Emily

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A musical chameleon and flamboyant showman who never stopped evolving, Prince was one of the music world’s most enigmatic superstars. He celebrated unabashed hedonism, sang of broken hearts and spiritual longing and had a mysterious personal identity that defied easy definition.

In such hit songs as “1999,” “Little Red Corvette,” “I Would Die 4 U,” “When Doves Cry” and “Purple Rain,” Prince produced a musical legacy and a provocative stage presence that set him apart from most other entertainers of the 1980s and ’90s.

He won seven Grammy Awards and an Academy Award, and was named in 2004 to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He remained a creative force in recent years and had performed earlier this month but canceled an April 7 appearance in Atlanta because of what a representative called the flu.

His death April 21 at his home in the Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen, Minn., was a devastating shock to the entertainment world and beyond. He was 57.

His publicist, Yvette Noel-Schure, confirmed his death, but the cause was not immediately known.

Prince was a songwriter, musician, producer, choreographer and performer, seemingly in equal measure. He crossed musical genres, from classic rhythm-and-blues to hard rock, funk and jazz, seeking a vision of originality with each incarnation. His primary canvas was, in effect, the studio, where he produced his music with a meticulous eye toward pop perfection.

“Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent,” President Obama said in a statement. “As one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time, Prince did it all. Funk. R&B. Rock and roll. He was a virtuoso instrumentalist, a brilliant bandleader, and an electrifying performer.”

[An appreciation: We’ve lost our single greatest pop star]

Onstage, he projected both an urgent masculinity and an androgynous vulnerability, as falsetto squeals yielded to deep baritone growls. He stood only 5-foot-2, but few had a more commanding presence. He wore leather and lace, sometimes at the same time. He strutted the stage in a long coat like a Regency dandy, only to throw it open and reveal scanty briefs underneath.

In the early years, his theatrical concerts featured cars, backup singers and dancers, elaborate lighting and sometimes raunchy, frankly sensual dramatizations. He linked sexual obsession with a sense of spiritual yearning, drawing comparisons with one of his early musical models, Marvin Gaye. As he played his guitar with a frenzied intensity, a geyser of liquid would spew forth from the guitar’s neck.

“Do you want to take a bath with me?” he said, as he tore off his shirt in concerts in the mid-1980s. He then stepped into a bathtub under a spotlight and let the audience’s imagination roam.

Prince’s music was full of bounce and drive, with memorable musical and verbal hooks. “Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1999,” he sang in his 1982 hit “1999,” coining a phrase that would survive long past its expiration date into the new millennium.

In 2007, Prince gave what was widely regarded as one of the greatest Super Bowl halftime performances ever, singing “Purple Rain” and other songs in a downpour in Miami. As a songwriter, he penned songs recorded by Chaka Khan (“I Feel for You”), the Bangles (“Manic Monday”) and Sinead O’Connor (“Nothing Compares 2 U”), among other performers.

In 1988, Village Voice critic Robert Christgau declared that Prince’s varied talents made him “the greatest rock-and-roll ­musician of the era — as singer-guitarist-hooksmith-beatmaster, he has no peer.”

[How celebrities reacted: ‘The world lost a lot of magic’]

When “Little Red Corvette” became a major hit in 1982, it was one of the first songs by a black artist to be in regular rotation on MTV. It was one of the grand party songs of its era, celebrating youthful libido. His crowd-pleasing 1984 song “Let’s Go Crazy” began with a call to prayer — “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life” — before becoming a hard-driving dance tune.

His 1984 album “Purple Rain” sold more than 13 million copies in the United States and won two Grammy Awards. He also won an Academy Award for best ­original song score for the semi­autobiographical film of the same name — in which Prince was the central character.

Six of Prince’s songs rank in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the top 500 songs in rock history, including “When Doves Cry” from the album and film “Purple Rain.” The soulful “When Doves Cry” was simultaneously No. 1 on the pop, dance, and soul charts in 1984.

The musically innovative tune had no bass line. Instead, Prince’s keening voice and an insistent rhythm track contributed to the mood of emotional desolation:

How can you just leave me standing?

Alone in a world that’s so cold? (So cold)

Maybe I’m just too demanding

Maybe I’m just like my father too bold

Beyond the erotic indulgences of some of songs, Prince also created music of surprising subtlety and depth, showing that rock music could evolve from its adolescent impulses to a more wistful sense of maturity. He challenged Michael Jackson for pop supremacy and acknowledged the influence of such masters as Gaye, James Brown and Jimi Hendrix.

Drummer Ahmir Thompson of the group the Roots, known as Questlove, wrote in Rolling Stone magazine that “Purple Rain” was “a crowning achievement, not only in Prince’s career but for black life — or how blacks were perceived — in the Eighties. It’s the equivalent of Michael Jordan’s 1997 championship games: He was absolutely just in the zone, every shot was going in.”

[Raunchy Prince was actually a conservative Christian]

But the depth, sweep and dynamism of Prince’s music also evoked comparisons with such disparate artists as John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Madonna. The kaleidoscopic quality of his talent — torn between stardom and artistry — was sometimes vexing. One of his managers told him, “You can’t be both Elvis Presley and Miles Davis.”

From an early age, Prince cultivated a certain sexual and racial ambiguity. He confronted — but did not answer — the questions with his 1981 song “Controversy”: “Am I black or white? / Am I straight or gay? / . . . Was I what you wanted me to be?”

In “I Would Die 4 U,” from 1984, Prince wrote: “I’m not a woman / I’m not a man / I am something that you’ll never understand.”

He deepened the mystery when he officially dropped the name Prince in 1993 and asked to be identified by a visual symbol that could not be pronounced. For seven years, until he reclaimed his crown — and given name — as Prince, he was called “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” or just “The Artist.”

His goal, he said, was to create a fresh artistic start.

“ ‘Prince is crazy’ — I knew what people were saying,” he told Newsweek in 2004. “When I became a symbol, all the writers were cracking funnies, but I was the one laughing. I knew I’d be here today, feeling each new album is my first.”

He sometimes performed with the word “slave” written on his face, as he fought his record label, Warner Bros., for control of his work. “If you don’t own your masters,” he said, “your master owns you.” When he broke free of the label in 1996, he released an album fraught with symbolic meaning: “Emancipation.”

Prince Rogers Nelson was born in Minneapolis on June 7, 1958. His father, John Nelson, was a pianist in the jazz group Prince Rogers Trio, which would give the future superstar his name. His mother, the former Mattie Shaw, was a singer in the group.

When the couple divorced, Prince grew estranged from his father. They later reconciled, and John Nelson co-wrote songs with his son, including “Computer Blue” on the album “Purple Rain” and “Scandalous,” from the “Batman” soundtrack (1989).

[Prince and Bowie showed there’s no right way to be a man]

Early in his career, Prince sometimes said he was the product of an interracial marriage, but in fact both of his parents were African American. He attended a largely black high school in Minneapolis.

Prince began playing piano at age 7 and soon became proficient on other instruments, including guitar, saxophone and drums. When he was 10, he saw James Brown in concert and was transfixed. He determined that he would try to emulate the soul star’s captivating style. He formed his first group in junior high school, began writing music and made a demo tape that attracted interest from Warner Bros. He wrote, produced and performed all the music on his debut album, “For You,” in 1978.

He found success with his second album, “Prince” (1979). The song “I Wanna Be Your Lover” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B chart.

With his third album, “Dirty Mind,” he sang explicitly about homosexuality and incest “with a gleeful lasciviousness,” critic Stephen Holden wrote in the New York Times.

“Obviously,” Holden observed, “Prince is not for everyone’s taste. But in today’s conformist pop-funk atmosphere, he stands out as a powerful, if eccentric, original voice.”

More than 30 other albums would follow. In addition to his music, Prince directed and performed in three other films, “Under the Cherry Moon” (1986), “Sign O’ the Times” (1987) and “Graffiti Bridge” (1990).

After leaving Warner Bros. in 1996, Prince started his own record label and a nightclub in Las Vegas. He continued to live near his home town of Minneapolis, where he recorded his music at a 65,000-square-foot studio.

As a reflection of his musical eclecticism, his desk contained photos of jazz giants Charlie Parker and Miles Davis.

In 1996, he married Mayte Garcia, a dancer. The marriage was annulled two years later. They had a son who died in infancy.

His second marriage, to Manuela Testolini, ended in divorce. A complete list of survivors was not available.

Throughout much of the 1990s, Prince kept a low profile as he preferred to be identified by the visual symbol. He re-emerged in his 40s as something of a changed and chastened man, still musically energetic but seeking a kind of spiritual sustenance.

After years in which he gave the impression of being a hedonist, Prince said he had a spiritual rebirth. He stopped swearing, adopted a vegan diet and in 2001 became a Jehovah’s Witness. He also stopped performing some of his more sexually explicit songs, which to some observers was like novelist William Faulkner forsaking Mississippi as a theme.

“There’s certain songs I don’t play anymore, just like there’s certain words I don’t say anymore,” he said in 2004. “It’s not me anymore. Don’t follow me way back there. There’s no more envelope to push. I pushed it off the table. It’s on the floor. Let’s move forward now.”

In recent years, the ­once-sheltered personality of Prince became more outgoing, as he consented to interviews and went on concert tour. He received his most recent Grammy in 2007 for best male R&B vocal performance for the song “Future Baby Mama.”

In a late burst of energy, Prince released four albums in the past two years, and last month announced that he was writing an autobiography titled “The Beautiful Ones,” a reference to a track on the album “Purple Rain.”

“Sometimes I stand in awe of what I do myself,” Prince told the New York Times in 1996. “I feel like a regular person, but I listen to this and wonder, where did it come from? I believe definitely in the higher power that gave me this talent. If you could go in the studio alone and come out with that, you’d do it every day, wouldn’t you?”

