Friday, April 30, 2010

Stephen Colbert Celebrates To Kill a Mockingbird 50th Anniversary

"I can't read any part of this book aloud without crying," Stephen Colbert tells the audience at Symphony Space Wednesday night.

"So please don't blog this."

Colbert then read an excerpt from Chapter 22 of Harper Lee's classic To Kill a Mockingbird, the story of a admirable lawyer, his two children, and his conviction to stand up for an innocent black man accused of rape in the South in the late '30s. (There were no tears to speak of.)

Accompanying Colbert for the 50th anniverary discussion were Kurt Anderson, Libba Bray, Mary McDonagh Murphy, Jayne Anne Phillips, Oskar Eustis and founder of Symphony Space Isaiah Sheffer.

"How do you celebrate a 50th anniversary of a book?" Sheffler implored the audience. "You can try to understand how it affects people."

Each of the panel members described how the novel influenced them - with Colbert admitting he didn't get to the book until his twenties and Anderson recalling reading the book while growing up in Nebraska.

"Reading it during the civil rights movement gave added weight," he told the audience. "It certainly put white people's heads in the right direction."

The panel also entered a relatively heated discussion at the end of the evening about whether or not the book could have had a sequel, with Phillips brushing off that "Real writers don't do sequels."

The argument reached its resolve when a young boy, no older than ten, recounted the book's closing message during a brief Q&A at the podium.

"'There wasn’t much else left for us to learn, except possibly algebra'," he recalled Scout saying.

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