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Whistler Reads: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and the biography of Harper Lee, UP CLOSE

abstract:Join us Tuesday October 5th at 7:30 PM at the Whistler Public Library when Kerry Madden will join us on Skype Video. It has been 50 years since Harper Lee's novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird" came out and rocked our world. The reclusive author almost never gave interviews or speeches to accept her awards, including the Pulitzer Prize she was given in 1960. She did form a lasting relationship with actor Gregory Peck who played the lead figure, Atticus Finch in the film version of her book, a character modeled on Lee's own father who was a newspaperman and former lawyer of the highest moral standard. (Gregory Peck's grandchild is named Harper Peck Voll, in tribute to Harper Lee.) A new biography has come out on Harper Lee, written by Kerry Madden, a Professor at the University of Alabama, titled Harper Lee: Up Close.

Harper Lee, now 86, declined to be interviewed for her biography. She feels biographies are for dead people. As Madden discovered from her ample research of Lee, who despite her age, remains incredibly active; she golfs every week claiming the walk gives her time to think, and her 90-plus year-old sister still works as an attorney in town.

"Madden draws on extensive research—including trips to Monroeville, Ala., and interviews with classmates, colleagues and town residents—to explore how Lee’s life and times inspired her masterpiece. To Kill a Mockingbird has sold 30 million copies in 40 languages and continues to sell 10,000 copies per year, and Lee is 'one of the authors most read by [North]American students.' ...This biography will appeal to fans of the novel and to newcomers. Readers will find a fascinating portrait of an independent young woman stubbornly going her own way to become the one thing she wanted to be: a writer. Extensive source notes and an excellent bibliography round out this superb biography, one of the best in the Up Close series." Get your copy of Harper Lee: Up Close by Kerry Madden—Kirkus Reviews

Purchase both the novel and biography and re-visit this classic novel while learning about the author whose story shaped our views of racism and injustice. If you are in Whistler, get your copy from Armchair Books. WR members receive a 10% discount. Treat yourself to The Guardian's round-up of pics of the author.


July 13, 2010

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    Kerry Madden

    Kerry Madden hails from Los Angeles California, her "home base for 22 years". Now into her second year teaching Creative Writing at the University of Alabama Kerry says the school goes into fall session pretty early. She is presently on the road with her family heading back to Birmingham Alabama.

    Kerry has published four children-YA fiction titles and regularly tours the state and country giving writing workshops to youths and adults. Past workshop organizers give her rave reviews. As a resident of the state where one of the country's most important children's literature icons lives - it is not surprising that Kerry would take her passion down the road to capture insights into the life and influences of Harper Lee. "Mockingbird" is the perfect platform from which to teach great writing. Here is an article published in the Los Angeles Times. You can visit Kerry's website at

    Mockingbird Plot
    The story takes place during three years of the Great Depression in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama. The narrator, nine-year-old Scout Finch, lives with her older brother Jem and their widowed father Atticus, a middle-aged lawyer. Jem and Scout befriend a boy named Dill who visits Maycomb to stay with his aunt for the summer. [In real life Dill was Truman Capote, the author of In Cold Blood which Harper Lee helped to research. The relationship between Harper and Capote is depicted in the film Capote/in Cold Blood starring Philip Seymor Hoffman and Cathrine Keener. Hoffman won "best actor" in 2005 for this film.]

    The three children are terrified by, and fascinated with, their neighbor, the reclusive "Boo" Radley. The adults of Maycomb are hesitant to talk about Boo and for many years, few have seen him. The children feed each other's imaginations with rampant rumors about his grotesque appearance and his reasons for remaining hidden, while they dream of ways to get him to come out of his house. Following two summers of friendship with Dill, Scout and Jem find that someone is leaving them small gifts in a tree outside the Radley place. Several times, the mysterious Boo makes gestures of affection to the children, but, to their disappointment, never appears in person.

    Atticus is assigned to defend a black man named Tom Robinson, who has been accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a young white woman. Although many of Maycomb's citizens disapprove, Atticus agrees to defend Tom to the best of his ability. Scout is subjected to other children taunting Atticus, calling him a "nigger-lover," and she is tempted to stand up for her father's honor by fighting, even though he has told her not to. For his part, Atticus faces a group of men intent on lynching Tom, but this danger is averted when Scout, Jem, and Dill shame the mob into dispersing by forcing them to view the situation from Atticus' and Tom's points of view.

    Because Atticus does not want them to be present at Tom Robinson's trial, Scout, Jem and Dill watch in secret from the colored balcony. Atticus establishes that the accusers—Mayella and her father and the town drunk, Bob Ewell—are lying. It also becomes clear that the friendless Mayella was making sexual advances towards Tom and that her father caught her in the act. Despite significant evidence of Tom's innocence, he is convicted. Jem's faith in justice is badly shaken, as is Atticus', when a hopeless Tom is shot and killed while trying to escape from prison.

