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How Mockingbird still makes millions for Harper Lee

Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird

(Rex Features)

The week’s best arts and culture reads – including a very profitable book, a plan to read the complete Shakespeare and Martin Amis on his wicked stepmother.

Harper Lee’s permanent Christmas
Brian Warner | Celebrity Net Worth | 6 January 2014
She has only written one book. But, luckily for all concerned, it was the right book. “To Kill A Mockingbird sells between 750,000 and 1m copies every year. So how much money has this put into Harper Lee’s pockets? According to legal papers filed against former book agent Sam Pinkus, in the first six months of 2009 alone Harper Lee earned $1,688,064.68 in royalties. That’s $9,249 per day”.

A Twelfth Night epiphany
Walter Kaiser | New York Review of Books | 6 January 2014
Five-star review of Tim Carroll’s New York production which “brings this play to life in a way I have only very rarely seen equaled”. With quite a cast. Mark Rylance is “one of the greatest Olivias of all time”. Stephen Fry is “certainly the finest Malvolio I have ever seen”. History is being made. “You may, if you’re lucky, see another Shakespearean production that’s as good as this one, but it’s unlikely you will ever see one that’s better”.

Interview: Henry Louis Gates on 12 Years a Slave
Andrew Anthony | Observer | 5 January 2014
Discussion of Steve McQueen’s film. Central question: why so long for a realistic film about slavery to emerge, when 200 slave narratives survive for source material? “Steve says it’s the Obama effect. Many people have said there is a renaissance in black film. I think it’s partly about the coming of age of the affirmative-action generation, the people who were able to get into white institutions and then start black studies programmes”.

My wicked stepmother
Martin Amis | Daily Mail | 4 January 2014
Tribute to the late novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, who spent 15 years married to Kingsley Amis − his second marriage, her third. It started well, ended horribly. “In a good marriage the principals soon identify each other’s irritabilities and seek to appease them. Jane, and especially Kingsley, did the opposite. As he became coarser, she could not but seem snootier. The infection proliferated and ramified; it became a cold war”.

Optimise your travel to work: Read Shakespeare
Stig Abell | Evening Standard | 2 January 2014
There are 38 plays in the canon. If you can read for an hour a day going to and from work you can manage a play a week easily — the collected works in less than a year. “Shakespeare is the best possible use of your time on the train, Tube or bus. You could work, I suppose, but that is what being at work is for. Or you could annoy people by playing loud music through tiny headphones”.

The stories I never wrote
Bob Brody | Atlantic | 1 January 2014
Good writers know to recognise and discard their bad ideas. It hurts, but that’s how they make space for better ideas to come along. “It’s taken me a long time to learn this − that sometimes the best course of action is inaction, that even the best-intentioned projects can be misguided, and that a life well lived sometimes consists of mistakes you never gave yourself a chance to make”.

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