Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee

Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee

An indelible portrait of one of the most famous and beloved authors in the canon of American literature—a collection of letters between Harper Lee and one of her closest friends that reveals the famously private writer as never before, in her own words.The violent racism of the American South drove Wayne Flynt away from his home state of Alabama, but the publication of To...

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Title:Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee
Author:Wayne Flynt
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Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee Reviews

  • ⋟Kimari⋞

    If you could have dinner with any historical figure who would it be? For me it's Ms Lee. She could talk (or not) about anything at all, and I would be captivated.

    is probably as close as I will ever get to fulfilling that daydream.

    Ms Lee's attorney approved the publication of the letters in

    , and I sincerely hope Ms Lee would have as well.

    doesn't try to aggrandize itself, unlike

    (

    ). The

    If you could have dinner with any historical figure who would it be? For me it's Ms Lee. She could talk (or not) about anything at all, and I would be captivated.

    is probably as close as I will ever get to fulfilling that daydream.

    Ms Lee's attorney approved the publication of the letters in

    , and I sincerely hope Ms Lee would have as well.

    doesn't try to aggrandize itself, unlike

    (

    ). The letters between Wayne Flynt, Alice Lee, and Nelle Harper Lee are mostly about little everyday things, and as time passes, they radiate genuine affection and friendship.

  • Lawyer

    Mockingbird Songs: Morning Has Broken

    It does not surprise me that Alabama Historian Wayne Flynt would be among Belle Harper Lee's circle of friends. Flynt is the author of

    and

    . He is especially known for documenting life in Alabama during the Great Depression which happens to be the setting of

    .

    Flynt's entry to the Lee family did not begin with the beloved author, but her sister Louise Connor, who lived i

    Mockingbird Songs: Morning Has Broken

    It does not surprise me that Alabama Historian Wayne Flynt would be among Belle Harper Lee's circle of friends. Flynt is the author of

    and

    . He is especially known for documenting life in Alabama during the Great Depression which happens to be the setting of

    .

    Flynt's entry to the Lee family did not begin with the beloved author, but her sister Louise Connor, who lived in Eufaula, Alabama.

    More to follow...

  • Julia

    Wayne Flynt is a retired history professor at Auburn whose primary academic interest was Alabama history of the Depression. He (and his wife) started out as a friend to Harper and Alice Lee’s sister Louise. He had a thirty year friendship with the Lees, which we primarily see in the letters they wrote to each other, he even delivering Harper Lee’s eulogy.

    Notes: She

    wanted

    published. She wasn’t coerce

    Wayne Flynt is a retired history professor at Auburn whose primary academic interest was Alabama history of the Depression. He (and his wife) started out as a friend to Harper and Alice Lee’s sister Louise. He had a thirty year friendship with the Lees, which we primarily see in the letters they wrote to each other, he even delivering Harper Lee’s eulogy.

    Notes: She

    wanted

    published. She wasn’t coerced, enriching her lawyer, or anything else. Further, she

    the

    biography of her. She came to like Philip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of her former friend in

    , but she also wrote the director a letter correcting inaccuracies in the film. I’m glad I read this. Thank you kindly, Mr. Flynt. I borrowed this from my public library, because I read pretty much every book about Harper Lee, and/ or

    .

  • Cheri

    4.5 Stars

    Wayne Flint offers a glimpse into the private Harper Lee through his

    When I first heard about this I had no interest in reading some exposé of Harper Lee. And then I saw it in my library, and decided to see, or really just take a peek in case it turned out to be some sordid tell-all. The last book “about” her that I read was

    by Marja Mills, which was surrounded by much controversy, and

    4.5 Stars

    Wayne Flint offers a glimpse into the private Harper Lee through his

    When I first heard about this I had no interest in reading some exposé of Harper Lee. And then I saw it in my library, and decided to see, or really just take a peek in case it turned out to be some sordid tell-all. The last book “about” her that I read was

    by Marja Mills, which was surrounded by much controversy, and left me conflicted.

    I have to say that so much of this felt so natural and genuine that I’d find it hard to believe that any of this is untrue. At the same time, it shows what a lovely, giving, and thoughtful woman she was, and the same should be said of her family, as well, as Flint was introduced to Nelle Harper Lee through her sister, Louise, who knew him.

    What I really loved about this was the letters sent back and forth the old-fashioned way, involving at least two postal-delivery-people and handwritten letters and postage. These were lovely, including the ones from him and / or his wife to and from Nelle and Alice Lee. I smiled when I saw her reference to Gilda Radner

    in a letter. I loved how this slowly unveiled the private, but trusting, woman. I loved how generous of spirit these letters showed her to be, in the everyday way of life. And while she, like all of us, continued to get older instead of younger, she maintained the ability to see the beautiful in those every day moments.