Read more Washington Post obituaries

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By Fenit Nirappil and Emily Guskin,

Hillary Clinton has a clear but narrowing lead over Bernie Sanders three weeks before Maryland’s Democratic primary contest, according to a new Washington Post-University of Maryland poll.

The poll also finds good news for Donald Trump, who has a slight edge among likely Republican voters, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich in second place.

In a general-election matchup, Clinton wallops Trump by 35 percentage points among registered voters, wider than President Obama’s winning margins in the reliably blue state in 2008 and 2012.

Maryland — which holds its primary April 26, along with Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Delaware and Connecticut — so far has received little attention from the 2016 hopefuls.

[Read full Maryland poll results ]

In the Democratic contest, the state’s 95 delegates will be awarded proportionately. The statewide Republican winner will receive 14 of 38 delegates, with the remaining 24 delegates awarded in sets of three to the winner of each of Maryland’s eight congressional districts.

The poll shows Clinton leading Sanders 55 percent to 40 percent among likely Democratic voters. Clinton’s advantage is half what it was in a Baltimore Sun poll last month that showed her up roughly 30 percentage points. Last fall, a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll of Democratic voters found Clinton leading Vice President Biden by 17 points and Sanders by 23 in a six-person field.

Maryland is seen as a Clinton stronghold because of its proximity to Washington and because more than one-third of the Democratic electorate is African American, a group that has heavily favored the former secretary of state this year.

Even while former governor Martin O’Malley was seeking the party nomination last year, his support stayed in the low single digits, and scores of Maryland officeholders across the state endorsed Clinton.

[Little love for O’Malley in home state]

She leads Sanders among black voters 66 percent to 33 percent, according to this week’s poll, and among women 60 percent to 35 percent. Clinton has even larger advantages among moderate and conservative Democrats (63 percent to 30 percent) and voters ages 50 and older (66 percent to 26 percent).

Hermione Nickens, a Prince George’s County teacher who decades ago voted for Ronald Reagan, said she thinks Sanders is too old to be president at age 74.

Nickens, 56, says she’s disgusted by Republican rhetoric that has left immigrant students in her high school class feeling ostracized and afraid of deportation. She believes Clinton, who is 68, has the best record in the field.

“No one has the experience on the global front that Hillary has,” said Nickens, who is African American.

Mirroring many primaries so far, Sanders performs best with those who are younger, leading Clinton with voters under age 40 by a margin of 61 percent to 38 percent. Sanders runs roughly even with Clinton among white Democratic voters, 46 to 47 percent. The self-described Democratic socialist leaned on a winning margin among whites in each of his four state victories where exit polls were conducted.

On the Republican side, Trump has a slight edge among likely voters, garnering 41 percent of their support compared with Kasich’s 31 percent and 22 percent for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Although the 10-point margin bodes well for Trump, it is not statistically significant given the survey’s sample size of 283 likely Republican voters.

Kasich, who has won only his home state, has been banking on a strong showing in northeastern states to show he’s a serious candidate. He leads among Maryland college graduates with 43 percent, ahead of Trump’s 28 percent and Cruz’s 23 percent support. In 2012, 56 percent of Maryland’s GOP primary voters had college degrees, one of the highest shares in the nation.

Trump is buoyed by support from Republicans without college degrees, leading with 51 percent among this group compared to Kasich’s 22 percent and Cruz’s 21 percent.

Kasich’s record on balancing the federal budget as a congressman appeals to John Cirelli, a property manager in Anne Arundel County.

“He’s not off the wall. He’s not crazy like Trump, who doesn’t think before he speaks,” said Cirelli, 61. “He’s more of a statesman.”

Colette Delwiche, also 61, says she thought Trump was joking when he first announced his presidential bid. But the former office manager from Charles County is now backing the Manhattan billionaire as a way of expressing her disgust with national politics. She says she’s been disillusioned by watching her 10 children grow up apathetic about their government.

“I figured he can’t do any worse than Obama,” Delwiche said of Trump. “What a disaster for our country has that been. The world thinks we are a joke.”

[Hogan is Maryland’s most popular governor since at least 1998]

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), whose approval ratings are soaring, has said he does not think Trump should be the party’s nominee. But he has declined to endorse any other candidate since his close friend, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, dropped out. Among Republican voters, those who strongly approve of Hogan’s performance are slightly less supportive of Trump than GOP voters are overall.

Republican disaffection with Trump is one reason for Clinton’s 63 to 28 percent margin over the GOP front-runner in a head-to-head matchup. By comparison, Obama beat GOP nominee Mitt Romney by 26 points in the state in 2012.

Just over seven in 10 registered Republicans (72 percent) say they would support Trump over Clinton in such a contest, while 87 percent of Democrats — who outnumber Republicans in the state more than 2 to 1 — would support Clinton.

Clinton also leads by 59 percent to 27 percent among political independents.

The Washington Post-University of Maryland poll was conducted March 30 to April 3 among a random sample of 1,503 Maryland adults on landline and cellular phones, conducted in partnership with Maryland’s Center for American Politics and Citizenship. Results among the sample of 539 Democratic likely voters have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5.5 percentage points; the error margin among 283 Republican likely voters is 7.5 percentage points.

Scott Clement contributed to this report.

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“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view,” Atticus Finch tells his daughter, Scout, in one of the most memorable passages of the classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” — “until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Few people in the world could claim to really understand Harper Lee, the novel’s elusive author, who died Feb. 19 at 89 in Monroeville, Ala.

She withdrew from public life shortly after her book was published in 1960, only to reappear in old age with the controversial release of “Go Set a Watchman,” a manuscript identified as a long-lost early draft of the book that decades earlier had vaulted her to literary renown and, decades later, remained at the center of the discussion of race in America.

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” a coming-of-age story set in the Depression-era South where Ms. Lee grew up, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961 and sold more than 40 million copies, becoming one of the most cherished novels in modern American literature. One oft-cited survey asked respondents to name the book that most profoundly affected their lives. Ms. Lee’s novel ranked near the top, not far behind the Bible.

The novel arrived amid the growing movement for civil rights and drew much of its resonance from its hero, Atticus, a lawyer who nobly and futilely defends a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman in their segregated town. For many, Atticus was embodied by actor Gregory Peck, who received an Academy Award for his performance in the 1962 movie based on Ms. Lee’s book.

[How a manuscript’s discovery became Harper Lee’s ‘new’ novel]

“What that one story did, more powerfully than one hundred speeches possibly could, was change the way we saw each other, and then the way we saw ourselves,” President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama said in a joint statement. “Through the uncorrupted eyes of a child, she showed us the beautiful complexity of our common humanity, and the importance of striving for justice in our own lives, our communities, and our country.

“Ms. Lee changed America for the better.”

It was widely understood that Ms. Lee modeled Atticus on her father, Amasa Coleman “A.C.” Lee, a lawyer who, like his daughter’s fictional character, served in the state legislature and favored pocket watches. Scout, the book’s narrator, was believed to have been, more or less, Ms. Lee.

In the 55 years between the publication of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the release in July 2015 of “Go Set a Watchman,” few Americans came of age without meeting Atticus; his doomed client, Tom Robinson; Scout and her brother, Jem; their peculiar friend, Dill; and Boo Radley — the mysterious neighborhood shut-in whom the children try to coax from the shadows.

Atticus, in particular, was beloved as the ideal father, even the ideal man in a society that was profoundly flawed, but, through wisdom such as his, perhaps redeemable.

The reverence surrounding Ms. Lee’s book compounded the shock, edging on disbelief, when readers learned the contents of “Go Set a Watchman,” a literary juggernaut pre-ordered online in numbers topped only by J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series.

“Watchman” was presented as not strictly a sequel to “Mockingbird,” but rather an early iteration of the book set in the 1950s. Jem is dead. Scout — properly Jean Louise Finch — is living in New York but is home for a visit. Atticus, the white man for whom a courtroom’s entire “colored gallery” had risen in respect in “Mockingbird,” is an arthritic segregationist.

In “Watchman,” Jean Louise watches her beloved father preside over a White Citizens’ Council meeting where a speaker spews an invective about blacks who threaten to “mongrelize” the white race.

Atticus asks his daughter: “Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?” And Jean Louise, who loves her father but cannot abide his ideology, tells him at one point, “I despise you and everything you stand for.”

Gradually, astonishment surrounding the book gave way to interpretations that perhaps generations of readers of “To Kill a Mockingbird” had asked too much of Atticus by expecting him, beyond the scope of that book, to be a saint. The man Ms. Lee presented in “Mockingbird” had represented an innocent defendant with conviction. But that Atticus knew only the American South of the 1930s and before, when neither society’s racist structure nor his moral rectitude had yet been challenged by the civil rights movement.

The older Atticus of “Watchman,” like many white Southerners of his era, appeared to be reeling in the changes brought about by integration. He had gravitated to an ideology made even more abhorrent for many modern readers when he, Atticus, of all men, espoused it.

[I lived next door to Harper Lee. This is the woman I knew.]

Questions swirled about the book and its meaning — and about the competency of Ms. Lee, who by then was reported to be largely deaf and blind. How could the Atticus of “Mockingbird” be reconciled with the bigot of “Watchman,” or should any such reconciliation be attempted? Had Ms. Lee been manipulated into releasing an abandoned manuscript that might irrevocably alter her legacy — or, with questions of race still raw in American society, did she once again have some message to impart?

Few people held out hope for complete answers. With her near-total retreat into private life in the mid-1960s, Ms. Lee had become, along with J.D. Salinger and Thomas Pynchon, one of the great literary enigmas of the 20th century. Often, she was called a recluse, a description that was intriguing but inaccurate. Ms. Lee — Nelle Harper or just Nelle to friends — simply rejected celebrity.

