Ol’ Curiosities and Book Shoppe and Monroe County Heritage Museum present: Forgotten Alabama & More Forgotten Alabama photographer Glenn Wills at Old Courthouse Museum

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Huntsville, Alabama native Glenn Wills has taken nearly 15,000 pictures across all 67 counties in the state of Alabama. It began when one day Glenn noticed an old car by the side of the road, but realized that he didn’t have a camera with him to capture the moment. From that moment, Glenn set out to photograph “forgotten” physical reminders of our past. His photographs range from abandoned stores and buildings to old cars and houses, and more.

Glenn took his collection of photographs and turned them into not one, but two photography books: Forgotten Alabama and More Forgotten Alabama.

Glenn will be at the Old Courthouse Museum in Monroeville, Alabama next Thursday February 23rd from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm. Forgotten Alabama and More Forgotten Alabama will both be available for purchase, and Glenn will be happy to autograph them. He will also be sharing a PowerPoint presentation that will take viewers on a journey, explaining how the project came to be and showing examples of his photography. Following the presentation, there will be a question and answer session with Glenn.

We hope to see as many of our friends as possible next Thursday to meet Glenn and explore and discuss Forgotten Alabama and More Forgotten Alabama at the Old Courthouse Museum.

If you can’t wait until next week and want a sneak peek of Glenn’s work, visit https://www.facebook.com/forgottenalabamathebook/.

 

For questions or further information, please contact one of the following:

Nathan Carter

Old Courthouse Museum

251-575-7433

mchm@frontiernet.net

Ann Mote
Ol’ Curiosities & Book Shoppe
251-575-1050
ocbookshoppe@gmail.com

Wayne Flynt-Interview with the author of Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee

Wayne Flynt Interview with the author of Mockingbird Songs

Professor Wayne FlyntWayne Flynt, an expert on Southern culture and politics, as well as a good friend to the late Harper Lee, has recently published a collection of letters between himself and the beloved author of To Kill a Mockingbird.  The correspondence is titled Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee and occurred between 1992 and Lee’s death in February, 2016. Professor Flynt sat down to answer some of our questions during a recent interview:

About Wayne Flynt

OCBS: Tell us a little about yourself and your background.  How was your childhood unique?

Wayne Flynt: I grew up mainly in Alabama. We moved often (I went to 12 schools between the ages of 6 and 14): Anniston came closest to being my home town though we lived in Birmingham, Sheffield, Gadsden, Dothan, Atlanta, Augusta, GA., etc. It was mostly unique because I was an only child, had few friends growing up, and compensated by assuming solitary habits, especially building model WWII airplanes, collecting stamps, and reading.

OCBS: Have you always wanted to be a historian?  If not, what else did you consider as a career and why?

Wayne Flynt: I have always loved history and majored in history and speech in college, but planned to be a Baptist minister until my changing racial views in the early 1960s made that an impossible course for me, or so I thought.

OCBS:   You’ve enjoyed success in academia and as a writer of history.  What are your ongoing goals for your career?

Wayne Flynt: My goals are continue to write history and popularize them in op.ed. columns, articles, and books.  I embrace the role of “public intellectual” and could not ethically remain in Alabama without working constantly for the goals Nelle embraced: the extension of justice, community, tolerance, and racial reconciliation.

Wayne Flynt on Harper Lee

OCBS:  Tell us about your relationship with Harper Lee and her sisters?  How did it begin?  What are your fondest memories of Miss Lee?  How did she inspire you personally and professionally?

Wayne Flynt: I deal extensively with this question in the book, but I first met Louise when she served on the planning committee of Auburn’s History and Heritage Festival in Eufaula in 1983.  Nelle agreed to attend and speak, and I met her that March evening in 1983.  We had a long and happy friendship with Louise before we came to know Alice casually when she showed up at a seminar at the University of Montevallo, where I lectured on the Depression-era historical context of TKAM.  I came to know Nelle only in the early 21st Century, when her concerns about Louise’s failing health caused her to contact us.  We began to write each other, but the friendship really deepened only after her stroke brought her to Health South rehab in Homewood (where we visited her regularly) and to Monroeville (where we wrote her frequently and visited at least once a month on average for a decade).  I actually swore after the terrorist bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963 that I would never come back to Alabama to teach.  But months later I read TKAM for the first time and was so impressed with this remarkable story of courage, tolerance, justice, and community, that I changed my mind.  Though that event was only one of several that brought me “home,” it was pivotal.