    Wayne Flynt is an Alabama Historian, and author of “Poor but Proud: Alabama’s Poor Whites” and “Alabama in the Twentieth Century,” as well as this autobiography-biography-memoir.

  • Kenneth Murray

    Excellent! What better way to become better acquainted with Harper Lee than to read the letters she wrote to a dear and trusted friend. Thank you Wayne Flynt.

  • Sharon Huether

    Harper Lee, a very private person preferred letter writing as her only communication.

    Letters to and fro from Harper to Wayne Flynt as fellow writer and to her older sister Alice.

    In the South they held great importance to belonging to the Baptists or the Methodists.

    Her letters were insightful, stories and humor. They lasted for a quarter of a century .

    A very interesting book.

  • Diane Barnes

    I picked this up at the library, but was sceptical. I thought it might be someone else trying to cash in on Harper Lee's life and death. I was very wrong. This collection of letters is presented by a respected author and professor of history who enjoyed a 25 year correspondence with Lee and her sisters, Louise and Alice. He and his wife were friends first with her older, married sister, Louise, then later met Nelle and became close to her as well.

    These letters respect the privacy that she valued

    I picked this up at the library, but was sceptical. I thought it might be someone else trying to cash in on Harper Lee's life and death. I was very wrong. This collection of letters is presented by a respected author and professor of history who enjoyed a 25 year correspondence with Lee and her sisters, Louise and Alice. He and his wife were friends first with her older, married sister, Louise, then later met Nelle and became close to her as well.

    These letters respect the privacy that she valued so much, and only re-inforce what we already know, but in her own words. What a funny, sensitive, sharp lady she was. I enjoyed these letters very much, and learned more about her family and the town of Monroeville. The author begins each chapter with an overview of what was going on in his and in Nelle's life at the time the letters were exchanged.

    This was a nice addition to my understanding of this reclusive author.

  • Cynthia Egbert

    I love epistolary works and this one gave me a glimpse into the soul, wit, and personality of an author that I love. It was even better than I hoped. I both listened to and read this one and loved every minute of it. I feel despair over the loss of letter writing in our society and this bolstered my desire to make certain that I write at least five letters a week to do my part to see that it doesn't completely die in my lifetime. Nell Harper Lee is a fascinating soul and she shines through in th

    I love epistolary works and this one gave me a glimpse into the soul, wit, and personality of an author that I love. It was even better than I hoped. I both listened to and read this one and loved every minute of it. I feel despair over the loss of letter writing in our society and this bolstered my desire to make certain that I write at least five letters a week to do my part to see that it doesn't completely die in my lifetime. Nell Harper Lee is a fascinating soul and she shines through in these letters.

    Two priceless quotes from Ms. Lee:

    "I get so impatient with historians especially who have an agenda. Who can't just give us the facts without trying to persuade us of something."

    "Don't get me started on the ignorance of people with access to instant information."

  • Margie

    Loved this look at the relationship between Harper Lee and the author, Wayne Flynt. Mr. Flynt is professor emeritus in the department of history at Auburn University, and one of the most recognized and honored scholars of Southern history, politics, and religion. He and his wife were friends with Louise Lee before meeting Harper Lee and ended up being close friends with all 3 sisters - sharing the same feelings toward politics and history of the South. The book is shows a side of Harper Lee that

    Loved this look at the relationship between Harper Lee and the author, Wayne Flynt. Mr. Flynt is professor emeritus in the department of history at Auburn University, and one of the most recognized and honored scholars of Southern history, politics, and religion. He and his wife were friends with Louise Lee before meeting Harper Lee and ended up being close friends with all 3 sisters - sharing the same feelings toward politics and history of the South. The book is shows a side of Harper Lee that is funny and witty, and the author shares the many letters written between the two. He includes the eulogy he wrote and shared at Harper Lee's funeral.

  • Petergiaquinta

    Back when we all used to write letters, I wrote my share and then some, and I received plenty in return. I recall one special day near the end of summer just before my senior year in high school when I got seven letters in the mail from seven different girls. Hot dog!

    And then the Internet and email came along, and it seems my ability to express myself in writing began to dwindle, atrophying to the point where now I haven't written a letter in years. And that's too bad, I suppose. But like many p

    Back when we all used to write letters, I wrote my share and then some, and I received plenty in return. I recall one special day near the end of summer just before my senior year in high school when I got seven letters in the mail from seven different girls. Hot dog!

    And then the Internet and email came along, and it seems my ability to express myself in writing began to dwindle, atrophying to the point where now I haven't written a letter in years. And that's too bad, I suppose. But like many people, I have held onto the letters I received, bundling them up with rubber bands in old shoe boxes down on the shelves in the basement. I assume many of my letters are likewise stored away in other people's basements.

