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PODCAST: 50th Anniversary “To Kill a Mockingbird” panel [MP3]

As our city girds itself for the tsunami of book boosterism that's about to sweep Copley Square this weekend (to refresh your memory on just how incredible last year's Boston Book Fest was, check out our 2009 podcast archives), it seems like this is the perfect opportunity to wax introspective on one of the greatest novels of all time. Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird -- the reclusive author's first and only literary venture, the tale of a small-town lawyer's struggle to reconcile racial climate with legal justice in the American Deep South -- is just as captivating as it was in 1960.

July 11, 2010, marked the beloved book's 50th year on the bookshelves worldwide. And to celebrate, the Harvard Book Store hosted a panel discussion and screening of the 1962 film adaptation at the Brattle Theatre.

The panel included historian and essayist John Summers, Boston Globe columnist and National Book Award finalist Joan Wickersham, and Harvard Law professor Randall Kennedy. The panelists expounded on the historical, literary, and legal aspects of TKAM, weighing in on everything from the fishbowl mentality of Maycomb County to the linguistic skills of the book's young narrator, Scout.

"We must not forget that this is a book for adolescents," Summers pointed out, "observed by a second grade girl who speaks with perfect diction, uses words like ‘lineaments,' and can see through the evils of the Dewey Decimal System."

However, Wickersham noted, it's this sort of informed innocence that makes the book a piece of truly great writing. "She [Harper Lee] kept the voice fresh with the child," Wickersham said. "But there's also this kind of adult consciousness."

DOWNLOAD: 50th Anniversary To Kill A Mockingbird panel  [MP3]

Recorded live at the Brattle Theatre, on July 14, 2010 (courtesy of the Harvard Book Store); if you enjoyed this listening to this talk, check out the Harvard Book Store's calendar of upcoming events. To subscribe to our podcast, paste this RSS feed into your podcatcher or feed-reader of choice, or bookmark http://thephoenix.com/podcast

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