‘Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts…’
When I was younger, reading was probably my favourite pop culture past time along with playing video games. Music would be a close third with movies and TV trailing far behind in fourth. Football was my primary concern of course. Football and pick ‘n’ mix. But reading was right up there. I was obsessed with Roald Dahl, The Famous Five, Nick Hornby and then Stephen King and James Herbert and beyond. I still love reading now but I simply do books differently. Now, reading is something to be squeezed in before bed, almost as an afterthought. The stars aligned for the final few chapters of To Kill A Mockingbird however, in a way that rarely happens as an adult…
I awoke around 7am on a grey summer morning feeling groggy, confused and hungry. Knowing my wife wouldn’t be up for a good three hours yet I would normally head downstairs and stare mindlessly at football websites before watching cartoons. That morning was different somehow though and instead, I did something that I never do. I took a book downstairs, put the big lamp on and sat and read for an hour. As I got a few pages into Harper Lee’s seminal classic To Kill A Mockingbird, a thunderstorm erupted outside. I was so engrossed in the tale of the Finch’s and Maycomb Country that I didn’t notice it straight away but as I raced towards the novel’s unforgettable conclusion, I became aware of thunder crashing and lightning flashing as the cat sadly looked outside from his position on the doormat. I haven’t sat and finished a book like that since I was a boy and the heady mix of thunder and lightning and the smell of wet cat allowed me to lose myself completely in a book that has been beloved by many for generations. It was a nice feeling is all.
I don’t know if it was the magic of the morning or the Lee’s heartwarming prose but I found the conclusion of To Kill A Mockingbird to be spellbinding. While there were parts of the book that were a bit of a drag, the major set pieces such as the court case, Scout’s adventures at school and Boo Radley’s resolution are all about as compelling as literature gets.
I have said before that some aspects of pop culture need to be imbibed at a certain age to fully appreciate it. I read Catcher in the Rye as an angsty 16 year old and it spoke to me in a way that it simply wouldn’t have done a decade later. I think To Kill A Mockingbird might be similar. Lots and lots of people count it among their very favourite works of literature and while I couldn’t go as far as that, I can totally understand why some would, particularly when blessed with the bright eyed enthusiasm of adolescence.
To Kill A Mockingbird isn’t one of my all time favourites, heck, it isn’t even one of my favourite books I have read this year, but for a few sepia tinged pages, it did transport me back to a time in my life when books were just that little bit more magical and for that I will be forever grateful.