In an interview with the ABA Journal earlier in the year after winning the award Goldstein said:
“Apart from its many other virtues, To Kill A Mockingbird was the first novel to show me that it is possible to write about law and lawyers in a profoundly human, as well as literate, way,” Goldstein said. “More than 50 years later, it is impossible to study any of the better lawyer-heroes of today's novels without finding Atticus Finch looking back at you.”
“I like to think that Michael Seeley, the hero of Havana Requiem, embodies not only Atticus's integrity, but also his unvarnished nobility, and the Harper Lee Prize is not only a great honor for me, but evidence that perhaps I got it right.”
During his acceptance speech, as quoted in the ABA Journal he said:
“My personal celebration after learning that ‘Havana Requiem’ had won the Harper Lee Prize was to reread ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’’’ he said. “It had been some years since I had read it last. … It was just absolutely a joy and nostalgic, to be sure, to be captivated once again by the magic of those pages. It is absolutely an enduring, very special magic.”
He further said that most authors aspire to cast a spell like Harper Lee but that the magic of To Kill a Mockingbird is not easy to reverse engineer. He said he was not sure if the magic came from the translucent language, the special sense of place, the uncanny voice of Scout or the uncanny integrity of Atticus.
Having read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time this year I agree with Goldstein that it is a special book that sweeps you into rural Alabama of the 1930’s.
It was poignant to read of the reaction of Goldstein’s mother to hearing from him that he had won the award. Though her mind and health were failing at 100 (she died shortly after):
“She instantly engaged and said, ‘Harper Lee! “To Kill a Mockingbird”! Why that’s wonderful, Paul.’”
It was interesting that Goldstein focused on the word “integrity” in speaking of Atticus Finch. It applies equally to his character, Michael Seeley.
When I was a part of the committee to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Law Society of Saskatchewan we looked to choose a word that exemplified what Saskatchewan lawyers aspire to in their practice. We chose “integrity”. While there is public criticism of the legal profession I find people consider their personal lawyer to be a person of integrity who can be trusted.