For years, she divided her time between New York City and Monroeville, where she shared a house with her sister Alice Finch Lee, a lawyer who managed Nelle’s affairs and acted as a gatekeeper, usually keeping the gate closed to would-be interviewers. Harper Lee had guarded her anonymity so vigilantly, it was said, that she could roam Manhattan without being recognized.

Curious onlookers were left with little more than conjecture about her life. Much meaning was found in her resemblance to Scout, their shared summertime diversions with a clever boy from out of town and their common adoration of their fathers. But once, Ms. Lee offered another clue.

“You know the character Boo Radley? Well, if you know Boo, then you understand why I wouldn’t be doing an interview because I am really Boo,” Ms. Lee privately told Oprah Winfrey when Winfrey invited her to participate in a “Mockingbird” documentary, according to an account the talk-show host provided to the Los Angeles Times.

‘One of the most beloved men’

Nelle Harper Lee — the youngest of four children, the granddaughter of a Confederate soldier and the descendant of slaveholders — was born April 28, 1926, in Monroeville. The town served as a model for the fictional hamlet of Maycomb that was the locus of both “Mockingbird” and “Watchman.”

“Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it,” says Scout in “Mockingbird.” “In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. . . . A day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with.”

“Watchman” would cast the town in a more complex light. After witnessing her father at the White Citizens’ Council meeting, Jean Louise wanders the streets in shock, nauseated and shaking. “Go away, the old buildings said. There is no place for you here. You are not wanted. We have secrets.”

If the events of “To Kill a Mockingbird” seemed so vivid as to have been real, it was, to a degree, because they were.

[We never really learned the lesson of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’]

Ms. Lee had few toys; Jem and Scout’s most prized possessions are the trinkets mysteriously left for them in the knot of a tree.

A young Truman Capote provided the inspiration for Dill, the impish boy who is sent to stay with relatives in Maycomb. Capote came to Monroeville under similar circumstances as a child, embarking with Ms. Lee on a long, at times tumultuous, friendship that began with the two future writers typing stories on an Underwood typewriter, a gift from A.C. Lee.

From a young age, Capote once remarked, they shared an “apartness,” she with her tomboyish ways at a time when girls were expected to be feminine and he, an effeminate, itinerant boy who felt that he had “fifty perceptions a minute to everyone else’s five.” Their relationship figured prominently in the 2005 film “Capote,” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman in the Oscar-winning title role and Catherine Keener as Ms. Lee.

Unlike Atticus, A.C. Lee did not raise his children as a widower, although his wife, the former Frances Cunningham Finch, suffered from what was described as a nervous disorder, possibly bipolar disorder, before her death in 1951.

In “Mockingbird,” a book-length account of Ms. Lee’s life, biographer Charles J. Shields described A.C. Lee as a loving father, pulling Ms. Lee up on his knee much as Atticus did with Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Scout learns from Atticus why she must go to school, why she must not fight and how to compromise. Jem learns that while he may shoot all the blue jays he wants, “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” because it does nothing but sing. Both children learn that mockingbirds come in many forms and that Boo, the specter of the shuttered Radley place, is, in fact, one of them. A neighbor of the Lee family’s resembled the fictional shut-in and agitated about suing after the publication of “Mockingbird.”

[Mourning readers celebrate the book on Instagram]

Ms. Lee’s father specialized in tax law but took on one criminal case: the defense of two black men, father and son, who were accused of murdering a white storekeeper. They were hanged, their bodies mutilated.

In a separate case that had electrified Monroeville, a black man, apparently innocent, was convicted of raping a white woman. He was scheduled for execution, according to Shields’s book — a sentence that was commuted to life in prison, where the man suffered a mental breakdown before dying of tuberculosis.

In the statehouse, A.C. Lee was a centrist Democrat and occupied himself with legislation related mainly to budget matters and morality. Outside the legislature, he was part-owner and editorialist of the Monroe Journal newspaper.

He “only gradually rose to the moral standards of Atticus,” Shields wrote in the biography. A.C. Lee was “more enlightened than most” but “no saint, no prophet crying in the wilderness with regard to racial matters. . . . Like most of his generation, he believed that the current social order, segregation, was natural and created harmony between the races.”

At church, A.C. Lee pressured the local Methodist minister to keep secular matters, including social justice, out of sermons. But according to Shields, he also confronted Ku Klux Klansmen on at least two occasions, including one time when they barged in on a Halloween party for young people because of a rumor that blacks had been invited.

He “is one of the few men I’ve known who has genuine humility, and it lends him a natural dignity,” Ms. Lee told an interviewer in 1961. “He has absolutely no ego drive, and so he is one of the most beloved men in this part of the state.”

Just as Scout called her father Atticus, Ms. Lee was said to have addressed her father as A.C.

‘Chance for a new life’

Ms. Lee ambivalently attended Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala., before studying law at the University of Alabama.

At the university, she penned a column, Caustic Comment, in the student newspaper and edited the humor magazine, called Rammer Jammer. According to Shields, she wrote for the magazine a short play mocking a racist amendment proposed for the state constitution.

She dropped out because she wanted to write and moved to New York, where Capote was already drawing notice. Just as Ms. Lee had captured him in Dill, he captured her in at least two tomboyish characters from his fiction, Idabel Thompkins in the 1948 novel “Other Voices, Other Rooms” and Ann “Jumbo” Finchburg in his 1967 short story “The Thanksgiving Visitor.”

To support herself, Ms. Lee worked as an airline reservations clerk. Then, for Christmas in 1956, she received a gift from Michael and Joy Brown, friends she met through Capote, whom she described as “in periodically well-to-do circumstances.” It was an envelope containing a note with the promise of a large financial gift: “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.”

[How Harper Lee lost control of her legacy]

Ms. Lee used her time to set out the story that became her first novel. Her protagonist’s name was inspired by a learned Roman from antiquity, Titus Pomponius Atticus.

Ms. Lee’s agent, Maurice Crain, and her editor at the Lippincott publishing house, Tay Hohoff, were credited with helping the young writer shape the manuscript from a series of vignettes into the fully formed “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The extent of her revisions, as well as Hohoff’s role as editor, received renewed interest after the release of “Watchman” and its divergent portrayal of Atticus.

Some critics, despite the immediate runaway commercial success of “Mockingbird,” found the book naive and its narration flawed, with Scout moving implausibly between childhood innocence and grown-up understanding. “It’s interesting that all the folks that are buying it don’t know they’re reading a child’s book,” the Southern author Flannery O’Connor wrote in a letter shortly after the book’s publication.

But most readers over the years found the novel poignant and beautiful, a remarkable debut by a writer who had not yet turned 35.

Ms. Lee declined to write the movie’s screenplay, a task later given to the playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote, who received an Oscar for his script.

A.C. Lee died in 1962, having never seen the movie version of his daughter’s book. When Peck accepted his Academy Award, he was carrying A.C.’s pocket watch.

After writing “Mockingbird,” Ms. Lee published a handful of essays. She traveled with Capote to Kansas to help research “In Cold Blood,” his acclaimed “nonfiction novel” that recounted the 1959 murder of a farm family.

At one point, a reporter hinted that Ms. Lee might publish a murder story of her own. But she produced no such book, nor any other. In time, her agent died and her editor retired. Capote died in 1984.

By then, Ms. Lee had assumed her status as a recluse, or something resembling one. According to one theory, Ms. Lee feared that no work could live up to her first. There were rumors, never satisfactorily substantiated, that Capote had contributed heavily to “Mockingbird.” Another common explanation for her silence was that she simply had nothing further to say.

Then, in February 2015, came the announcement from Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins.

‘I did as I was told’

In a statement released by the publishing house, Ms. Lee explained that in the mid-1950s, she had completed a novel featuring Scout as a grown-up. Her editor, she said, liked the flashbacks to Scout’s youth and persuaded Ms. Lee to recast the book focusing on that earlier period, the result being “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“I was a first-time writer,” said Ms. Lee, “so I did as I was told.”

Ms. Lee went on in the statement to explain that she thought the original manuscript had been lost and that it had been discovered by her “dear friend and lawyer,” Tonja Carter. Later news reports presented contradictory accounts of how and when the manuscript was found. Alabama authorities investigated possible elder abuse stemming from the book deal but closed an investigation having found no wrongdoing.

Some readers commented that they would not open “Watchman,” that it was too painful to see Atticus’s heroic figure dismantled. A number of critics found that the book did not stand up to “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Others, however, found that Ms. Lee had enriched Atticus’s character by allowing Scout to see her father not as a god, but rather as an imperfect man.

Randall Kennedy, a Harvard law professor, wrote in the New York Times that the book “demands that its readers abandon the immature sentimentality ingrained by middle school lessons about the nobility of the white savior and the mesmerizing performance of Gregory Peck.”

Ms. Lee’s reticence did little to diminish, and perhaps increased, the fascination surrounding her, both before and after “Watchman.” Besides Shields’s book, she was the subject of the documentary film “Hey, Boo” (2010), by director Mary McDonagh Murphy, the memoir “The Mockingbird Next Door” (2014) by former Chicago Tribune journalist Marja Mills, and an uncounted number of book reports by schoolchildren. Some teachers and parents wondered how book reports about Ms. Lee would change post-“Watchman.”

She made occasional appearances over the years to meet with students or accept awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, bestowed on her by President George W. Bush. President Obama awarded her the National Medal of Arts.

Ms. Lee reportedly had a stroke in 2007. Her death was confirmed by her publisher, HarperCollins. No other details were immediately available. Alice Lee, Ms. Lee’s last surviving immediate relative, died in 2014.

Beyond her novels, Ms. Lee left only a few scattered clues for those who wished to understand her or what she had set out to do. In 1964, in one of her last known major interviews, she remarked that she aspired to be the “Jane Austen of south Alabama.”

