Book Hauntings


What happens to you after you finish a really good book? Sometimes I finish a book and immediately pick up another and dive right in. But many times, the ghost of the just-completed book haunts me for days and days. There are endless reasons for these hauntings: I don’t want the story to end; I don’t want to leave that world; There’s a lot to process; I have become addicted to the beauty of the language or have fallen in love with the writer; The book was a perfect fit… Well, for me right now, it’s all of the above, and more.

I am being haunted by To Kill a Mockingbird. It lingers long after the story ends, and I think these lingerings are a wonderful part of my overall experience with the book. Here are some of my hauntings, or after-effects, after finishing the book earlier in the week:

  • I immediately needed to see the film again.
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  • After seeing the film, I have renewed my love affair with Gregory Peck, adding many of his other films to our Netflix queue.
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  • In searching for all things Gregory Peck, I discovered that in 1995 he started a special Reading Series through the Los Angeles Public Library. This is an annual event which “features some of the most acclaimed actors of our time, who read aloud from their favorite plays, poems, short stories, novels, essays and letters.” What a terrific night out!
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  • I’ve become fascinated with Harper Lee and want to know more about her, so I picked up a copy of Mockingbird, by Charles J. Shields, and am quickly reading through it, learning some very interesting things.
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  • I’ve been toying with the idea of reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.
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  • I’ve suddenly had a powerful craving for a front porch and a front porch rocker (we live in a tiny little condo with beautiful grounds, but no front porches).
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  • Words like “y’all” and “thank yew” keep coming out of my mouth (Maggie, can you help me with this?)
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  • I’ve got this crazy idea of taking off on a spontaneous trip to the South so I can see/hear my first Mockingbird and see the landscapes that seeped into me while I read this book.
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I can’t get certain quotes from the book out of my mind:

I wanted to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what. (Atticus Finch)

She seemed glad to see me when I appeared in the kitchen, and by watching her I began to think there was some skill involved in being a girl. (Jean Louise “Scout” Finch)

Folks don’t like to have somebody around knowin’ more than they do. It aggravates ’em. You’re not gonna change any of them by talkin’ right, they’ve got to want to learn themselves, and when they don’t want to learn there’s nothing you can do but keep your mouth shut or talk their language. (Calpurnia)

And last, but not least, I want to read more and more books by these very talented Southern writers because their voice and their sense of place are really fascinating!

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19 thoughts on “Book Hauntings

  1. PAT

    I just clicked on your name at Nan’s blog.

    I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, several times! Yes, I too, believe it’s a haunting book. I’ve also seen the movie many times. All the way back to when it was first released to theaters. I read the book in 1963 or 64…I can’t remember when the movie was released. I do know I read the book first and it was in paperback. At my age, dates and times, get a bit confused. I remember Robert Duval in the movie, as Boo, o my goodness…what a powerful performance, without words. I’ve been a fan of his, since.

    I have read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. It was a tad frightening, to say the least!

    I love books to do with southern culture. I was born and raised in southern Missouri, which in many ways is very southern. Perhaps that’s why I have such an affinity for southern literature.

    Come by the back porch sometime!

    Pat
    Back Porch Musings

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  2. Robin

    Oh how nice to meet you, Pat! I will definitely visit your back porch and read your musings! Thanks for stopping by!
    Robin

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  3. Think Pink Dana

    I just read In Cold Blood this month, and it was excellent. There is a definite genteel southerness to the tone, and the writing really is quite brilliant, but there is little else to compare it with TKIM.

    I absolutely love what you call book hauntings. Yes yes and again YES. I call it book mourning as well–but haunting may be more accurate.

