For as far back as I can stretch into my memory, I have been reading. As I kid I burned through so many books that I can’t remember what two thirds of them were. My brother always beat me at video games because I was too busy reading a book to figure out the combo moves in Soul Caliber. I’ve read a lot of books. And yet, there are books which I am honestly surprised at that I haven’t cracked open.
One of these is To Kill a Mockingbird. Somehow managing to completely bypass this in high school, it wasn’t until just recently that I finally cracked open the little purple book. My shame started at my last MFA residency, when friends talked about how much they loved the book and I casually mentioned how I’d never read it — and the room erupted in shock. I mentioned it again in front of my bookstore coworkers, and got the same, astounded reaction. Later, as I went on my usual campaign of calling a coworker un-American because she’d never watched Star Wars, she said to me, “If you read To Kill a Mockingbird I’ll watch Star Wars.” And so, for the great good, I did.
Probably not surprisingly, I found myself enjoying the book. I sympathized with Scout’s frustration at being told she read too much (see above paragraphs) and I loved that this heavy, complicated situation was told through the point of view of a little girl who hardly understood what was going on. But, that’s me as a 25-year-old. As a 14-year-old, I can’t say that I would have enjoyed myself so much. It takes ages to get to the real point of the story, and even now there were times where the narration got so heavy that my eyes crossed. And then there’s the injustice of what happens to Tom Robinson — it irks me now, but as a teenager I probably would have slammed the book on the floor in an angry fit, vowing never to look at it again.
Everyone’s shock that I hadn’t read this book isn’t surprising to me, and I’ve felt for a while that this is a book that I should have picked up. But I’m glad that I waited until now, when I could understand it, and appreciate it, a lot more.
Now to make sure my coworker watches Star Wars...