Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee
© 2017 Wayne Flynt
When I read Poor but Proud by Wayne Flynt some years ago, I never imagined I’d meet the author, let alone help him carry in boxes of books for a book-signing. Such are the perks of working in a small town library. On his last visit here, Flynt shared excerpts from Mockingbird Songs, a collection of letters between he and Harper Lee, bound together by commentary from Flynt about his and “Nelle’s” growing friendship. They first met through the Flynt family’s friendship with Harper’s sister Louise, but Flynt and Lee were such admirers of the others’ work (and both coconspirators to keep letter-writing alive), that they developed an epistolary friendship of their own that would grow into a full one, complete with Flynt reading to a bed-stricken Lee whose eyesight was much diminished. The letters can be both warm and snarky, with most of the snark being levied against those who tried to capitalize on Lee (the town of Monroeville and Charles Shields, an unauthorized biographer, are particular targets). Flynt comments that despite Lee’s reputation as standoffish and intensely private, the woman he knew was outstandingly warm and brilliantly funny. The two were mutual friends of Kathryn Tucker Windham, the storyteller par excellence of Alabama, and I enjoyed encountering stories about her, as well — the best being her funeral instructions, in which she informed whatever minister hired to perform the service that people would want to tell stories afterward, so hurry things along.