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Family And Friends Pay Tribute To 'Mockingbird' Author Harper Lee

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The world is remembering writer Harper Lee this weekend. The author of the beloved "To Kill A Mockingbird" died on Friday, at the age of 89. Family and friends have gathered to honor the writer in her hometown, Monroeville, Ala., which was the model for the fictional Maycomb of the novel. We offer several readings from the novel that illustrate Lee's gift for description.

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DEBORAH HAZLETT: (Reading) Maycomb was an old town. But it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather, the streets turned to red slop. Grass grew on the sidewalks. The courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow, it was hotter then. A black dog suffered on a summer's day. Bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men's stiff collars wilted by 9 in the morning. People moved slowly then. They ambled across the square, shuffled in and out of the stores around it, took their time about everything. A day was 24 hours long but seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County.

MARTIN: Of course, lawyer Atticus Finch lived in Maycomb, along with his two children, Jem and his sister, who was the novel's narrator, named Scout. But in many ways, one of the most intriguing characters in the book is someone who is barely seen, a mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley.

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HAZLETT: (Reading) Jem gave a reasonable description of Boo. Boo was about 6-and-a-half-feet-tall, judging from his tracks. He dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch. That's why his hands were bloodstained. If you ate an animal raw, you could never wash the blood off. There was a long, jagged scar that ran across his face. What teeth he had were yellow and rotten. His eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time.

MARTIN: In the end, "To Kill A Mockingbird" is a novel about prejudice, justice, fear and compassion - and Jem and Scout's realization that all is not right with the world, when Tom Robinson, the black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, is convicted.

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HAZLETT: (Reading) It was Jem's turn to cry. His face was streaked with angry tears as we made our way through the cheerful crowd. It ain't right, he muttered all the way to the corner of the square, where we found Atticus waiting. Atticus was standing under the streetlight, looking as though nothing had happened. His vest was buttoned. His collar and tie were neatly in place, and his watch chain glistened. He was his impassive self again. It ain't right, Atticus, said Jim. No son, it's not right. How could they do it? How could they?

I don't know, but they did it. They've done it before, and they did it tonight. And they'll do it again. And when they do it, it seems that only the children weep.

MARTIN: Readings from Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird," by Deborah Hazlett. Harper Lee died this past week. She was 89 years old. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.