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  4. Maggie

    Ah, when I read something that sits on my ribs, I like to counter it with a funny children’s book. I go for the picture books with sparse words, so there is no way I can think too much. My last easy, really easy read was Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. 😀

    Thanks for this thought provoking post. Both you and Nymeth have added to the TKaM experience, SRC experience, for that matter. 😀

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  5. Kay

    I love the picture of the rocker on front porch. I think it adds to the shivers of the word “hauntings”. That is exactly the feeling I get when I read something that just is so very good. You put it perfectly. By the way, my library book group has voted to include “Mockingbird” as a read in the next few months and I told them as they were voting that we would add “To Kill a Mockingbird” as a bonus book that month if some would like to refresh their memory of that book or read it for the first time. I am also going to suggest that they watch the movie or listen to the Sissy Spacek audio version if they can. Thanks so much for all the ideas and your great review!

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  6. Nymeth

    I know just what you mean, Robin. I picked up a book by Calvino after finishing, and although I’m usually a fast reader, I haven’t been able to get past the first few chapters. I think one of the reasons is that “Mockingbird” is still with me, so getting into something else is being very hard.

    Are you familiar with Capote in general, or would this be an introduction to his work? He’s one of my favourite authors, but “In Cold Blood” is one of the few of his books I haven’t read. If you haven’t read it yet, I really recommend “The Grass Harp”. It’s a beautiful and moving story in which the Southern feeling is very strong.

    The same is true of “Other Voices, Other Rooms”, and plus one of the characters is said to be inspired by Harper Lee as a child (just like Dill is said to be inspired by Capote). I have to confess that I did not like that one as much, though. But it’s still worth reading, I’d say.

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  7. Amy Palko

    You have such a wonderful way of putting things, Robin! I love the phrase ‘book haunting’. Last book I was haunted by was Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time-Traveller’s Wife. I just found it quietly devastating, and in many ways it is still with me, even though I read it this time last year. It’s amazing just how powerful words can be!

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  8. Gentle Reader

    Isn’t To Kill a Mockingbird haunting? Perfect word, I agree! And I’m a big Gregory Peck fan, too. Did you ever see The Big Country? Good anti-western western. Also, I had heard about the Gregory Peck Reading Series at the library here, but have never been. Thanks for reminding me!

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  9. Robin

    TPD, “book mourning” is a great term, too. Your descriptions of In Cold Blood are intriguing. Thanks!

    Thanks, Maggie. Reading a children’s book is a great idea. That’s exactly what I need to do at the moment!

    Thanks, Kay. I went looking for front porch rocker images and found that one and fell in love with it. That’s where I’d spend my summer, if we had a front porch!

    Nymeth, I’m really not familiar with Capote, except for seeing the film of In Cold Blood. I’ve been reallly interested in him since then, however, so I would like to read his books. It sounds like I should start with The Grass Harp, or Other Voices, Other Rooms.

    Thanks, Amy! I haven’t read The Time-Traveler’s Wife, but it’s definitely on my list.

    Gentle Reader, I thought of you when I found out about the Gregory Peck Reading Series. I think I saw The Big Country many many years ago, but since I don’t remember much about it, I need to add it to the queue.

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  10. jenclair

    What a great post! To Kill a Mockingbird has remained one of my favorite books of all time, and you’ve written a wonderful tribute to it.

    I didn’t like the beginning of Shields’ Mockingbird, but after the first chapter, I thought it was excellent.

    In Cold Blood is chilling and haunted me for a long time in a less pleasant way. I agree with Nymeth that “The Grass Harp” is a beautifully written “other” side of Capote, who also wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

    Thanks for a great post!

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  11. Nymeth

    If you have half an hour to spare, you could try his short story “A Christmas Memory”. It’s one of my all time favourite short stories, and it makes me think that, when it comes to short story writing, Capote just might be my favourite author.

    Reading it would give you a nice idea of what his writing is like – painfully beautiful at times, in my opinion.

    Also, this story is thematically very close to “The Grass Harp”, which also portrays the friendship between a lonely young boy and an (well, two actually) elderly lady.

    Like Harper Lee, Capote uses a child’s perspective, but he also uses it to show how lonely childhood can be.