“I would like . . . to do one thing, and I’ve never spoken much about it because it’s such a personal thing. I would like to leave some record of the kind of life that existed in a very small world. I hope to do this in several novels,” she said. There was “something universal in this little world,” she continued, “something decent to be said for it, and something to lament in its passing.”

Joe Holley contributed to this report.

Read more Washington Post obituaries : Mohamed Heikal, Nasser confidant and influential Arab journalist, dies at 92 Robin Chandler Duke, career woman, ambassador’s wife and advocate for reproductive rights, dies at 92 Bob Elliott, one half of a crack team of pop-culture satirists, dies at 92

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.

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By ,

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view,” Atticus Finch tells his daughter, Scout, in one of the most memorable passages of the classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” — “until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Few people in the world could claim to really understand Harper Lee, the novel’s elusive author, who died Feb. 19 at 89 in Monroeville, Ala.

She withdrew from public life shortly after her book was published in 1960, only to reappear in old age with the controversial release of “Go Set a Watchman,” a manuscript identified as a long-lost early draft of the book that decades earlier had vaulted her to literary renown and, decades later, remained at the center of the discussion of race in America.

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” a coming-of-age story set in the Depression-era South where Ms. Lee grew up, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961 and sold more than 40 million copies, becoming one of the most cherished novels in modern American literature. One oft-cited survey asked respondents to name the book that most profoundly affected their lives. Ms. Lee’s novel ranked near the top, not far behind the Bible.

The novel arrived amid the growing movement for civil rights and drew much of its resonance from its hero, Atticus, a lawyer who nobly and futilely defends a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman in their segregated town. For many, Atticus was embodied by actor Gregory Peck, who received an Academy Award for his performance in the 1962 movie based on Ms. Lee’s book.

[How a manuscript’s discovery became Harper Lee’s ‘new’ novel]

“What that one story did, more powerfully than one hundred speeches possibly could, was change the way we saw each other, and then the way we saw ourselves,” President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama said in a joint statement. “Through the uncorrupted eyes of a child, she showed us the beautiful complexity of our common humanity, and the importance of striving for justice in our own lives, our communities, and our country.

“Ms. Lee changed America for the better.”

It was widely understood that Ms. Lee modeled Atticus on her father, Amasa Coleman “A.C.” Lee, a lawyer who, like his daughter’s fictional character, served in the state legislature and favored pocket watches. Scout, the book’s narrator, was believed to have been, more or less, Ms. Lee.

In the 55 years between the publication of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the release in July 2015 of “Go Set a Watchman,” few Americans came of age without meeting Atticus; his doomed client, Tom Robinson; Scout and her brother, Jem; their peculiar friend, Dill; and Boo Radley — the mysterious neighborhood shut-in whom the children try to coax from the shadows.

Atticus, in particular, was beloved as the ideal father, even the ideal man in a society that was profoundly flawed, but, through wisdom such as his, perhaps redeemable.

The reverence surrounding Ms. Lee’s book compounded the shock, edging on disbelief, when readers learned the contents of “Go Set a Watchman,” a literary juggernaut pre-ordered online in numbers topped only by J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series.

“Watchman” was presented as not strictly a sequel to “Mockingbird,” but rather an early iteration of the book set in the 1950s. Jem is dead. Scout — properly Jean Louise Finch — is living in New York but is home for a visit. Atticus, the white man for whom a courtroom’s entire “colored gallery” had risen in respect in “Mockingbird,” is an arthritic segregationist.

In “Watchman,” Jean Louise watches her beloved father preside over a White Citizens’ Council meeting where a speaker spews an invective about blacks who threaten to “mongrelize” the white race.

Atticus asks his daughter: “Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?” And Jean Louise, who loves her father but cannot abide his ideology, tells him at one point, “I despise you and everything you stand for.”

Gradually, astonishment surrounding the book gave way to interpretations that perhaps generations of readers of “To Kill a Mockingbird” had asked too much of Atticus by expecting him, beyond the scope of that book, to be a saint. The man Ms. Lee presented in “Mockingbird” had represented an innocent defendant with conviction. But that Atticus knew only the American South of the 1930s and before, when neither society’s racist structure nor his moral rectitude had yet been challenged by the civil rights movement.

The older Atticus of “Watchman,” like many white Southerners of his era, appeared to be reeling in the changes brought about by integration. He had gravitated to an ideology made even more abhorrent for many modern readers when he, Atticus, of all men, espoused it.

[I lived next door to Harper Lee. This is the woman I knew.]

Questions swirled about the book and its meaning — and about the competency of Ms. Lee, who by then was reported to be largely deaf and blind. How could the Atticus of “Mockingbird” be reconciled with the bigot of “Watchman,” or should any such reconciliation be attempted? Had Ms. Lee been manipulated into releasing an abandoned manuscript that might irrevocably alter her legacy — or, with questions of race still raw in American society, did she once again have some message to impart?

Few people held out hope for complete answers. With her near-total retreat into private life in the mid-1960s, Ms. Lee had become, along with J.D. Salinger and Thomas Pynchon, one of the great literary enigmas of the 20th century. Often, she was called a recluse, a description that was intriguing but inaccurate. Ms. Lee — Nelle Harper or just Nelle to friends — simply rejected celebrity.

For years, she divided her time between New York City and Monroeville, where she shared a house with her sister Alice Finch Lee, a lawyer who managed Nelle’s affairs and acted as a gatekeeper, usually keeping the gate closed to would-be interviewers. Harper Lee had guarded her anonymity so vigilantly, it was said, that she could roam Manhattan without being recognized.

Curious onlookers were left with little more than conjecture about her life. Much meaning was found in her resemblance to Scout, their shared summertime diversions with a clever boy from out of town and their common adoration of their fathers. But once, Ms. Lee offered another clue.

“You know the character Boo Radley? Well, if you know Boo, then you understand why I wouldn’t be doing an interview because I am really Boo,” Ms. Lee privately told Oprah Winfrey when Winfrey invited her to participate in a “Mockingbird” documentary, according to an account the talk-show host provided to the Los Angeles Times.

‘One of the most beloved men’

Nelle Harper Lee — the youngest of four children, the granddaughter of a Confederate soldier and the descendant of slaveholders — was born April 28, 1926, in Monroeville. The town served as a model for the fictional hamlet of Maycomb that was the locus of both “Mockingbird” and “Watchman.”

“Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it,” says Scout in “Mockingbird.” “In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. . . . A day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with.”

“Watchman” would cast the town in a more complex light. After witnessing her father at the White Citizens’ Council meeting, Jean Louise wanders the streets in shock, nauseated and shaking. “Go away, the old buildings said. There is no place for you here. You are not wanted. We have secrets.”

If the events of “To Kill a Mockingbird” seemed so vivid as to have been real, it was, to a degree, because they were.

[We never really learned the lesson of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’]

Ms. Lee had few toys; Jem and Scout’s most prized possessions are the trinkets mysteriously left for them in the knot of a tree.

A young Truman Capote provided the inspiration for Dill, the impish boy who is sent to stay with relatives in Maycomb. Capote came to Monroeville under similar circumstances as a child, embarking with Ms. Lee on a long, at times tumultuous, friendship that began with the two future writers typing stories on an Underwood typewriter, a gift from A.C. Lee.

From a young age, Capote once remarked, they shared an “apartness,” she with her tomboyish ways at a time when girls were expected to be feminine and he, an effeminate, itinerant boy who felt that he had “fifty perceptions a minute to everyone else’s five.” Their relationship figured prominently in the 2005 film “Capote,” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman in the Oscar-winning title role and Catherine Keener as Ms. Lee.

Unlike Atticus, A.C. Lee did not raise his children as a widower, although his wife, the former Frances Cunningham Finch, suffered from what was described as a nervous disorder, possibly bipolar disorder, before her death in 1951.

In “Mockingbird,” a book-length account of Ms. Lee’s life, biographer Charles J. Shields described A.C. Lee as a loving father, pulling Ms. Lee up on his knee much as Atticus did with Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Scout learns from Atticus why she must go to school, why she must not fight and how to compromise. Jem learns that while he may shoot all the blue jays he wants, “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” because it does nothing but sing. Both children learn that mockingbirds come in many forms and that Boo, the specter of the shuttered Radley place, is, in fact, one of them. A neighbor of the Lee family’s resembled the fictional shut-in and agitated about suing after the publication of “Mockingbird.”

[Mourning readers celebrate the book on Instagram]

Ms. Lee’s father specialized in tax law but took on one criminal case: the defense of two black men, father and son, who were accused of murdering a white storekeeper. They were hanged, their bodies mutilated.

In a separate case that had electrified Monroeville, a black man, apparently innocent, was convicted of raping a white woman. He was scheduled for execution, according to Shields’s book — a sentence that was commuted to life in prison, where the man suffered a mental breakdown before dying of tuberculosis.

In the statehouse, A.C. Lee was a centrist Democrat and occupied himself with legislation related mainly to budget matters and morality. Outside the legislature, he was part-owner and editorialist of the Monroe Journal newspaper.

He “only gradually rose to the moral standards of Atticus,” Shields wrote in the biography. A.C. Lee was “more enlightened than most” but “no saint, no prophet crying in the wilderness with regard to racial matters. . . . Like most of his generation, he believed that the current social order, segregation, was natural and created harmony between the races.”

At church, A.C. Lee pressured the local Methodist minister to keep secular matters, including social justice, out of sermons. But according to Shields, he also confronted Ku Klux Klansmen on at least two occasions, including one time when they barged in on a Halloween party for young people because of a rumor that blacks had been invited.