    Bob Ewell is humiliated by the trial and vows revenge. He spits in Atticus' face on the street, tries to break into the judge's house, and menaces Tom Robinson's widow. Finally, he attacks the defenseless Jem and Scout as they walk home from a Halloween pageant at their school. Jem's arm is broken in the struggle, but, amid the confusion, someone comes to their rescue. The mysterious man carries Jem home, where Scout eventually recognizes him as the reclusive Boo Radley.

    Interesting Facts About the Making of the Movie

    The film was nominated for 5 Academy Awards and won 3: Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Art Direction/Set Decoration. Gregory Peck considers this role of Atticus to have been his finest. People didn't believe the matinee idol could pull it off - as did Lee - until she saw Peck in costume and makeup wearing a 3-piece suit, sporting gray hair and a pocket watch. When her father died, Nelle gave Mr. Peck her dad's pocket watch.

    The art director, Harry Bumstead travelled to Monroeville to check out the town. He was escorted by Harper Lee and many of the details he saw, porch swings, the size and character of the houses, the block of ice on the courthouse steps for patrons to chip off on their way in, were all details he recreated so vividly that people exclaimed after seeing the movie that they'd been to that town. Get the special DVD edition, To Kill a Mockingbird (Legacy Series Edition)

    Past Book Discussions, Author Events, & Photos

    Whistler Reads was inaugurated on February 11th, 2005, and now has over 600 local members who are: local residents and vacation homeowners of Whistler and the Howe Sound corridor, Vancouver, and the Seattle corridor, as well as visiting tourists who have become friends and stay in touch with us online (and make WR events their next vacation).

