It's a sad day for the literary world.
Pulitzer prize-winning author Nelle Harper Lee, best known for 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird, has died today at the age of 89, sources in her Alabama hometown confirm.
While her literary canon may have been short - readers had to wait over half a century for her second book, last year’s bestseller Go Set a Watchman - her loss to the publishing world is immeasurable.
Famously reclusive, she never strayed too far from Monroeville, where on 28 April 1926 she was born as the youngest of four children to lawyer Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch Lee. Speaking in a rare interview in 1964, she described her education as pretty ordinary:
"I was born in a little town called Monroeville, Alabama, on April 28, 1926. I went to school in the local grammar school, went to high school there, and then went to the University of Alabama. That's about it, as far as education goes," she said.
In 1949 she moved to New York to work as an airlines reservations clerk while waiting for her big break as a writer, sending her first manuscript for To Kill A Mockingbird to publishers Lippincott & Co eight years later. The book of course, published on 11 July 1960 was a revelation, winning Lee the Pulitzer Prize and making its influence known to this day.
During the sixties, Lee would also work alongside childhood friend and fellow novelist Truman Capote, assisting him with his research of his own landmark novel In Cold Blood (In 2008’s Capote, Catherine Keener plays Lee alongside Philip Seymour Hoffman's titular maverick) but of course she didn't pick up a pen herself for another fifty years, rarely appearing in public and declining all interviews.
Befitting her mantra, we're going to shut up now and let you pay tribute in the best way possible by reading her work.