He “is one of the few men I’ve known who has genuine humility, and it lends him a natural dignity,” Ms. Lee told an interviewer in 1961. “He has absolutely no ego drive, and so he is one of the most beloved men in this part of the state.”

Just as Scout called her father Atticus, Ms. Lee was said to have addressed her father as A.C.

‘Chance for a new life’

Ms. Lee ambivalently attended Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala., before studying law at the University of Alabama.

At the university, she penned a column, Caustic Comment, in the student newspaper and edited the humor magazine, called Rammer Jammer. According to Shields, she wrote for the magazine a short play mocking a racist amendment proposed for the state constitution.

She dropped out because she wanted to write and moved to New York, where Capote was already drawing notice. Just as Ms. Lee had captured him in Dill, he captured her in at least two tomboyish characters from his fiction, Idabel Thompkins in the 1948 novel “Other Voices, Other Rooms” and Ann “Jumbo” Finchburg in his 1967 short story “The Thanksgiving Visitor.”

To support herself, Ms. Lee worked as an airline reservations clerk. Then, for Christmas in 1956, she received a gift from Michael and Joy Brown, friends she met through Capote, whom she described as “in periodically well-to-do circumstances.” It was an envelope containing a note with the promise of a large financial gift: “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.”

[How Harper Lee lost control of her legacy]

Ms. Lee used her time to set out the story that became her first novel. Her protagonist’s name was inspired by a learned Roman from antiquity, Titus Pomponius Atticus.

Ms. Lee’s agent, Maurice Crain, and her editor at the Lippincott publishing house, Tay Hohoff, were credited with helping the young writer shape the manuscript from a series of vignettes into the fully formed “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The extent of her revisions, as well as Hohoff’s role as editor, received renewed interest after the release of “Watchman” and its divergent portrayal of Atticus.

Some critics, despite the immediate runaway commercial success of “Mockingbird,” found the book naive and its narration flawed, with Scout moving implausibly between childhood innocence and grown-up understanding. “It’s interesting that all the folks that are buying it don’t know they’re reading a child’s book,” the Southern author Flannery O’Connor wrote in a letter shortly after the book’s publication.

But most readers over the years found the novel poignant and beautiful, a remarkable debut by a writer who had not yet turned 35.

Ms. Lee declined to write the movie’s screenplay, a task later given to the playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote, who received an Oscar for his script.

A.C. Lee died in 1962, having never seen the movie version of his daughter’s book. When Peck accepted his Academy Award, he was carrying A.C.’s pocket watch.

After writing “Mockingbird,” Ms. Lee published a handful of essays. She traveled with Capote to Kansas to help research “In Cold Blood,” his acclaimed “nonfiction novel” that recounted the 1959 murder of a farm family.

At one point, a reporter hinted that Ms. Lee might publish a murder story of her own. But she produced no such book, nor any other. In time, her agent died and her editor retired. Capote died in 1984.

By then, Ms. Lee had assumed her status as a recluse, or something resembling one. According to one theory, Ms. Lee feared that no work could live up to her first. There were rumors, never satisfactorily substantiated, that Capote had contributed heavily to “Mockingbird.” Another common explanation for her silence was that she simply had nothing further to say.

Then, in February 2015, came the announcement from Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins.

‘I did as I was told’

In a statement released by the publishing house, Ms. Lee explained that in the mid-1950s, she had completed a novel featuring Scout as a grown-up. Her editor, she said, liked the flashbacks to Scout’s youth and persuaded Ms. Lee to recast the book focusing on that earlier period, the result being “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“I was a first-time writer,” said Ms. Lee, “so I did as I was told.”

Ms. Lee went on in the statement to explain that she thought the original manuscript had been lost and that it had been discovered by her “dear friend and lawyer,” Tonja Carter. Later news reports presented contradictory accounts of how and when the manuscript was found. Alabama authorities investigated possible elder abuse stemming from the book deal but closed an investigation having found no wrongdoing.

Some readers commented that they would not open “Watchman,” that it was too painful to see Atticus’s heroic figure dismantled. A number of critics found that the book did not stand up to “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Others, however, found that Ms. Lee had enriched Atticus’s character by allowing Scout to see her father not as a god, but rather as an imperfect man.

Randall Kennedy, a Harvard law professor, wrote in the New York Times that the book “demands that its readers abandon the immature sentimentality ingrained by middle school lessons about the nobility of the white savior and the mesmerizing performance of Gregory Peck.”

Ms. Lee’s reticence did little to diminish, and perhaps increased, the fascination surrounding her, both before and after “Watchman.” Besides Shields’s book, she was the subject of the documentary film “Hey, Boo” (2010), by director Mary McDonagh Murphy, the memoir “The Mockingbird Next Door” (2014) by former Chicago Tribune journalist Marja Mills, and an uncounted number of book reports by schoolchildren. Some teachers and parents wondered how book reports about Ms. Lee would change post-“Watchman.”

She made occasional appearances over the years to meet with students or accept awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, bestowed on her by President George W. Bush. President Obama awarded her the National Medal of Arts.

Ms. Lee reportedly had a stroke in 2007. Her death was confirmed by her publisher, HarperCollins. No other details were immediately available. Alice Lee, Ms. Lee’s last surviving immediate relative, died in 2014.

Beyond her novels, Ms. Lee left only a few scattered clues for those who wished to understand her or what she had set out to do. In 1964, in one of her last known major interviews, she remarked that she aspired to be the “Jane Austen of south Alabama.”

“I would like . . . to do one thing, and I’ve never spoken much about it because it’s such a personal thing. I would like to leave some record of the kind of life that existed in a very small world. I hope to do this in several novels,” she said. There was “something universal in this little world,” she continued, “something decent to be said for it, and something to lament in its passing.”

Joe Holley contributed to this report.

Read more Washington Post obituaries : Mohamed Heikal, Nasser confidant and influential Arab journalist, dies at 92 Robin Chandler Duke, career woman, ambassador’s wife and advocate for reproductive rights, dies at 92 Bob Elliott, one half of a crack team of pop-culture satirists, dies at 92

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.

Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

By ,

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view,” Atticus Finch tells his daughter, Scout, in one of the most memorable passages of the classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” — “until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Few people in the world could claim to really understand Harper Lee, the novel’s elusive author, who died Feb. 19 at 89 in Monroeville, Ala.

She withdrew from public life shortly after her book was published in 1960, only to reappear in old age with the controversial release of “Go Set a Watchman,” a manuscript identified as a long-lost early draft of the book that decades earlier had vaulted her to literary renown and, decades later, remained at the center of the discussion of race in America.

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” a coming-of-age story set in the Depression-era South where Ms. Lee grew up, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961 and sold more than 40 million copies, becoming one of the most cherished novels in modern American literature. One oft-cited survey asked respondents to name the book that most profoundly affected their lives. Ms. Lee’s novel ranked near the top, not far behind the Bible.

The novel arrived amid the growing movement for civil rights and drew much of its resonance from its hero, Atticus, a lawyer who nobly and futilely defends a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman in their segregated town. For many, Atticus was embodied by actor Gregory Peck, who received an Academy Award for his performance in the 1962 movie based on Ms. Lee’s book.

[How a manuscript’s discovery became Harper Lee’s ‘new’ novel]

“What that one story did, more powerfully than one hundred speeches possibly could, was change the way we saw each other, and then the way we saw ourselves,” President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama said in a joint statement. “Through the uncorrupted eyes of a child, she showed us the beautiful complexity of our common humanity, and the importance of striving for justice in our own lives, our communities, and our country.

“Ms. Lee changed America for the better.”

It was widely understood that Ms. Lee modeled Atticus on her father, Amasa Coleman “A.C.” Lee, a lawyer who, like his daughter’s fictional character, served in the state legislature and favored pocket watches. Scout, the book’s narrator, was believed to have been, more or less, Ms. Lee.

In the 55 years between the publication of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the release in July 2015 of “Go Set a Watchman,” few Americans came of age without meeting Atticus; his doomed client, Tom Robinson; Scout and her brother, Jem; their peculiar friend, Dill; and Boo Radley — the mysterious neighborhood shut-in whom the children try to coax from the shadows.

Atticus, in particular, was beloved as the ideal father, even the ideal man in a society that was profoundly flawed, but, through wisdom such as his, perhaps redeemable.

The reverence surrounding Ms. Lee’s book compounded the shock, edging on disbelief, when readers learned the contents of “Go Set a Watchman,” a literary juggernaut pre-ordered online in numbers topped only by J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series.

“Watchman” was presented as not strictly a sequel to “Mockingbird,” but rather an early iteration of the book set in the 1950s. Jem is dead. Scout — properly Jean Louise Finch — is living in New York but is home for a visit. Atticus, the white man for whom a courtroom’s entire “colored gallery” had risen in respect in “Mockingbird,” is an arthritic segregationist.

In “Watchman,” Jean Louise watches her beloved father preside over a White Citizens’ Council meeting where a speaker spews an invective about blacks who threaten to “mongrelize” the white race.

Atticus asks his daughter: “Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?” And Jean Louise, who loves her father but cannot abide his ideology, tells him at one point, “I despise you and everything you stand for.”

Gradually, astonishment surrounding the book gave way to interpretations that perhaps generations of readers of “To Kill a Mockingbird” had asked too much of Atticus by expecting him, beyond the scope of that book, to be a saint. The man Ms. Lee presented in “Mockingbird” had represented an innocent defendant with conviction. But that Atticus knew only the American South of the 1930s and before, when neither society’s racist structure nor his moral rectitude had yet been challenged by the civil rights movement.

The older Atticus of “Watchman,” like many white Southerners of his era, appeared to be reeling in the changes brought about by integration. He had gravitated to an ideology made even more abhorrent for many modern readers when he, Atticus, of all men, espoused it.