    Fortunately none of these people are famous, and nobody else in the whole wide world could give two good goddams about my correspondence with them. And therein lies a certain blessing: I will never suffer the ethical and moral conundrum of whether or not I could or should publish these private letters. Heck, I'm really not even that interested in their contents myself. The truth of the matter is that these letters are probably really, really boring. The only reason I keep them is out of some weird and misguided hoarderish impulse.

    So here's Wayne Flynt, professor of history at the University of Auburn. Through his relationship with Louise Lee Conner, he becomes acquainted with her younger sister, world-famous author of

    , Harper Lee, with whom he exchanges letters in the early '90s. A decade later they begin a pleasant correspondence which lasted until just before Lee's death in 2016. Over the course of the correspondence, barriers are lowered and a comfortable closeness of sorts is gradually established. Flynt and Lee write about friends and family, as well as Alabama history and its politics, and both the weather and physical ailments are frequent topics of conversation. Pleasantries are exchanged; Roy Moore is scorned; arrangements for visits and whatnot are planned, and thus it goes for about twenty years...which is pretty much what one might expect from the private letters of most human beings. In fact, reading Harper Lee's letters, some times I was reminded of my grandmother's letters that always accompanied the birthday cards she sent me each year.

    And while nobody in their right mind would want to read a collection of my grandmother's letters, as these were the letters of Harper Lee, world-famous author of

    , well, Wayne Flynt had a real conundrum on his hands. He knew quite well how much Harper Lee valued her privacy. He knew her feelings about biographies and biographers, and he especially knew this because in his letters to her he had floated the idea of compiling an oral history with her (and if she didn't want to do the conversations with him, he suggested she might record them with a nephew or other family member), an oral history that would not be published until after her death, he assured her. However, each time he mentions the oral history project in a letter, her silence in response to him is deafening. She doesn't even address his suggestions of an oral history in her responses. So Flynt has to know from her reticence that she really wouldn't be at all interested in having Flynt print their private correspondence either.

    But still, think of it! Harper Lee! And every now and then, in those letters amidst her pleasantries and complaints about failing eyesight, she drops in a biographical nugget or two or tosses off an observation about Truman Capote or savages the despicable Charles Shields for that biography of her he had the nerve to publish. How could anyone resist the temptation of printing these letters to share with the whole wide world?

    Well, poor Wayne Flynt...such a dilemma. Ultimately he decided to share those letters with the world, and I'm going to give him four stars for his less-than-noble behavior, just like I did for Marja Mills and her even more egregious abuse of Harper Lee's privacy in

    . Mills' book is far more interesting as far as giving the rest of us Nosey Parkers a sneak peek into Harper Lee's world. Most of these letters Flynt provides us with would be as boring as those letters from my grandmother, if they hadn't been written by Harper Lee. But still, if you are a Harper Lee fan, you should read them. You won't gain a lot of insight into the author, but Flynt provides a context for the letters and gives us his observations of his interactions with her. And just like with Marja Mills's book, this is a lot more than we knew about the author without the book.

    Lee is dead. I get it. (In fact one of the more interesting sections of the book is the eulogy that Flynt wrote and read at Lee’s funeral, per her request.) And some folks might say I am being a little hard on old Wayne Flynt, this Alabama historian with a direct pipeline to one of Alabama's most precious resources unrelated to football. But just think about it...we really don't need these letters; Harper Lee most likely would not have approved of their publication; and the friendship established with this elderly woman near the end of her life ultimately should have dictated a different course of action on the part of Flynt. Maybe I'm just being naive, but he might have donated the letters to the University of Alabama's special collections after his death instead of publishing them in a book that Lee wouldn't not have approved of while he was still alive.

    So, yeah, there is something a little cheap and tawdry about this book, knowing what we know about Harper Lee. The Browns must have a tremendous collection of Lee's letters. Thomas Butts must have corresponded with her over the years. Marcia Van Meter must have letters that would be fascinating to the world. And yet none of these confidantes of Harper Lee have published her letters to them.

    I’m not going to claim this is a sin on the part of Wayne Flynt. It’s nothing like the sick cash grab perpetrated against Lee by her lawyer and agent who sprang her rough draft Go Set a Watchman on the public after Lee has been satisfied for decades letting it moulder in a safety deposit box. (Near the end of his book Flynt describes Lee’s response to the release of GSAW, and he does a nice job capturing her ambivalent response to its publication.) And as I said, there is nothing as egregious in Flynt’s behavior here as in what Marja Mills did to the elderly Lee sisters. However, a part of me thinks Flynt should have left those letters in whatever shoebox he had stored them in and been content with the simple correspondence he had been blessed by through his friendship with this remarkable old woman.

    Here's my disdainful review rejecting the publication of

    :

    And here’s my prurient response to Mills’ book:

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