Stop trying to expose Harper Lee’s secrets, and listen to her work

February 19, 2016 5:29 PM

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Stop trying to expose Harper Lee’s secrets, and listen to her work

Early in “Mockingbird,” Charles Shields’s 2006 biography of Harper Lee, he quotes at length from the description of “To Kill a Mockingbird” the Literary Guild provided to readers when Lee’s debut novel was selected for its book club. “The great mystery of the neighborhood was the Radley home,” Literary Guild editor John Beechcroft wrote. “Gloomy, always shuttered, packed with mystery, the home fascinated Scout and Jem and Dill. No one ever went inside its gate, and what lives were led there were the subjects of wild rumor.”

Beechcroft was describing fiction, but that final sentence aptly describes what happened to Lee, whose death at age 89 was announced today, after the wild success of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” For decades, observers have speculated about Lee’s life, trying to fill the void left by her quiet conduct of...

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