Wayne Flynt on Writing

OCBS:   Which other writers inspire you?  Why?

Wayne Flynt: Harper Lee, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, Boris Pasternak.  Each in his or her own way–utilized storytelling, community, and forgiveness/reconciliation as central motifs in their writing.

OCBS:  What is your favorite piece that you’ve authored and why?

Wayne Flynt: My favorite book is Poor But Proud because it gave people like my family (who appear throughout the book) the ability to tell their stories of great courage against long odds of poverty and stereotyping.  I consciously have written history from the bottom up, not from the top down, the stories of ordinary people who have lived extraordinary lives.

OCBS:  Do you have other books in the works?  If so, can you tell us a little about them?

Wayne Flynt: I plan two more books about Harper Lee if I live long enough.

OCBS:  Are there others with whom you’d like to collaborate?  Why?

Wayne Flynt: I have not enjoyed collaboration very much.  Unless someone shares your work ethic and goal orientation, discipline and capacity for deferred gratification, collaboration is almost always frustrating.  The one exception was Alabama: History of a Deep South State.

OCBS:  What advice can you offer aspiring authors?

Wayne Flynt: The hardest part of any endeavor is getting started.  Everything is easier after you begin.  Seek out your most honest and caring friend to critique your work with candor and frank criticism.  You don’t have to agree with them, but they will teach you to try always to improve.

OCBS:  Where do you find inspiration for your work?

Wayne Flynt: lnside myself.

OCBS:  What is the hardest thing about writing?

Wayne Flynt: The solitude it requires; the tremendous discipline it imposes.

OCBS:  If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?

Wayne Flynt: The Bible.  It is even longer than the books I write.

OCBS:  What do you want readers to know about you?

Wayne Flynt: That I am an honest, authentic writer; that the most plausible explanation of any event is probably correct; conspiracies are rare.

More from Wayne Flynt

OCBS:  What’s your favorite genre to read?

Wayne Flynt: I enjoy history, theology/ethics, and Southern fiction.

OCBS:  Who is your favorite author and why?

Wayne Flynt: Harper Lee, my first real inspiration.

OCBS:  What book/s are you reading at present?

Wayne Flynt: Like Alice Lee, I typically read several books at the same time.  I just finished Olin Butler’s Perfume River, Natasha Treathway’s Thrall, Frederick Buechner’s Beyond Words, and Zora Neale Hurston’s The Complete Stories.  I am about to finish Kathie Farnell’s delightful memoir, Duck and Cover: A Nuclear Family (which the University of South Carolina Press is about to publish). 

OCBS:  Who is your support system, i.e. the first to read your work, review it, and critique it?  How do you choose these advisors?

Wayne Flynt: My wife was always my first and best critic.

OCBS:  What is your favorite saying and why?

Wayne Flynt: “We become the custodians of our own contentment.” The meaning is self-evident.

OCBS:  What advice would you give to your younger self?

Wayne Flynt: I am the custodian of my own contentment.

To order your copy of Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee please visit our online store.

Which authors have influenced you most and why?  Has a personal experience with a writer impacted you?  We’d love to hear your stories.  Please comment below.