[I lived next door to Harper Lee. This is the woman I knew.]

Questions swirled about the book and its meaning — and about the competency of Ms. Lee, who by then was reported to be largely deaf and blind. How could the Atticus of “Mockingbird” be reconciled with the bigot of “Watchman,” or should any such reconciliation be attempted? Had Ms. Lee been manipulated into releasing an abandoned manuscript that might irrevocably alter her legacy — or, with questions of race still raw in American society, did she once again have some message to impart?

Few people held out hope for complete answers. With her near-total retreat into private life in the mid-1960s, Ms. Lee had become, along with J.D. Salinger and Thomas Pynchon, one of the great literary enigmas of the 20th century. Often, she was called a recluse, a description that was intriguing but inaccurate. Ms. Lee — Nelle Harper or just Nelle to friends — simply rejected celebrity.

For years, she divided her time between New York City and Monroeville, where she shared a house with her sister Alice Finch Lee, a lawyer who managed Nelle’s affairs and acted as a gatekeeper, usually keeping the gate closed to would-be interviewers. Harper Lee had guarded her anonymity so vigilantly, it was said, that she could roam Manhattan without being recognized.

Curious onlookers were left with little more than conjecture about her life. Much meaning was found in her resemblance to Scout, their shared summertime diversions with a clever boy from out of town and their common adoration of their fathers. But once, Ms. Lee offered another clue.

“You know the character Boo Radley? Well, if you know Boo, then you understand why I wouldn’t be doing an interview because I am really Boo,” Ms. Lee privately told Oprah Winfrey when Winfrey invited her to participate in a “Mockingbird” documentary, according to an account the talk-show host provided to the Los Angeles Times.

‘One of the most beloved men’

Nelle Harper Lee — the youngest of four children, the granddaughter of a Confederate soldier and the descendant of slaveholders — was born April 28, 1926, in Monroeville. The town served as a model for the fictional hamlet of Maycomb that was the locus of both “Mockingbird” and “Watchman.”

“Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it,” says Scout in “Mockingbird.” “In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. . . . A day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with.”

“Watchman” would cast the town in a more complex light. After witnessing her father at the White Citizens’ Council meeting, Jean Louise wanders the streets in shock, nauseated and shaking. “Go away, the old buildings said. There is no place for you here. You are not wanted. We have secrets.”

If the events of “To Kill a Mockingbird” seemed so vivid as to have been real, it was, to a degree, because they were.

[We never really learned the lesson of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’]

Ms. Lee had few toys; Jem and Scout’s most prized possessions are the trinkets mysteriously left for them in the knot of a tree.

A young Truman Capote provided the inspiration for Dill, the impish boy who is sent to stay with relatives in Maycomb. Capote came to Monroeville under similar circumstances as a child, embarking with Ms. Lee on a long, at times tumultuous, friendship that began with the two future writers typing stories on an Underwood typewriter, a gift from A.C. Lee.

From a young age, Capote once remarked, they shared an “apartness,” she with her tomboyish ways at a time when girls were expected to be feminine and he, an effeminate, itinerant boy who felt that he had “fifty perceptions a minute to everyone else’s five.” Their relationship figured prominently in the 2005 film “Capote,” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman in the Oscar-winning title role and Catherine Keener as Ms. Lee.

Unlike Atticus, A.C. Lee did not raise his children as a widower, although his wife, the former Frances Cunningham Finch, suffered from what was described as a nervous disorder, possibly bipolar disorder, before her death in 1951.

In “Mockingbird,” a book-length account of Ms. Lee’s life, biographer Charles J. Shields described A.C. Lee as a loving father, pulling Ms. Lee up on his knee much as Atticus did with Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Scout learns from Atticus why she must go to school, why she must not fight and how to compromise. Jem learns that while he may shoot all the blue jays he wants, “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” because it does nothing but sing. Both children learn that mockingbirds come in many forms and that Boo, the specter of the shuttered Radley place, is, in fact, one of them. A neighbor of the Lee family’s resembled the fictional shut-in and agitated about suing after the publication of “Mockingbird.”

[Mourning readers celebrate the book on Instagram]

Ms. Lee’s father specialized in tax law but took on one criminal case: the defense of two black men, father and son, who were accused of murdering a white storekeeper. They were hanged, their bodies mutilated.

In a separate case that had electrified Monroeville, a black man, apparently innocent, was convicted of raping a white woman. He was scheduled for execution, according to Shields’s book — a sentence that was commuted to life in prison, where the man suffered a mental breakdown before dying of tuberculosis.

In the statehouse, A.C. Lee was a centrist Democrat and occupied himself with legislation related mainly to budget matters and morality. Outside the legislature, he was part-owner and editorialist of the Monroe Journal newspaper.

He “only gradually rose to the moral standards of Atticus,” Shields wrote in the biography. A.C. Lee was “more enlightened than most” but “no saint, no prophet crying in the wilderness with regard to racial matters. . . . Like most of his generation, he believed that the current social order, segregation, was natural and created harmony between the races.”

At church, A.C. Lee pressured the local Methodist minister to keep secular matters, including social justice, out of sermons. But according to Shields, he also confronted Ku Klux Klansmen on at least two occasions, including one time when they barged in on a Halloween party for young people because of a rumor that blacks had been invited.

He “is one of the few men I’ve known who has genuine humility, and it lends him a natural dignity,” Ms. Lee told an interviewer in 1961. “He has absolutely no ego drive, and so he is one of the most beloved men in this part of the state.”

Just as Scout called her father Atticus, Ms. Lee was said to have addressed her father as A.C.

‘Chance for a new life’

Ms. Lee ambivalently attended Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala., before studying law at the University of Alabama.

At the university, she penned a column, Caustic Comment, in the student newspaper and edited the humor magazine, called Rammer Jammer. According to Shields, she wrote for the magazine a short play mocking a racist amendment proposed for the state constitution.

She dropped out because she wanted to write and moved to New York, where Capote was already drawing notice. Just as Ms. Lee had captured him in Dill, he captured her in at least two tomboyish characters from his fiction, Idabel Thompkins in the 1948 novel “Other Voices, Other Rooms” and Ann “Jumbo” Finchburg in his 1967 short story “The Thanksgiving Visitor.”

To support herself, Ms. Lee worked as an airline reservations clerk. Then, for Christmas in 1956, she received a gift from Michael and Joy Brown, friends she met through Capote, whom she described as “in periodically well-to-do circumstances.” It was an envelope containing a note with the promise of a large financial gift: “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.”

[How Harper Lee lost control of her legacy]

Ms. Lee used her time to set out the story that became her first novel. Her protagonist’s name was inspired by a learned Roman from antiquity, Titus Pomponius Atticus.

Ms. Lee’s agent, Maurice Crain, and her editor at the Lippincott publishing house, Tay Hohoff, were credited with helping the young writer shape the manuscript from a series of vignettes into the fully formed “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The extent of her revisions, as well as Hohoff’s role as editor, received renewed interest after the release of “Watchman” and its divergent portrayal of Atticus.

Some critics, despite the immediate runaway commercial success of “Mockingbird,” found the book naive and its narration flawed, with Scout moving implausibly between childhood innocence and grown-up understanding. “It’s interesting that all the folks that are buying it don’t know they’re reading a child’s book,” the Southern author Flannery O’Connor wrote in a letter shortly after the book’s publication.

But most readers over the years found the novel poignant and beautiful, a remarkable debut by a writer who had not yet turned 35.

Ms. Lee declined to write the movie’s screenplay, a task later given to the playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote, who received an Oscar for his script.

A.C. Lee died in 1962, having never seen the movie version of his daughter’s book. When Peck accepted his Academy Award, he was carrying A.C.’s pocket watch.

After writing “Mockingbird,” Ms. Lee published a handful of essays. She traveled with Capote to Kansas to help research “In Cold Blood,” his acclaimed “nonfiction novel” that recounted the 1959 murder of a farm family.

At one point, a reporter hinted that Ms. Lee might publish a murder story of her own. But she produced no such book, nor any other. In time, her agent died and her editor retired. Capote died in 1984.

By then, Ms. Lee had assumed her status as a recluse, or something resembling one. According to one theory, Ms. Lee feared that no work could live up to her first. There were rumors, never satisfactorily substantiated, that Capote had contributed heavily to “Mockingbird.” Another common explanation for her silence was that she simply had nothing further to say.

Then, in February 2015, came the announcement from Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins.

‘I did as I was told’

In a statement released by the publishing house, Ms. Lee explained that in the mid-1950s, she had completed a novel featuring Scout as a grown-up. Her editor, she said, liked the flashbacks to Scout’s youth and persuaded Ms. Lee to recast the book focusing on that earlier period, the result being “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“I was a first-time writer,” said Ms. Lee, “so I did as I was told.”

Ms. Lee went on in the statement to explain that she thought the original manuscript had been lost and that it had been discovered by her “dear friend and lawyer,” Tonja Carter. Later news reports presented contradictory accounts of how and when the manuscript was found. Alabama authorities investigated possible elder abuse stemming from the book deal but closed an investigation having found no wrongdoing.

Some readers commented that they would not open “Watchman,” that it was too painful to see Atticus’s heroic figure dismantled. A number of critics found that the book did not stand up to “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Others, however, found that Ms. Lee had enriched Atticus’s character by allowing Scout to see her father not as a god, but rather as an imperfect man.

Randall Kennedy, a Harvard law professor, wrote in the New York Times that the book “demands that its readers abandon the immature sentimentality ingrained by middle school lessons about the nobility of the white savior and the mesmerizing performance of Gregory Peck.”

