Day 289 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and little did I know when I mentioned the "magical animal known as the pig" recently that one of Harper Lee's apartments in New York is above Nancy Lee's Pig Heaven Restaurant. A fact uncovered by columnist Jay C. Grelen, and quoted in Mockingbird, by Charles J. Shields.
Little did I know, when I linked Harper Lee and Emily Dickinson in recipe mode here in my blog, and then later, this morning, discussing The Belle of Amherst, by William Luce, with a woman who is also writing a one-woman play, that I would come to think of them both, Dickinson and Harper Lee, as shy women with an abiding confidence in their work who would retreat from public life and publication for reasons of their own.
Shields quotes Nelle Harper Lee as writing in a letter, "People who have made peace with themselves are the people I most admire in the world." She might not yet have made peace with herself when she wrote that, but I think she has now. So does Shields, who says, "From all indications, she seems to have done that."
Likewise, some people watching The Belle of Amherst might think Emily Dickinson was not at peace, and some that she was, but I think she was. I think she meant it when she came to say, "Publication is the auction of the mind of man," and that she knew her work would live in the hearts and minds of those who would find it, and that it would be found, published or not.
Little did I know, when I listed my stack of books to be read, that I would have to read Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote (my ex-library first edition) next, though on a bookshelf, not a stack, at the time, because character Idabel Tompkins is based on Nelle Harper Lee. Well, Kim, the inventor of serendipity-do, knew, because I told her. And possibly Cindy Lou Who, knew, too, because children and fictional characters are so conveniently intuitive, and she is both, and so seasonal.
Happy Thanksgiving, whether you are having turkey or the magical animal known as the ham.
"You must change your life," said Rilke. So that's what I keep doing. I worked as an actor, wrote for an encyclopedia, edited a literary magazine, shelved and retrieved materials in several libraries, walked beans, and taught college English courses. Now I write & edit as a freelancer, direct plays, blog "eight days a week," study the random, and listen to birdsong.