Book Shows Personal Side of ‘Mockingbird’ Author Harper Lee

HOMEWOOD, Alabama (AP) — To the world, Harper Lee was unbelievably aloof, a man obsessed with privacy despite writing one of the most A best-selling book, but she spent most of her life out of the public eye, “To To Kill a Mockingbird.” For Wayne Flint, the Alabama-born author It was his friend Nell.

Flint, a longtime Southern historian who became close friends with Nell Harper Lee in her later years, wrote her second book about the author, An Afternoon with Harper Lee, which The book was released on Thursday, and Flint signed a copy at a bookstore on the outskirts of Birmingham.

Based on notes from Flint’s dozens of interviews with Lee over a decade before his death in 2016, the book is like sitting on a porch listening to Lee’s childhood and family in rural Alabama, her life in New York. Stories of later life and everything in between. According to Flint, this included the time a grandfather who fought for the Union survived the Battle of Gettysburg despite heavy losses for his Alabama troops.

“I told her, ‘You know, half of Alabama’s 15th was either killed, wounded, or captured, and he got away? Was it just luck or God’s arrangement? What the hell was that?'” Lint said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“She said, ‘No, it’s not God’s will. He can run fast.'”

Flint said the public was wrong to think of Lee as a recluse. No, she did not speak to the media, and she was zealous in protecting her privacy, but she was warm and kind to her friends, including former first lady Mrs. Bird Johnson, Flint said. He said Lee was “very religious” in a way that many people were not.

“It’s an attempt to tell the stories of real women, not the Marble Ladies,” Flint said.

The book is also a tribute to Flint’s late wife, Dati, who died in 2020. Flint said Lee, who had a stroke in 2007, seemed to identify with the physical pain of Daty Flint, who has Parkinson’s disease.

“I think she tolerated me because she loved Daty,” he said.

Born in 1926, when the South was still legally segregated, Lee grew up in Monroeville, Alabama, the daughter of a lawyer who was featured in the race story “To Kill a Mockingbird” Modeled for attorney Atticus Finch. , Injustice and the Law in the Age of Jim Crow. The town itself became Maycomb, the setting for the book.

Flint said that Lee prefers soccer, softball, golf and books to small-town social affairs or college fraternities, and it’s well known that her desire for privacy may have stemmed in part from a relationship with other people she grew up with in the South. different feeling.

“I think she occupies a world where she doesn’t feel like other girls,” he said.

A childhood friend of author Truman Capote, Lee was rarely seen in public after her partial autobiography, “Mockingbird,” won a Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was made into a hit film. Hear from her. She spent most of her time in an apartment in Manhattan, where it was easier to fit in than to go home, until a stroke left her partially paralyzed.

Flint and his late wife knew two of Lee’s sisters, and they became close to the author after she returned to Alabama after she suffered a stroke. They visited her at a rehab centre in Birmingham and then at an assisted living home in Monroeville, where she spent several years before her death. Lee died a few months after the release of her novel “To Set the Watchman,” which was actually an early version of “The Robin.”

The book does not touch upon the most intimate aspects of Lee’s life. Flint said they didn’t discuss these things at all. But it does tell the story of her getting farther and farther from deafness and blindness at the end of her life. Her love of gambling; her anger at “Watchmen”; and her authorship of an unpublished manuscript of a bizarre murder in central Alabama.

Flint said Lee was obsessed with literature and religion. He said she preferred the King James version of the Bible because of its lyrical language and that her favourite authors included Jane Austen and CS Lewis.

“On the footstool in her two small rooms when she died was a complete anthology of all CS Lewis books. It must have weighed 50 pounds,” he said.

“Afternoon with Harper Lee” is a follow-up to Flint’s “Robin’s Song: My Friendship with Harper Lee.” While the first book was based on letters between the two men, the new book is more devious and dialogue than the first book in the Southern storytelling tradition.

“Compared to the stories, the letters are lifeless,” he said.

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