Ms. Lee’s reticence did little to diminish, and perhaps increased, the fascination surrounding her, both before and after “Watchman.” Besides Shields’s book, she was the subject of the documentary film “Hey, Boo” (2010), by director Mary McDonagh Murphy, the memoir “The Mockingbird Next Door” (2014) by former Chicago Tribune journalist Marja Mills, and an uncounted number of book reports by schoolchildren. Some teachers and parents wondered how book reports about Ms. Lee would change post-“Watchman.”

She made occasional appearances over the years to meet with students or accept awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, bestowed on her by President George W. Bush. President Obama awarded her the National Medal of Arts.

Ms. Lee reportedly had a stroke in 2007. Her death was confirmed by her publisher, HarperCollins. No other details were immediately available. Alice Lee, Ms. Lee’s last surviving immediate relative, died in 2014.

Beyond her novels, Ms. Lee left only a few scattered clues for those who wished to understand her or what she had set out to do. In 1964, in one of her last known major interviews, she remarked that she aspired to be the “Jane Austen of south Alabama.”

“I would like . . . to do one thing, and I’ve never spoken much about it because it’s such a personal thing. I would like to leave some record of the kind of life that existed in a very small world. I hope to do this in several novels,” she said. There was “something universal in this little world,” she continued, “something decent to be said for it, and something to lament in its passing.”

Joe Holley contributed to this report.

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Emily Wagster and Josh Funk, Associated Press

Updated 8:40 am, Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Photo: Erin Nelson, AP

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People look at debris after a storm passed through the Sapps mobile home park destroying many homes in Sapps, Ala., just outside of Aliceville on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. Authorities say a large tornado in rural western Alabama left a trail of damage as powerful storms moved into the state. (Erin Nelson/The Tuscaloosa News via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT less
People look at debris after a storm passed through the Sapps mobile home park destroying many homes in Sapps, Ala., just outside of Aliceville on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. Authorities say a large tornado in rural … more

Photo: Erin Nelson, AP

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A riding lawn mower lies on the ground after a storm in Collinsville, Miss., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. Authorities say a large tornado in rural western Alabama left a trail of damage as powerful storms moved into the state. (Paula Merritt /The Meridian Star via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT less
A riding lawn mower lies on the ground after a storm in Collinsville, Miss., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. Authorities say a large tornado in rural western Alabama left a trail of damage as powerful storms moved into … more

Photo: Paula Merritt, AP

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Debris lies on the ground after a storm passed through the Sapps mobile home park destroying many homes in Sapps, Ala., just outside of Aliceville on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. Authorities say a large tornado in rural western Alabama left a trail of damage as powerful storms moved into the state. (Erin Nelson/The Tuscaloosa News via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT less
Debris lies on the ground after a storm passed through the Sapps mobile home park destroying many homes in Sapps, Ala., just outside of Aliceville on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. Authorities say a large tornado in … more

Photo: Erin Nelson, AP

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Friends and neighbors work on the roof of the home of Debbie McCormick on Shelby Road near Newton, Miss., that received extensive damage after a storm Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. A tornado damaged homes and at least one church, and strong winds damaged student housing at a community college Tuesday in eastern Mississippi. Authorities said no injuries were immediately reported. (Robbie Robertson/The Newton County Appeal via AP) less
Friends and neighbors work on the roof of the home of Debbie McCormick on Shelby Road near Newton, Miss., that received extensive damage after a storm Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. A tornado damaged homes and at least … more

Photo: Robbie Robertson, AP

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Debris lies on the ground near First Baptist Church of Collinsville in Lauderdale County, Miss., after it was severely damaged during a storm Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. Authorities say a large tornado in rural western Alabama left a trail of damage as powerful storms moved into the state. (Paula Merritt /The Meridian Star via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT less
Debris lies on the ground near First Baptist Church of Collinsville in Lauderdale County, Miss., after it was severely damaged during a storm Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. Authorities say a large tornado in rural … more

Photo: Paula Merritt, AP

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Debris lies on the ground after a storm in Collinsville, Miss., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. Authorities say a large tornado in rural western Alabama left a trail of damage as powerful storms moved into the state. (Paula Merritt /The Meridian Star via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT less
Debris lies on the ground after a storm in Collinsville, Miss., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. Authorities say a large tornado in rural western Alabama left a trail of damage as powerful storms moved into the state. … more

Photo: Paula Merritt, AP

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Cars drive down a snow-covered street on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, as a massive snowstorm hits Winona, Minn. The storm is expected to bring blizzard-like conditions to far southern Minnesota through Tuesday night. Wind gusts of up to 40 mph could cause whiteout conditions. (Chuck Miller/Winona Daily News via AP) less
Cars drive down a snow-covered street on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, as a massive snowstorm hits Winona, Minn. The storm is expected to bring blizzard-like conditions to far southern Minnesota through Tuesday night. … more

Photo: Chuck Miller, AP

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Todd Thompson delivers mail in the snow Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in Waterloo, Iowa. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning until early Wednesday for a stretch of Iowa starting in the southwest corner, through central Iowa and into much of the northeast region of the state. (Matthew Putney/The Courier via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT less
Todd Thompson delivers mail in the snow Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in Waterloo, Iowa. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning until early Wednesday for a stretch of Iowa starting in the … more

Photo: Matthew Putney, AP

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A snowplow clears snow off of Interstate 80 near Earlham, Iowa, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. A winter storm that dumped heavy snow on Denver and much of Colorado has moved east into Nebraska and Iowa. less

A snowplow clears snow off of Interstate 80 near Earlham, Iowa, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. A winter storm that dumped heavy snow on Denver and much of Colorado has moved east into Nebraska and Iowa.

Photo: Nati Harnik, AP

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Zack Hanner, an employee of Holland’s Lawn Care in Sioux City, Iowa, brushes snow off of a snowblower Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, while clearing snow at the library parking lot in downtown Sioux City, Iowa. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning until early Wednesday for a stretch of Iowa starting in the southwest corner, through central Iowa and into much of the northeast region of the state. (Tim Hynds/Sioux City Journal via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT less
Zack Hanner, an employee of Holland’s Lawn Care in Sioux City, Iowa, brushes snow off of a snowblower Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, while clearing snow at the library parking lot in downtown Sioux City, Iowa. The … more

Photo: Tim Hynds, AP

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A man clears snow from his sidewalk on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in Waterloo, Iowa. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning until early Wednesday for a stretch of Iowa starting in the southwest corner, through central Iowa and into much of the northeast region of the state. (Matthew Putney/The Courier via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT less
A man clears snow from his sidewalk on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in Waterloo, Iowa. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning until early Wednesday for a stretch of Iowa starting in the … more

Photo: MATTHEW PUTNEY, AP

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Cole White, right, gets help from Nawaf Khalaf and Kyle Hartley, left, as they attempt to push a vehicle out of snow Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in Lincoln, Neb. A howling storm that dumped more than a foot of snow on some parts of Colorado was laying it on thick in Nebraska and Iowa Tuesday, bringing with it the potential for severe thunderstorms and even tornadoes elsewhere. (Megan Farmer/Omaha World-Herald via AP) MAGS OUT; ALL NEBRASKA LOCAL BROADCAST TELEVISION OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT less
Cole White, right, gets help from Nawaf Khalaf and Kyle Hartley, left, as they attempt to push a vehicle out of snow Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in Lincoln, Neb. A howling storm that dumped more than a foot of snow … more

Photo: Megan Farmer, AP

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A child walks across a snow covered road Tuesday , Feb. 2, 2016, in Omaha, Neb. A howling storm that dumped more than a foot of snow on some parts of Colorado was laying it on thick in Nebraska and Iowa Tuesday, bringing with it the potential for severe thunderstorms and even tornadoes elsewhere. (Matt Miller/Omaha World-Herald via AP) MAGS OUT; ALL NEBRASKA LOCAL BROADCAST TELEVISION OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT less
A child walks across a snow covered road Tuesday , Feb. 2, 2016, in Omaha, Neb. A howling storm that dumped more than a foot of snow on some parts of Colorado was laying it on thick in Nebraska and Iowa … more

Photo: Matt Miller, AP

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Several motorist travel east on West Dodge Road during a snowstorm Tuesday , Feb. 2, 2016, in Omaha, Neb. A howling storm that dumped more than a foot of snow on some parts of Colorado was laying it on thick in Nebraska and Iowa Tuesday, bringing with it the potential for severe thunderstorms and even tornadoes elsewhere. (Brendan Sullivan/Omaha World-Herald via AP) MAGS OUT; ALL NEBRASKA LOCAL BROADCAST TELEVISION OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT less
Several motorist travel east on West Dodge Road during a snowstorm Tuesday , Feb. 2, 2016, in Omaha, Neb. A howling storm that dumped more than a foot of snow on some parts of Colorado was laying it on thick … more

Photo: Brendan Sullivan, AP

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Tornadoes in the South; snow in Plains and Upper Midwest

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Heavy rain prompted an apartment evacuation in northwest Georgia one day after storms spawned tornadoes in Mississippi and Alabama and dumped snow on places farther west.

The National Weather Service, citing a report from an emergency manager in Catoosa County, Georgia, said the apartments being evacuated before dawn Wednesday were near the town of Fort Oglethorpe, just south of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and about 110 miles northwest of Atlanta. No serious injuries were reported in the flooding.

On Tuesday, tornadoes touched down in Mississippi and Alabama as thunderstorms swept through the region, while a powerful snowstorm buried parts of Colorado and Nebraska in more than a foot of snow before crawling into the Upper Midwest.

Greg Flynn, spokesman for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, said a confirmed tornado was reported just before 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in eastern Newton and Lauderdale counties, largely rural areas in the eastern part of the state. Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie said the storm damaged homes, toppled trees and knocked out power.

In Alabama, the National Weather Service in Birmingham reported a “confirmed large and destructive tornado” on the ground near the city of Aliceville, about 45 miles west of Tuscaloosa. Minor injuries were reported.

