Nonfiction Short Take: Mockingbird Songs – Wayne Flynt

This short, sweet remembrance of Harper Lee is by a professor who first began corresponding with Lee after the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960. It focuses on a period of letters between 2004 and 2009 and includes letter by Flynt, Harper Lee and her sister, Alice. We get Lee’s observations on all manner of topics, including the controversies surrounding the publication of Go Set a Watchman. Overall, the real pleasure here is Lee’s voice: She was noted for her sharp, witty correspondence and this is a privileged peek into the life of famously private writer.

“Southern historian Flynt shares his relationship with Harper Lee in a series of affectionate, playful, and mutually admiring letters. The correspondence between Flynt and Lee—known by her birth name, Nelle, to family and friends—documents the literary history of Alabama, the enduring appeal of To Kill a Mockingbird, and the vanishing art of letter writing….Flynt is a fluent writer in his own right, but the main rewards here lie in Lee’s tart observations on the modern world, sly sense of humor, and wonderful turns of phrase. Letters from Lee’s sister, Alice, round out the collection, which concludes with Flynt’s eulogy for Lee, a contemplation on the themes of her classic novel. Overall, the book provides a satisfying glimpse of a famously reserved literary great.”
Publishers Weekly

Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee (9780062660084) by Wayne Flynt. $25.99 hardcover. 5/2/17 on sale.

 

Short Take: The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder – edited by William Anderson

I got excellent sell-in numbers for this selection of correspondence by the author of the beloved Little House on the Prairie series. When I asked why such big numbers, buyers showed me their sales for Pioneer Girl, the bestselling autobiography by Wilder published a few years ago. Fans of that book will likely be drawn to these further observations from Wilder.

Anderson, her biographer and the author of several other Wilder-themed books such as The Little House Guidebook, assembles letters spanning 62 years of her long, productive life, from 1894 to 1956. They mix Wilder’s common-sense advice, acute observations of Americana, and nostalgia for her childhood. Some radiate the pioneer virtues, spirited optimism, and pluck that give Wilder’s books enduring appeal. Others reflect a sharp-eyed entrepreneur intent on building her brand. A number of letters provide rich descriptions of road trips through California and the still untamed West….Wilder’s letters display a writer who kept her head amid growing fame, remaining sweet, down-to-earth, and immensely likable until her death in 1957.”
Publishers Weekly

The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder (9780062419682) edited by William Anderson. $26.99 hardcover. 3/8/16 on sale.