 6:46 AM on February 20, 2016


“Read the Eulogy for Harper Lee: 'Atticus' Vision of Ourselves',” Greg Garrison, The Birmingham News/AL.com, 22 February 2016
posted by ob1quixote at 9:47 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Mass-Market Edition of To Kill a Mockingbird Is Dead
Why does this matter? Mass-market books are significantly cheaper than their trade paperback counterparts. Hachette’s mass-market paperback of TKAM retails for $8.99, while the trade paperbacks published by Hachette’s rival HarperCollins go for $14.99 and $16.99. Unsurprisingly, the more accessible mass-market paperback sells significantly more copies than the trade paperback: According to Nielsen BookScan, the mass-market paperback edition of To Kill a Mockingbird has sold 55,376 copies since January 1, 2016, while HarperCollins’s trade paperback editions have sold 22,554 copies over the same period.
posted by gladly at 8:28 AM on March 11, 2016


More shenanigans from her estate executor, I guess? Such a weird decision, especially as the article states TKAM is one of the more profitable titles in the mass market format.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:12 AM on March 11, 2016


especially as the article states TKAM is one of the more profitable titles in the mass market format.

...because it's bought by the caseload for the schools who teach it. A sealed will, and a literary estate already flexing its muscle, delivering up a captive market to HarperCollins. Let's see how long it takes for officially licensed plush toys.
posted by holgate at 9:24 AM on March 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Boo Radley's back, Bart. In pog form!
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:29 AM on March 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yes, that would be horrible but I sure want a stuffed Scout-in-ham-costume now that I've imagined it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:30 AM on March 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I can't wait to buy the busted-up chifferobe playset.
posted by drezdn at 1:40 PM on March 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


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