    • 29th Event: Jun/July 2010:
      Deloume Road
      by Matthew Hooton. Matthew gave a wonderful reading and answered questions, then everyone took a lovely summer stroll down the village walk to the waiting patio tables at Il Caminetto.Matt also critiqued two local writer's successful writing contest submissions.Buy Book
    • 28th Event: Mar/Apr 2010:
      Food Rules
      by Michael Pollin. We had a 6-member local panel from the health care policy maker, to Olympic athletes, to fitness trainers and experts in sports psychology to a local organic food producer from Pemberton.Buy Book
    • 27th Event: Dec/Jan 2009:
      The Golden Mean
      by Annabel Lyon. The author attended.Buy Book
    • 26th Event: Oct/Nov 2009:
      Bicycle Diaries
      by David Byrnes. At the Westin Hotel's Fire Rock Lounge with video clips of the Talking Heads band (Byrnes was the band's lead singer-songwriter for over two decades) and stories by WORCA - Whistler's Off Road Cycling Association executive.
      Buy Book
    • 25th WR Event:Aug/Sep 2009:
      Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro, Canada's diva of the short story genre. In a lovely Blueberry Hill residence.
      Buy Book
    • 24th WR EVENT: June/July 2009:
      Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton with 5-member expert panel culled from all areas of the art world: artist, advisor, collector, curator and dealer.
      Buy Book
    • 23rd WR EVENT: Apr/May 2009:
      South by Ernest Shackleton with special guest speaker Chris Shackleton and opening remarks by South Pole enthusiast, Andrew Prossin, ONE OCEAN ADVENTURES, our sponsor for this event who has led over 100 trips to the pole.
      Buy Book
    • 22nd WR EVENT: Feb/March 2009:
      The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid with special guest speaker Graham E. Fuller former Station Chief CIA in the Middle East discussing the book. Opening remarks by John Weston, MP all located in the library of the Nita Lake Lodge, Whistler. (video clips upcoming)
      Buy Book
    • 21st WR EVENT: Dec/Jan 2009:
      Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman. Jan 4th 1:30-2:30pm at the Whistler Public Library. Ski all morning then drop by after lunch. With seven interesting speakers whose talks are available via the video link.
      Buy Book)
    • 20th WR EVENT: Oct/Nov 2008:
      A Romance On Three Legs: Glenn Gould's Obsessive Quest For The Perfect Piano by Katie Hafner. Nov 6th, 2008 at the WPL with special guest speaker UBC Department of Music Paula McLaughlin.
      Buy Book
    • 19th WR EVENT: July/Aug & Sept 2008:
      Devil May Care by Sebastian Fawlks celebrates the Ian Fleming Centenary. This event is a James Bond-themed WR fundraiser. Sept 13th, 2008 that was held in an exclusive Whistler home and featured a lingerie fashion show by Agent Provocateur, gambling tables a-la James Bond and body-painted Bond Girls. Grey Goose sponsored our Vesper martini bar.
      View event photos.
      Buy Book
    • 18th WR EVENT: Mar/Apr 2008:
      The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama. A lively skit put on by members of Whistler's politico MC'd by Pique Newsmagazine's GD Maxwell and special guest MP, John Weston.
      Event photos here
      Buy Book
    • 17th WR EVENT: Jan/Feb 2008:
      Out Stealing Horses by Pers Petterson. A cozy group evening with host Paula Shackleton presenting a close-reading of this exceptional translated novel from Norway and discussion of the art of translation.
      Buy Book
    • 16th WR EVENT: Nov/Dec 2007:
      The Age of Turbulence by Alan Greenspan with special guest speaker, Economist Glen Donaldson, PhD from the Sauder School of Business who consults to the Bank of Canada. With the forecasted recession, the changes to the Cnd-US currency exchange rates, and the banks reeling from the sub-prime mortgage crisis a can't-miss opportunity. Held at The Four Seasons Hotel. (drinks and appi's)
      (Three part video of this event appears on the home page.)
      Buy Book
    • 15th WR EVENT: Sept/Oct 2007:
      The Female Brain by Dr. Louann Brizendine. (Author podcast pending) The whole group was able to speak LIVE with the author from her home in SanFrancisco about this fascinating topic - how women's brains work and differ from those XY's.
      Buy Book
    • 14th WR EVENT: Jul/Aug 2007:
      The End of East by Jen Sookfong Lee, who joined us at Millennium Place followed by an Shanghai Tang-themed party at Rick's MIX bar and restaurant.
      See video of author giving a tour through Chinatown with WR founder Paula Shackleton on the home page video screen.
      " >Buy Book
    • 13th WR EVENT: May/Jun 2007:
      Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai at the local Indian restaurant, Tandoori where we shared delicious Indian cuisine and hospitality.
      Buy Book
    • 12th WR EVENT: Mar/Apr 2007:
      Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden hosted at the fabulous Path Gallery surrounded by native art we commenced the evening with a traditional Sage Smudge Ceremony and members read their grandfather's WWI trench poetry - a moving event.
      (Author Interview)
      Buy Book
    • 11th WR EVENT: Jan/Feb 2007:
      Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan (Author Interview) with play-back of Paula's interview with the author and an in-costume parody skit of the Paris Peace Conference world leaders led by members of Whistler's own town council and the president of the Chamber of Commerce.
      Buy Book
    • 10th WR EVENT: Nov/Dec 2006:
      Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam, Giller Prize Winner 2006 with the author joining the group via teleconference from Toronto, Ontario.
      Buy Book
    • 9th WR EVENT: Sept/Oct 2006:
      Ms Alcott's Email by Kit Bakke with the author joining us at the spectacular home on Horstman Lane and delicious wines by Quail's Gate and Food by Vancouver's top restaurant chef from "NU".
      (View event photos at the 2nd annual BookBuffet Cornucopia Luncheon)
      Buy Book
    • 8th WR EVENT: Jul/Aug 2006:
      The Futurist by James P. Othmer with the group meeting fireside at the Wild Flower restaurant to share a delicious BC wine tasting.
      Buy Book
    • 7th WR EVENT: May/June 2006:
      The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant. Winner of the GG nonfiction 2005 with the author attending to provide a reading and answer member questions.
      (View event photos and video podcast
      Buy Book
    • 6th WR EVENT: Mar/Apr 2006:
      Snow by Orhan Pamuk. Winner of the NYT Book of the Year 2005 with the group meeting at local coffee shop Blendz
      Buy Book
    • 5th WR EVENT: Dec 2005/Jan 2006:
      The Girls by Lori Lansens with the group meeting at Java's in Nesters.
      Listen to our Author Podcast Interview
      Buy Book
    • 4th WR EVENT: Sept/Oct 2005:
      Beyond Measure by Pauline Holdstock, BC Book Award winner and Giller finalist, who attended this, our first food and wine literary event, at the Buy Book
    • 3rd WR EVENT: July/Aug 2005:
      article feature click here">A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
      Buy Book
    • 2nd WR EVENT: May/June 2005:
      Small Island by Andrea Levy Winner of the Orange Prize among other awards.
      Buy Book
    • 1st WR EVENT: March/April 2005:
      Rockbound by Frank Parker Day A Canada Reads selection
      Buy Book

    Getting the Book

    Click on our vendor links to purchase online, or stop in at Armchair Books for your member discount reserved copy—and don't miss the next meeting!

    Feedback and suggestions. Which books are you reading? Who are your favorite authors? Become a WR sponsor?

    Start an Employer-Sponsored Reading Group—It's easy! Survey your staff to see who's interested. Identify a group leader and we'll train them with leadership and group dynamic skills. We will get you reading and discussion materials. We'll also moderate your first few meetings.

    Come on, Whistler! It's only one book every 8 weeks. You already exercise your body; reading exercises your mind. Meet people. Share your ideas. Meet authors. Improves employee satisfaction and staff cohesion, and your customers will enjoy discussing books and hearing about the events. Perfect for ski & board instructors, restaurant staff, concierge & hotel staff, grocery clerks, or anyone in the hospitality industry. Meet on staff premises or join the main WR group meetings.

    Re-donate used books back to us and we will distribute to schools, libraries, and places where people can't afford to buy books.

    Call Us at +1 (604) 907-2804 or email Register and receive all the updates.

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