    Anyway, sorry for ranting, I can get carried away when talking about things I love 😛

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  12. Bookfool

    To Kill a Mockingbird is definitely one of those books that sticks with you. “Haunting” is an apt description. The Book Thief did that to me, as well. I couldn’t get it out of my head for ages.

    If you like hearing contractions like “y’all” and such, Maggie and I know where to send you. 🙂

    You’ve never seen a mockingbird? They’re all over the place, down here. I keep taking photos of them and then thinking, “I should quit this. I have way too many mockingbird photos.” They’re rather bold – a little easier to photograph than many birds because you can get pretty close without spooking them.

    I’m still waiting to get my hands on Truman Capote’s writing, but I’m a huge fan of Larry Brown’s nonfiction and highly recommend him for a little more Southern flavor.

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  13. Robin

    Thanks, Jenclair. To Kill a Mockingbird is now amongst my all-time favorites. As for Capote, I think I will start with The Grass Harp, and read In Cold Blood later.

    Nymeth, you’re right. A Christmas Story is beautiful and very moving. Thank so much for sending me the link. I’m going to pick up The Grass Harp, and see what else I can find by him, and look forward reading him.

    Thanks, Bookfool, I’m not familiar with Larry Brown, so I’m going to search out some of his stuff and will add it to my Southern reading list. I can tell I’ll be reading a lot more than the 3 books I chose for the SRchallenge!

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  14. Nan -

    Oh, Robin. First, I love this book. Second, I love this movie, except I am still scared by the first sight of Boo (Robert Duvall). :< ) Third, we recently saw The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit with Gregory Peck, and we thought it was great. Also, last summer we saw Roman Holiday on the "big screen" and we loved it. We have Gentlemen's Agreement in the Netflix queue. His movies are really great. We have catbirds here, which are related to mockingbirds, if you want to come visit. :<) I loved your blog entry. PS In Cold Blood is very scary. I read it when it first came out and I can still remember where I was sitting.

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  15. raidergirl3

    Hi
    To continue this theme, the movie Capote is about the writing of In Cold Blood, and has Harper Lee as Capote’s secretary.
    Great post by the way. Books that make you want to stay immersed, and do more stuff – like other books, movies, songs, feelings, are what make reading so wonderful. They send you off on these tangents you didn’t plan to take.

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  16. Bellezza

    I find it very difficult to finish one book, and immediately pick up another. I think it’s because I tend to dwell in the book I’m reading; it’s almost as if the situation, or the characters, has become real to me. When I read too many books right after one another I tend to lose the insights I’m still mulling over. It’s good to know you feel the same way to some degree.

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  17. Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks

    I hate to say that I haven’t read it, yet. It will have to be on my Autumn list.

    The last book I read that left me haunted was The Thirteenth Tale!

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  18. Robin

    Thanks, Nan, I have Roman Holiday already, but just put The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit and Gentlemen’s Agreement on the queue, as well as The Yearling. Haven’t seen any of them in years!

    I’d love to sit on your beautiful porch, with a cosmpolitan in hand, listening to your catbirds!

    Hi RaiderGirl3! Thanks for stopping by! I agree… books that “linger” are wonderful, and I love those subsequent tangents!

    Bellezza, I do like to take the time that’s needed to really process a book like this. I think it’s a lot like cooking…some things need to simmer for awhile.

    Thanks for stopping by, Brenda! You have a wonderful reading experience ahead of you, and I’d love to hear your thoughts about the book after you read it!

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  19. Carl V.

    I’ve been there as well. You finish an amazing book and it just stays with you and you don’t feel like you can read anything else. I felt that way after Time Traveler’s Wife, after The Thirteenth Tale, and also after The Book of Flying (to name my 3 more recent experiences with this). Its almost as if you feel that you are betraying the experience to pick something up right away again.

    Its good with Mockingbird that you can go back to the movie as well and allow yourself to marinate in the story that way. I do the same thing whenever I get on a Lord of the Rings kick…it is all I think about and between the books, the films, and many as yet unread books about Tolkien…I can go to all those sources to just soak it all in.

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