As readers and fellow writers everywhere continue to mourn the death of Harper Lee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author who gave us the beloved fictional characters Scout, Jem, Atticus, and Boo Radley of To Kill A Mockingbird, a rare interview with the notoriously-reclusive writer has surfaced on the internet. In 1964 — four years after To Kill A Mockingbird hit shelves, and just two years after the Academy Award-winning screen adaptation hit theaters — radio station WQXR interviewed Harper Lee, about everything from Southern living to the unexpected success of To Kill A Mockingbird. That interview, which runs just 11 minutes, is now available online at public radio station WNYC News. It's a very rare treat for Lee's devoted fan base.
At one point asking WQXR reporter Roy Newquist, “Did you ever find a whole world in the branches of a Chinaberry tree?,” Lee speaks openly in the interview about her vivid childhood imagination, her inspiration for writing, and her desire to be, as she termed “the Jane Austen of South Alabama.” Concerned that the small town, Southern way of life — which she grew up wholly immersed in, and loved — was fading from American culture, Lee describes her desire to preserve that culture through her writing.
In Lee's words:
My objectives are very limited. I think I ought to do the best I can with the talent that God gave me, I suppose. I would like to be the chronicler of something that I think is going down the drain very swiftly — and that is small town, middle class, southern life … There is something universal in it, there’s something decent to be said for it, and there’s something to lament when it goes, and it’s going, it’s passing.
To listen to the entire interview, visit the WNYC webpage here.