 

Mockingbird Songs by Wayne Flynt

Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee
Wayne Flynt and Harper Lee. Flynt is holding his granddaughter, Harper, who’s named in Lee's honor. Photo by James Hansen, originally published by PBS.org
Wayne Flynt and Harper Lee. Flynt is holding his granddaughter, Harper, who’s named in Lee’s honor. Photo by James Hansen, originally published by PBS.org

Wayne Flynt, Professor Emeritus at Auburn University, and an expert on Southern culture, poverty, religions in the South, and politics of the South and Alabama, has created a beautiful tribute to one of the most beloved American writers of all time, and he has done so in a way few expected—he’s published a collection of letters between his friend and fellow author, Harper Lee, and himself, written between 1992 and Lee’s death in February, 2016.  It is to be titled, Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee.

Mockingbird Songs: About Author Wayne Flynt

Born on October 4, 1940 in Potonoc, Mississippi, to a teacher and a salesman, Wayne Flynt holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Samford University (formerly Howard College), and a Masters of Science and Doctorate degree from Florida State University.  He is also the editor-in-chief for the online Encyclopedia of Alabama, sponsored by Auburn University and the Alabama Humanities Foundation.

In addition to Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee and other works, Flynt has previously published Poor But Proud: Alabama’s Poor Whites (1990), Alabama in the 20th Century (2006), and Alabama: A History of the Deep South State (2010). He is considered one of the foremost authorities on the American South and specifically, Alabama. Poor But Proud and A History of the Deep South were both nominated for Pulitzer Prizes.

Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper LeeAt one point, Wayne Flynt left Alabama based at least in part on his feelings about the violence that transpired during a haunting era of the American South, but even more important was Flynt’s later decision to make Alabama’s history the focal point of his career after reading a book by a never-before-published Alabama author, Harper Lee.  Flynt eventually became a friend of the Lee family, well respected by sisters Louise, Alice, and Nelle (Harper), and the two writers stayed in touch for years.

Mockingbird Songs: A Look into the Life of the Author We Lost

The intimate correspondence detailed between Flynt and Lee in Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee, which began at a time when Harper Lee was still residing in New York, begins fairly formally, according to the publisher, but traces the growth of a friendship that stood the tests of years, fame, health concerns, and social issues.  It will be published May 2, 2017, and documents a 25-year friendship between the two writers and their families.  The result is a work through which Lee’s fans will understand her better and learn more about her in her very own words.

Mockingbird Songs: A Celebration

At Ol’ Curiosities, we believe that Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee will be nothing less than a celebration of one of the most prominent American authors of all time, and we want to celebrate its release accordingly.  Stay tuned for some exciting announcements to follow in the next few weeks.

Artelia Bendolph and Harper Lee: Two Alabama Girls

Artelia Bendolph, Gee's Bend, AL
On Artelia Bendolph and Harper Lee
Harper Lee, published 12.06.15 by Michael Schulder at HuffingtonPost.com
On Artelia Bendolph and Harper Lee
Artelia Bendolph, by Arthur Rothstein, Gee’s Bend, Alabama, circa 1937, edited.

I knew nothing of Artelia Bendolph when I wrote to a few select authors, those I knew who were not only familiar with–but often revered–Harper Lee, and asked them for remembrances of Monroeville’s favorite daughter.  The gift I received from Kerry Madden-Lunsford wasn’t quite what I had expected… It was more.  Per Kerry, “This really isn’t a remembrance of Harper Lee but it’s something I wrote just as the book was finished about being in search of stories.” She wrote it for the Penguin Blog, no longer online.  I fell in love to the point that I’m grateful for the opportunity to publish it again, here, for OCBS:

Kerry Madden-Lunsford on Artelia Bendolph and Harper Lee:

TWO ALABAMA GIRLS

Harper Lee was born on April 28, 1926, and Artelia Bendolph was born on August 7, 1927. I am fairly sure they never met though they grew up just thirty miles from each other in the Black Belt of Alabama. Harper Lee came from Monroeville. Artelia Bendolph was raised in Gee’s Bend, a place accessible by a ten-minute ferry ride or an hour over rough back roads to Camden.

Harper Lee was known as “Nelle,” but I don’t know if Bendolph had a nickname or not. There is not much written about her. She wasn’t famous. The picture of her is more famous than she ever was. I know that she left Gee’s Bend for Mobile approximately the same time Lee left Monroeville for New York City. Lee moved to New York to become a writer. Bendolph left to find a job in Mobile to send money home.

