Happy Birthday, Harper Lee!

The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye
On this day in 1926, Nelle Harper Lee was born. She was the youngest of four children born to Frances Cunningham Finch and Amasa Coleman Lee. Had she not passed away in February of last year, Ms. Lee would be ninety-one years old today.

I was almost at a loss for words when it came time to write a birthday tribute to “Nelle” Harper Lee. What more could possibly be said about an award winning, nationally treasured author? This task was almost like searching for a gift for the person that has everything.

Very rarely does an author’s debut novel not only almost instantly become successful, but also go on to become a literary classic. Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird accomplished both of those feats. To Kill a Mockingbird was later adapted into a film version starring Gregory Peck, and the novel won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize in the fiction category.

For more than half a century, it was believed by most that To Kill a Mockingbird was and would continue to be the only book that Lee ever wrote or published. However, in 2015, Lee surprised us with her second novel, Go Set a Watchman, which actually turned out to be a prequel to Mockingbird.

Across the globe, To Kill a Mockingbird still has an impact on people’s lives. The classic novel is mentioned or quoted in numerous novels, television shows and movies. Even President Barack Obama quoted Atticus Finch in his farewell speech.

Furthermore, the legacy of Nelle Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird have lived on in Monroeville, even after her death. There are few places you can visit, or even drive past, without a subtle reminder of Mockingbird, or Nelle herself.

And on her birthday, perhaps that is what is best. For us to simply be reminded of her. Divulge yourself in a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird or Go Set a Watchman. Not a big reader? Perhaps you would rather watch the film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird. If you’re a fan of audio books, maybe you would like to listen to either the audio version of To Kill a Mockingbird (narrated by Sissy Spacek) or Go Set a Watchman (narrated by Reese Witherspoon). If you are able, go see a live theatrical performance of To Kill a Mockingbird. If you are local or happen to be in Monroeville, visit the Old Courthouse or take a drive or stroll through downtown.

While it may be her birthday, we were the ones who were given a gift. We have a legacy to remember her by, and to pass on to the next generation. Nelle Harper Lee was once quoted as saying that all she wanted was “to be the Jane Austen of South Alabama.

As a native of Alabama and Monroeville, and as a fan of both To Kill a Mockingbird and Jane Austen, I think it is safe to say that Ms. Lee succeeded.

So, we at OCBS ask that you remember and celebrate Ms. Lee on her birthday. She may have passed, but she is most certainly not forgotten.

Happy Birthday, Nelle Harper Lee!

Mockingbird Songs: A New Chapter from Harper Lee

Wayne Flynt Interview with the author of Mockingbird Songs

Professor Wayne FlyntMockingbird Songs: A New Chapter from Harper Lee

Wayne Flynt, the renowned expert on culture in the Southern United States and Professor Emeritus at Auburn University, has created a wonderful tribute to the beloved author Harper Lee, and her fans are clamoring to read the new work.  Last year, Flynt announced his decision to publish a collection of letters between himself and the iconic Lee.  Those letters will include a wealth of correspondence written between 1992 and February, 2016 when Lee passed away.  Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee may well be the final publication of words written by Harper Lee.

Mockingbird Songs: An Intimate Look into the Relationship between the Authors

Wayne Flynt chose to make the history of Alabama the focal point of his career after reading To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee’s first book and a work that took the world by storm when it delved into the moral and political dynamics of a fictional town in Alabama during the 1930s.  Maycomb, AL, was based on Lee’s home town of Monroeville, and Flynt immediately recognized the contribution of Lee’s work and the impact it would have.  When Flynt eventually became a respected friend of the Lee family, a relationship of admiration between the two authors was forged.  What makes that relationship indelible is that much of it is chronicled in the letters between them.

Mockingbird Songs: A Fitting Tribute to a Woman Who Changed the World

Flynt is now offering the collection of letters that he has long cherished to the rest of the world.  The first comes from a time when Lee was still residing in New York, while others trace a developing friendship as it becomes a lifelong relationship.  Mockingbird Songs will be published May 2, 2017, and is another—and likely the final–opportunity for Harper Lee fans to read her wit, wisdom and candor in her own words.

Mockingbird Songs: Available Soon

At Ol’ Curiosities, we look forward to Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee  and again celebrating the hometown author we love. Order your certified keepsake copy today.

The 20th Annual Alabama Writers Symposium

FB_IMG_1492619255704

FB_IMG_1492619255704

Photo: Alabama Writers Symposium Facebook Page

Hailed as the literary capital of Alabama, Monroeville has produced several notable authors. It would only make sense then, for Monroeville to be the home of one of Alabama’s most celebrated literary events, the Alabama Writers Symposium.

Every spring, writers, scholars and readers gather in Monroeville for two days of readings and discussions, as well as workshops. In addition, two awards are presented during the Alabama Writers Symposium: the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer and the Eugene Current-Garcia Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Literary Scholar. Last year, an additional award was added: the Truman Capote Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of Literary Non-Fiction or the Short Story. These awards are made possible by a grant graciously provided by George F. Landegger.

This years Symposium is extra special, as this will be the 20th Annual Alabama Writers Symposium. The Alabama Writers Symposium is hosted by the Monroeville branch of Coastal Alabama Community College, formerly known as Alabama Southern Community College.

