To celebrate the publication of Harper Lee’s second novel, Go Set a Watchman, Books & Books is partnering with the Coral Gables Art Cinema for a free screening of 1962’s To Kill a Mockingbird on Tuesday. Starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, Horton Foote won an Oscar for his adaptation of Lee’s book. (Peck also won an Oscar for best actor.) There’s no denying that To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic—not only did it win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, it went on to sell over 40 million copies worldwide, and it’s never been out of print.
“I first read it so long ago, but I remember that it had a gigantic impact on me,” said Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books. “As a high school teacher I taught it and it was the same for my students.”
For those who need a refresher, the story centers on six-year-old Scout Finch and her (mostly) anti-racist family as they work against the American South during the Jim Crow era. Scout’s father is an attorney (as was Lee’s) who ends up defending a young black man accused of raping a white woman. Lee wrote what she knew—namely, a small southern town in the 1930s where racism was part of everyday life.
Now, more than fifty years after Lee’s first novel, the long-lost (it was discovered in 2014) pre-sequel will be released amidst delight and controversy. The fact that the manuscript was found while she was in poor health, and that she never intended to publish again, have made some people suspicious.
“I watched the PBS special on Harper Lee and she thanked her lawyer and her publisher; she seemed quite happy that it was getting published," said Kaplan. "I think we have to take that at face value."
Go Set a Watchman is set 20 years after To Kill a Mockingbird and evidence suggests that it was an earlier version of the later. It features Scout as an adult returning to her hometown of Maycomb, Alabama, to visit her father. Some readers are already shocked to discover that Atticus is far more racist now — he's against desegregation and has attended a Ku Klux Klan meeting. On the other hand, it’s been argued that the older Atticus allows for a more nuanced character.
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Both of Lee’s books will be on sale at the theater, as well as at Books & Books. Pre-order or purchase either book all day Tuesday and you'll get 20% off. And if you can't make the film but want to ride the wave of enthusiasm, you can stop by Books & Books for a southern-themed supper menu.
“We’re going to have southern food like jambalaya, southern beers, that sort of thing,” said Kaplan. “I think it will be very interesting; it seems like [Go Set a Watchman] is something people will want to talk about.”
The film screening of To Kill a Mockingbird is free and open to the public, and seats are on a first-come, first-served basis. No RSVP required. For more information about the film and cinema, visit gablescinema.com.