Harper Lee was white.

Artelia Bendolph was black.

Sometimes when you write a story, you have to cut the parts that you really want to keep. During the final editing stages, I had to cut out the story of Artelia Bendolph and the Gee’s Bend section, but I couldn’t get this picture of her out of my head. Arthur Rothstein took the picture of her in 1937. He was an official photographer for the Farm Security Administration, under President Roosevelt, and his job was to travel with other photographers during the Great Depression to take pictures of the rural poor.

In 1962, approximately during the same time as Hollywood began shooting the film of To Kill A Mockingbird, the Gee’s Bend ferry service was stopped by local white officials hoping to discourage civil rights protests. The ferry’s closure isolated all Gee’s Bend residents from their jobs, emergency services, shopping, and most significantly, voting. P.C. “Lummie” Jenkins, the sheriff of Wilcox County, said, “We didn’t close the ferry because they were black. We closed it because they forgot they were black.”

The ferry was closed for 44 years and reopened in 2006. About a month ago, I decided to take the ferry from Camden to Gee’s Bend to see what it looked like and to meet some of the women quilters, who continue to make extraordinary quilts in a little trailer. The sunlight hit the Alabama River as the ferry made its crossing. I think I went looking for my next story.

Years later, I ended up writing Nothing Fancy About Kathryn & Charlie, published by Mockingbird Publishers and illustrated by my daughter, Lucy Lunsford. All the royalties have gone to the Selma-Dallas County Public Library in Kathryn Tucker Windham’s name because she loved children, stories, libraries, and most of all – civil rights for all. Kathryn was one of the first people to urge me to go to Gee’s Bend. I have a quilt from Gee’s Bend that hangs above my writing desk, and I think of Kathryn and those quilters and Nelle Harper Lee and so many Alabama stories every single day.

You can read more from Kerry Madden-Lunsford here.  Kerry Madden-Lunsford’s new picture book, Ernestine’s Milky Way will be published by Random House with Schwartz & Wade in 2018.

Truman Capote’s Car to be Restored

Truman Capote's Car East Hampton Star
CapotesCar-EastHamptonStar
Truman Capote’s Car – Photo Originally Published by the East Hampton Star

Truman Capote’s car is an ongoing symbol of friendship for a New York couple with whom he once spent substantial time.   Some friendships have special status as lasting beyond a lifetime.  Truman Capote, it seems, enjoyed such a friendship with Myron Clement and Joe Petrocik, a couple that was gifted his prized 1968 Ford Mustang Convertible after Capote’s death in 1984.

Truman Capote’s Car Damaged in Sag Harbor, NY, Accident

On April 28, Myron Clement, today aged 93, drove the beautiful, cherry red convertible over a curb and through the front plate glass window of the Henry Lehr store in Sag Harbor.  Mr. Hampton was taken to the hospital for precautionary evaluation, but soon realized and no onlookers were injured.  The front end of the Mustang did sustain some damage, but will be restored to its former glory by the current owners, who considered Capote a close, personal friend.

Truman Capote’s car originally purchased the vehicle for his partner, Jack Dunphy, a playright.  Mr. Petrocik noted that Capote himself was not an ideal driver, and that Capote even once totaled a green Buick Riviera when trying to turn into Petrocik and Clement’s driveway, by hitting a nearby tree.

Gerald Clarke, another Capote friend, as well Capote’s biographer eventually became the executor or Mr. Dunphy’s estate and awarded the car, a sentimental token, to the couple who had been kind enough to bring Capote back to the city shortly before his death, and had once designated a bedroom in their home for him.

When Petrocik and Clement received the car, they had it completely refurbished and added “CAPOTE” license tags to honor their late friend.  Many people in the town of Sag Harbor recognized the vehicle and loved to regale the couple with their own Truman Capote stories.

