Tag Archives: Pulitzer

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ finally going digital

Harper Lee has signed on for Scout, Boo Radley and Atticus Finch to enter the electronic age.

Filling one of the biggest gaps in the e-library, “To Kill a Mockingbird” will become available as an e-book and digital audiobook on July 8, HarperCollins Publishers announced Monday. Lee, in a rare public statement, cited a “new generation” of fans in agreeing to the downloadable editions of her Pulitzer Prize-winning classic.

“I’m still old-fashioned. I love dusty old books and libraries,” Lee, who turned 88 on Monday, said through her publisher. “I am amazed and humbled that ‘Mockingbird’ has survived this long. This is ‘Mockingbird’ for a new generation.”

Monday’s announcement came almost exactly a year after Lee sued her former literary agent, Samuel Pinkus, in order to regain rights to her novel. Lee, who lives in her native Alabama and has been in frail condition, had alleged she was “duped” into signing over the copyright.

The lawsuit was settled in September. Lee’s attorney, Gloria Phares, said at the time that the case had been resolved to the author’s satisfaction, with “her copyright secured to her.”

With digital holdouts from J.K. Rowling to Ray Bradbury changing their minds over the past few years, Lee and her novel had ranked with J.D. Salinger and his “The Catcher In the Rye” as a missing prize for e-book fans. First published in July 1960, “Mockingbird” has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and still sells more than 1 million copies a year, according to HarperCollins. It was adapted into a 1962 movie of the same name that featured an Oscar-winning performance by Gregory Peck as Finch, the courageous Alabama attorney who defends a black man against charges that he raped a white woman.

“Mockingbird” remains a standard text in classrooms and is a popular choice for citywide and national reading programs. Lee never published another book, which only seemed to add to the novel’s appeal, and she has for decades resisted interviews and public appearances.

“Every home has a dog-eared copy of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ and now readers will be able to add this favorite book to their digital libraries,” Michael Morrison, president and publisher of HarperCollins U.S. General Books Group and Canada, said in a statement. “Although today is Nelle Harper Lee’s birthday, she is giving readers around the world the gift of being able to read or listen to this extraordinary story in all formats.”

The new audiobook will be a downloadable edition of the existing CD narrated by Sissy Spacek. Harper also is releasing an “enhanced” e-book that will feature additional material. Spokeswoman Tina Andreadis said the extra features had not yet been determined.

With “Mockingbird” now set for e-release, major works still unavailable in digital editions include “The Catcher In the Rye,” ‘’The Autobiography of Malcolm X” and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”

‘August: Osage County’ blisters with family dysfunction

It’s unlikely that any family dinner of yours will equal the rollicking, vicious one at the heart of August: Osage County, the blistering film adaptation of the Pulitzer-winning Tracy Letts play starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.

The most biting insults come from the mouth of the one and only Streep, who holds absolutely nothing back in a performance that could be called showy except that’s it’s so compelling and deeply faithful to the script. As Violet Weston, the 65-year-old matriarch of an Oklahoma clan, she serves up one of the most spectacularly damaged characters in memory. And as written by the hugely talented Letts, who has both playwriting and acting Tonys to go with his Pulitzer, she’s someone you’ll want to meet — if only once.

August: Osage County, directed by John Wells, does not work best as a movie, even with a screenplay by Letts himself. Those who saw it onstage in Chicago or on Broadway will likely recall a nearly perfect theatrical experience, one that left them drained but grateful after three hours.

But the material feels less naturally suited to film, and a brief final scene feels tacked on for cinematic purposes. But those are not fatal flaws.

Virtually all the action takes place in a crumbling home in the heart of the Oklahoma plains, baking in the August heat. It’s the home of Violet and her husband Beverly, a 69-year-old poet and raging alcoholic. “My wife takes pills and I drink,” he says. “That’s the bargain we’ve struck.”

And Violet does some serious pill-taking. As a result, the regal Streep is wrinkled and pale, with a craggy fuzz of gray hair peeking out of a dark wig, the consequence of chemotherapy for mouth cancer. She has stains on her baggy sweater and can’t keep her balance. Tufts of smoke from her cigarettes linger in the stifling air, because she doesn’t believe in air conditioning. Plastic shades are taped shut, blocking out natural light.

The extended family is summoned home when Beverly mysteriously disappears. All are forced to sit together, talk together, eat together, and of course face some serious family truths. 

Margo Martindale is absolutely pitch-perfect as Violet’s sister Mattie Fae, at once boisterous, flighty, warm, and witheringly insensitive to her awkward adult son, Charlie (Benedict Cumberbatch). Or, as Mom calls him, “Little Charlie,” which should tell you a lot.

Also wonderful is Chris Cooper as Mattie Fae’s long-suffering husband, and Julianne Nicholson as the lonely and misunderstood Ivy, one of Violet’s daughters. The top-flight cast also includes Sam Shepard, Juliette Lewis, Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin and Dermot Mulroney.

Much depends, though, on the dynamic between Violet and daughter Barbara (Roberts), who’s in the throes of a disintegrating marriage. This is one of the meatiest roles Roberts has had in a long time, and she handles it with an admirable lack of vanity. Gone is that high-wattage Roberts smile. Barbara is weary, bitter and shrewish.

Watch her in that dinner scene, trying to dodge her mother’s verbal missiles, until she no longer can. Come to think of it,  watch absolutely everyone in that scene.

And then plan your own family dinner, secure in the knowledge that it could never, ever be this bad.

See other reviews of recently released Oscar contenders on Wisconsin screens by clicking here.


Gay reporter wins Pulitzer, covered lesbian murder, rape

Its best-known staffer is a sex columnist with a new show on MTV. It’s famous for irreverent, often caustic coverage of Seattle’s entertainment and political scene. Now the alternative weekly The Stranger has another distinction – a Pulitzer Prize.

Eli Sanders, an associate editor at The Stranger, received one of journalism’s highest honors this week, winning the feature writing award for his harrowing account of a woman who survived a rape. Her partner was killed, and the surviving woman testified about her ordeal in court.

“I was stunned at first,” Sanders said told the AP.

The Stranger jokingly bills itself as “Seattle’s only newspaper,” and staffers, led by gay sex columnist Dan Savage, go out of their way to poke fun at just about everything.

But Sanders said it was “cool that a scrappy little alt-weekly in Seattle can produce something that resonates on this level.”

Sanders won for coverage of the murder trial of a man accused of raping and stabbing a lesbian couple in their Seattle home in 2009, killing one of them.

“It’s a great, great privilege to work at a paper that will allow someone to hang on to a crime story for so long,” Sanders said. “(It) was a credit to how much time The Stranger was willing to give.”

Read Sanders’ report, “The Bravest Woman in Seattle.”

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