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Book News: Harper Lee Agrees To E-Book Version Of 'To Kill A Mockingbird'

<em>To Kill a Mockingbird</em> author Harper Lee smiles before receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007.
Chip Somodevilla
Getty Images
To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee smiles before receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Harper Lee has agreed to release To Kill a Mockingbird, her only published book, as an e-book. "I'm still old-fashioned. I love dusty old books and libraries," the reclusive 88-year-old author said in a statement, adding, "I am amazed and humbled that Mockingbird has survived this long. This is Mockingbird for a new generation." The e-book, together with an audiobook narrated by Sissy Spacek, will be released July 8 by HarperCollins. A few other classic books are still holding out against e-book versions — J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye is a notable example. Lee sued her literary agent Samuel Pinkus last year, saying he took advantage of her poor health to trick her into signing over the rights to her book. The lawsuit was settled in September.
  • On the BBC Radio 4 Women's Hour, J.K. Rowling says her mother never knew about Harry Potter: "My mother was a passionate reader, and she would have been excited whatever I did, if I succeeded at anything, but particularly to be a writer, she would have considered to be a very valuable thing," adding, "she never knew about Harry Potter — I started writing it six months before she died, so that is painful. I wish she'd known."
  • For The New York Review of Books, Christopher Benfey collects some of the most famous parentheses in literature, and looks at the ways they're used to (literally) bracket pain. He cites what might be the most famous one, from Nabokov's Lolita: "My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three, and, save for a pocket of warmth in the darkest past, nothing of her subsists within the hollows and dells of memory."
  • In an interview in Rolling Stone, George R.R. Martin compared his gory, hack-happy plotlines to quieter modern forms of warfare: "Taking human life should always be a very serious thing. There's something very close up about the Middle Ages. You're taking a sharp piece of steel and hacking at someone's head, and you're getting spattered with his blood, and you're hearing his screams. In some ways maybe it's more brutal that we've insulated ourselves from that. We're setting up mechanisms where we can kill human beings with drones and missiles where you're sitting at a console and pressing the button. We never have to hear their whimpering, or hear them begging for their mother, or dying in horrible realities around us. I don't know if that's necessarily such a good thing."
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    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.

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