Truman Capote’s Car to be Repaired Again

The damage from the minor accident will be repaired and the Mustang will again enjoy its former glory, much to the relief of the owners who still today note a special and very sentimental attachment to the vehicle that is a brilliant reminder of a long term friendship with the talented Monroeville, AL, author.

The original story concerning Truman Capote’s Mustang ran here, in the East Hampton Star, on May 5, 2016.

Is there a special memento you cherish tied to a favorite author?  Let us know about it in the comments below.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

Swans-of-Fifth-Avenue

Melanie Benjamin, the New York Times Best Selling Author of The Aviator’s Wife, recently published a new historical novel, The Swans of Fifth Avenue. While all of her historical novels feature people that most of us are at least somewhat familiar with, The Swans of Fifth Avenue features one of our very own, Truman Capote.

Swans-of-Fifth-AvenueAbout The Swans of Fifth Avenue

Of all the glamorous stars of New York high society, none blazes brighter than Babe Paley. Her flawless face regularly graces the pages of Vogue, and she is celebrated and adored for her ineffable style and exquisite taste, especially among her friends—the alluring socialite Swans Slim Keith, C. Z. Guest, Gloria Guinness, and Pamela Churchill. By all appearances, Babe has it all: money, beauty, glamour, jewels, influential friends, a high-profile husband, and gorgeous homes. But beneath this elegantly composed exterior dwells a passionate woman—a woman desperately longing for true love and connection.

Enter Truman Capote. This diminutive golden-haired genius with a larger-than-life personality explodes onto the scene, setting Babe and her circle of Swans aflutter. Through Babe, Truman gains an unlikely entrée into the enviable lives of Manhattan’s elite, along with unparalleled access to the scandal and gossip of Babe’s powerful circle. Sure of the loyalty of the man she calls “True Heart,” Babe never imagines the destruction Truman will leave in his wake. But once a storyteller, always a storyteller—even when the stories aren’t his to tell.

Truman’s fame is at its peak when such notable celebrities as Frank and Mia Sinatra, Lauren Bacall, and Rose Kennedy converge on his glittering Black and White Ball. But all too soon, he’ll ignite a literary scandal whose repercussions echo through the years. The Swans of Fifth Avenue will seduce and startle readers as it opens the door onto one of America’s most sumptuous eras.

Behind the Story

melanie-benjaminAs a young girl, Melanie Benjamin always wanted to go to New York. She would read publications such as Vanity Fair and The New Yorker and dream of city nightlife, and attending openings and galas and mingle with the people in the pictures; among those, Truman Capote. All that young Melanie knew about Truman, the writer, was that he wrote a book called In Cold Blood that her mother owned, but would not let Melanie read. The Truman Melanie knew was the one she saw in the magazines, along with the likes of Babe Paley and other “swans” of New York.

Sadly, Melanie didn’t move to New York, but this extravagant world she knew from the magazines lived on in her imagination. As she got older, she read all the books she could about the people she read about in magazines as a child. And she still reads Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. Upon reading Capotes Answered Prayers, Melanie began to wonder about the puzzling friendship of Babe and Truman, before everything went wrong. Melanie only remembered pictures of Truman after the downfall of his friendship with Babe and the swans, when he looked as she says “grotesque.” Melanie said that was what she wanted to write about, the before. The friendship and the glamour. And that is exactly what she did!

Thoughts on The Swans of Fifth Avenue

A friend of the shoppe recently read The Swans of Fifth Avenue (we haven’t had a chance to read it yet!) and he gave us his thoughts on it. He said it was very well-written, well-researched and a “guilty pleasure” of sorts. Local patrons will recognize the names of Nelle Harper Lee, and Sook Faulk. He also said that the tone of the book asks the question “Was Truman’s famous black and white ball the beginning of his downfall.”

Keep an eye out for our review on this one! We don’t have this one listed online yet, but we copies in the shoppe. Come by or call us at 251-494-9356 to order your copy today?

Have you read The Swans of Fifth Avenue yet? What were your thoughts? What are your thoughts on Truman’s black and white ball?