Harper Lee -- who turns 85 today -- denies cooperating with upcoming book
People are inevitably curious about Harper Lee. The author of the much-loved novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" has kept to herself since the book's publication in 1960, eventually moving back to Alabama, and never publishing another book.
On Tuesday, Penguin announced that it would publish a memoir of lives intertwined with the reclusive writer, "The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee," by Marja Mills, a former Chicago Tribune reporter, written "with direct access to Harper and Alice Lee [her sister] and their friends and family."
On Wednesday, the N.Y. Times reports, Harper Lee issued a statement saying that she had not cooperated with the book. "Contrary to recent news reports, I have not willingly participated in any book written or to be written by Marja Mills. Neither have I authorized such a book. Any claims otherwise are false."
The statement was issued by the law firm Barnett, Bugg, Lee & Carter -- the "Lee" is Harper's sister Alice -- and signed by Harper Lee.
Mills' literary agent, Miriam Altshuler, told the paper that her client "has the written support of Alice Lee and a lifelong family friend, and prior to Harper Lee's stroke in 2007, she had the verbal support of Harper Lee."
Even if the book does not proceed as originally billed, but curiosity about the woman who wrote "To Kill a Mockingbird" will remain high. It has been decades since she gave an actual interview -- although she did speak politely (about ducks) to a British reporter who tracked her down in 2010.
As few details of her life are known, one thing is certain: Today, April 28, is Harper Lee's 85th birthday.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: Harper Lee at a 2007 ceremony in Alabama. Credit: Associated Press Photos