Later, in west Tennessee, high winds damaged several homes and school buildings in Crockett County. Public schools there were to close Wednesday as officials surveyed the damage. Law enforcement officials believed a tornado had passed through, but Weather Service meteorologists in Memphis said late Wednesday they couldn’t confirm a touchdown, The Jackson Sun reported.

The combination of snow in one part of the country and severe thunderstorms in another isn’t unusual when a powerful system moves across the country, said Greg Carbin with the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.

“February can feature some exciting dynamics in the atmosphere,” Carbin said. “This system we’ve had our eye on since it was in the Pacific.”

The weather system that blew in from California steadily dumped snow on the Denver area Monday and continued overnight. Heavy snowfall and powerful winds on Tuesday knocked out power, prompt schools and businesses to close, and triggered flight cancellations across a swath of states from Colorado to northern Michigan.

___

Josh Funk reported from Omaha, Nebraska. Associated Press reporters also contributing to this report were Colleen Slevin in Denver; Dirk Lammers in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Missouri; and Nelson Lampe and Margery Beck in Omaha, Nebraska.

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By Natalie Jacewicz and Emily Benson
Staff writers

That lottery fever sweeping the country in anticipation of Saturday night’s record $800 million Powerball drawing? Scientists have a name for it: dopamine.
It’s the brain chemical associated with reward, pleasure and addiction. And it’s digging into Californians’ pockets at a maddening pace this week when the state lottery expects to sell $60 million in Powerball tickets — 10 times what it sells on a typical week.
Thanks a lot, dopamine. Whether the jackpot is $8 million or $800 million, the odds of winning are stuck at a buzzkilling one in 292 million.
“I don’t want to miss a big chance,” said Javier Berec as he plunked down $10 for five tickets Friday at Hana’s Bottle Shop Liquors in Santa Clara, billed as one of the California lottery’s “historical lucky retailers,” thanks to selling two $1 million tickets in 2011 within three months.

Carlos Gonzalez from Oakland fills out his weekly Lotto and Powerball tickets at Colonial Donuts in downtown Oakland, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 8, 2016. The Powerball jackpot is up to $800 million. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group) ( Laura A. Oda )

With $800 million up for grabs, it doesn’t take a neuroscientist like Howard Fields to explain how Californians may be ignoring probability this week because of the way the brain processes risk and reward.
“In the brain stem of a gambler, dopamine neurons are firing very high, pushing them to put out the money, to go and buy the ticket,” said Fields, a professor of neurology at UC San Francisco.
During pleasurable experiences, dopamine floods the brain and urges humans to repeat the bliss-blasting behavior.
But, Fields added, the brain tends to overestimate the possibility of reward.
If you program a computer to make the same calculations, it “would never do what a person does,” Fields said. “It would say, OK, I’m not going to buy a ticket until I have at least a good chance of winning.”

Advertisement

And, of course, like any lab rat, we are more likely to take that chance as the reward — in this case, an $800 million piece of cheese — gets bigger.
“Some people will just religiously play scratchers because it’s more instant gratification,” Alex Traverso, spokesperson for the California lottery. But this week’s Powerball has lured a horde of new customers. “When you get to $800 million, you assume everyone’s playing.”

People wait in a meandering line at Kavanagh Liquors in San Lorenzo, …Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

By Natalie Jacewicz and Emily Benson
Staff writers

That lottery fever sweeping the country in anticipation of Saturday night’s record $800 million Powerball drawing? Scientists have a name for it: dopamine.
It’s the brain chemical associated with reward, pleasure and addiction. And it’s digging into Californians’ pockets at a maddening pace this week when the state lottery expects to sell $60 million in Powerball tickets — 10 times what it sells on a typical week.
Thanks a lot, dopamine. Whether the jackpot is $8 million or $800 million, the odds of winning are stuck at a buzzkilling one in 292 million.
“I don’t want to miss a big chance,” said Javier Berec as he plunked down $10 for five tickets Friday at Hana’s Bottle Shop Liquors in Santa Clara, billed as one of the California lottery’s “historical lucky retailers,” thanks to selling two $1 million tickets in 2011 within three months.

Carlos Gonzalez from Oakland fills out his weekly Lotto and Powerball tickets at Colonial Donuts in downtown Oakland, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 8, 2016. The Powerball jackpot is up to $800 million. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group) ( Laura A. Oda )

With $800 million up for grabs, it doesn’t take a neuroscientist like Howard Fields to explain how Californians may be ignoring probability this week because of the way the brain processes risk and reward.
“In the brain stem of a gambler, dopamine neurons are firing very high, pushing them to put out the money, to go and buy the ticket,” said Fields, a professor of neurology at UC San Francisco.
During pleasurable experiences, dopamine floods the brain and urges humans to repeat the bliss-blasting behavior.
But, Fields added, the brain tends to overestimate the possibility of reward.
If you program a computer to make the same calculations, it “would never do what a person does,” Fields said. “It would say, OK, I’m not going to buy a ticket until I have at least a good chance of winning.”

Advertisement

And, of course, like any lab rat, we are more likely to take that chance as the reward — in this case, an $800 million piece of cheese — gets bigger.
“Some people will just religiously play scratchers because it’s more instant gratification,” Alex Traverso, spokesperson for the California lottery. But this week’s Powerball has lured a horde of new customers. “When you get to $800 million, you assume everyone’s playing.”

People wait in a meandering line at Kavanagh Liquors in San Lorenzo, …Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

By Natalie Jacewicz and Emily Benson
Staff writers

That lottery fever sweeping the country in anticipation of Saturday night’s record $800 million Powerball drawing? Scientists have a name for it: dopamine.
It’s the brain chemical associated with reward, pleasure and addiction. And it’s digging into Californians’ pockets at a maddening pace this week when the state lottery expects to sell $60 million in Powerball tickets — 10 times what it sells on a typical week.
Thanks a lot, dopamine. Whether the jackpot is $8 million or $800 million, the odds of winning are stuck at a buzzkilling one in 292 million.
“I don’t want to miss a big chance,” said Javier Berec as he plunked down $10 for five tickets Friday at Hana’s Bottle Shop Liquors in Santa Clara, billed as one of the California lottery’s “historical lucky retailers,” thanks to selling two $1 million tickets in 2011 within three months.
With $800 million up for grabs, it doesn’t take a neuroscientist like Howard Fields to explain how Californians may be ignoring probability this week because of the way the brain processes risk and reward.
“In the brain stem of a gambler, dopamine neurons are firing very high, pushing them to put out the money, to go and buy the ticket,” said Fields, a professor of neurology at UC San Francisco.
During pleasurable experiences, dopamine floods the brain and urges humans to repeat the bliss-blasting behavior.
But, Fields added, the brain tends to overestimate the possibility of reward.
If you program a computer to make the same calculations, it “would never do what a person does,” Fields said. “It would say, OK, I’m not going to buy a ticket until I have at least a good chance of winning.”

Advertisement

And, of course, like any lab rat, we are more likely to take that chance as the reward — in this case, an $800 million piece of cheese — gets bigger.
“Some people will just religiously play scratchers because it’s more instant gratification,” Alex Traverso, spokesperson for the California lottery. But this week’s Powerball has lured a horde of new customers. “When you get to $800 million, you assume everyone’s playing.”
Tony DeMola is one of the uninitiated who stopped by Cork’n Bottle Liquor in Concord on Friday to buy $10 in tickets. Dopamine wasn’t his motivation — his wife was: He decided to add a few tickets to her birthday gift.
At Hana’s Bottle Shop Liquors, store manager Ravee Patel heard all …Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

By Natalie Jacewicz and Emily Benson
Staff writers

That lottery fever sweeping the country in anticipation of Saturday night’s record $800 million Powerball drawing? Scientists have a name for it: dopamine.
It’s the brain chemical associated with reward, pleasure and addiction. And it’s digging into Californians’ pockets at a maddening pace this week when the state lottery expects to sell $60 million in Powerball tickets — 10 times what it sells on a typical week.
Thanks a lot, dopamine. Whether the jackpot is $8 million or $800 million, the odds of winning are stuck at a buzzkilling one in 292 million.
“I don’t want to miss a big chance,” said Javier Berec as he plunked down $10 for five tickets Friday at Hana’s Bottle Shop Liquors in Santa Clara, billed as one of the California lottery’s “historical lucky retailers,” thanks to selling two $1 million tickets in 2011 within three months.
With $800 million up for grabs, it doesn’t take a neuroscientist like Howard Fields to explain how Californians may be ignoring probability this week because of the way the brain processes risk and reward.
“In the brain stem of a gambler, dopamine neurons are firing very high, pushing them to put out the money, to go and buy the ticket,” said Fields, a professor of neurology at UC San Francisco.
During pleasurable experiences, dopamine floods the brain and urges humans to repeat the bliss-blasting behavior.
But, Fields added, the brain tends to overestimate the possibility of reward.
If you program a computer to make the same calculations, it “would never do what a person does,” Fields said. “It would say, OK, I’m not going to buy a ticket until I have at least a good chance of winning.”

Advertisement

And, of course, like any lab rat, we are more likely to take that chance as the reward — in this case, an $800 million piece of cheese — gets bigger.
“Some people will just religiously play scratchers because it’s more instant gratification,” Alex Traverso, spokesperson for the California lottery. But this week’s Powerball has lured a horde of new customers. “When you get to $800 million, you assume everyone’s playing.”
Tony DeMola is one of the uninitiated who stopped by Cork’n Bottle Liquor in Concord on Friday to buy $10 in tickets. Dopamine wasn’t his motivation — his wife was: He decided to add a few tickets to her birthday gift.
At Hana’s Bottle Shop Liquors, store manager Ravee Patel heard all …Read More

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