The 20th Annual Alabama Writers Symposium will kick off on Thursday April 20th, with a memoir writing workshop at Coastal Alabama, taught by writer, poet, editor, and teacher, Jennifer Horne. Discussions will begin at noon on Thursday, in the courthouse of the Monroe County Heritage Museum. Featured speakers for Thursday will be: Jacqueline Trimble, Nancy Anderson, the Alabama Bicentennial Panel, Brad Watson and Kirk Curnutt.

On Thursday evening, a dinner and awards presentation will be held at the Monroeville Community house. Michael Knight will accept the Truman Capote Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of Literary Non-Fiction or the Short Story. Knight resides in Knoxville, Tennessee and is employed by the University of Tennessee, where he teaches creative writing. Knight is the author of a book of novellas entitled “The Holiday Season”; two novels, “Divining Rod” and “The Typist”; and three short-story collections, ” Dogfight and Other Stories,” “Goodnight, Nobody,” and his latest work, “Eveningland.”

This years Eugene Current-Garcia Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Literary Scholar will be given to Alabama Writers Symposium veteran Kirk Curnutt. Curnutt is an English professor, as well as a chair of English at Troy University. Curnutt has penned fourteen books, three of which are novels. His scholarly works mainly center around Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein. In addition to teaching and writing, Curnutt is also the co-director of the Alabama Book Festival.

Finally, The Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer will be presented to Brad Watson. Watson is an alumnus of the University of Alabama. He has written several books including: ‘The Heaven of Mercury,” “The Last Days of the Dog-men,” “Aliens in the Prime of their Lives,” and “Miss Jane.” All of his works have either been nominated for, or have received awards. Watson currently teaches creative writing at The University of Wyoming.

On Friday morning, attendees will gather back at Coastal Alabama, where featured speakers will resume discussions. Friday morning keynote speakers will include: Jeanie Thompson, Kyes Stevens with the Alabama Prison Arts + Educaon Project, Frye Gaillard, Michael Knight, Deidra Suwanee Dees with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Don Noble and Jennifer Horne.

A luncheon will then be held at the Monroeville Community House, with guest speaker Yaa Gyasi. Gyasi’s debut novel “Homegoing” made quite an impression in the literary world, even being nominated as one of Oprah’s Ten Favorite Books of 2016 as well as one of Time’s Top Ten Novels of 2016. A book signing will follow the luncheon.

Don’t worry, the party doesnt end there! Guests will return to Coastal Alabama for afternoon discussions and book signings. Those speaking Friday afternoon include Miriam Davis, Jaime Primak Sullivan, T.K. Thorne, Sue Brannan Walker and Katherine Clark.

Tickets were previously sold for the awards gala and luncheon, as well as an optional ticket to the opening night presentation of the play “To Kill a Mockingbird” on Friday night. However, all discussions on Thursday and Friday are free and open to the public. There will also be several opportunities throughout the weekend to meet these distinguished writers and speakers and to have books signed as well.

The 20th Annual Alabama Writers Symposium is sponsored by George Landegger, the Alabama State Council of the Arts, and the Alabama Humanities Foundation. In addition to Coastal Alabama Community College, the Symposium is hosted by The Monroe County Heritage Museum, The Association of College English Teachers of Alabama, as well as The Alabama Writers Forum.

Have you attended a past Symposium? Are you attending this years 20th Annual Alabama Writers Symposium? What events and/or speakers are you looking forward to most? I am looking forward to ALL of it, but I am most excited to attend the memoir writing workshop, the awards gala and to hear Yaa Gyasi speak at the luncheon on Friday. We hope to see you there! [Read more…]

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

Screenshot_2017-02-16-19-48-06_kindlephoto-8372406

 

Screenshot_2017-02-16-19-48-06_kindlephoto-8372406

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

Truman Capote: Still Making Headlines

capote2featured

Capote with the Maysels brothersTruman Capote: Literary Icon Garners Attention Again

Writing about the writers that have made Monroeville the Literary Capital of Alabama has given me the opportunity to learn a lot about those icons.  I’ve written extensively about Harper Lee, and her childhood neighbor and friend, Truman Capote.  When I heard about the sale of Capote’s ashes last week, I was a little in awe.  The fetching price of $45,000 doesn’t amaze me nearly as much as that Capote’s remains were actually sold at all.  In true Capote fashion, the flamboyant boy child of Monroeville is still making headlines.

Truman Capote: A Unique Memento

It seems an anonymous buyer purchased perhaps the most personal memento of his or her favorite author when they bought Truman Capote’s ashes from Julien’s Auctions of Los Angeles, CA, some 30 years after the novelist and screenplay writer’s death. It is the first time in recorded history that ashes of a deceased person have been sold at auction. I think Capote would have relished that fact.  He loved making history.

Truman Capote and Joanne Carson: The Friendship

The ashes had been cared for by Joanne Carson, former wife of Johnny Carson, with whom Truman Capote spent his final days. A dear friend of Capote, she is quoted as saying that having the ashes of the famed writer in her home “brought (her) great comfort.” It is rumored that before he died, Capote began to work on a memoir for Carson that was never completed.

Truman Capote: The Remains

When Capote passed away in 1984, the ashes belonging to Joanne Carson were worth as much as $6,000.00.  The President of the Auction House expected them to sell for more than $10,000.00 but could not have anticipated the phenomenal price they brought.  Competition for the ashes, housed in a carved wooden box from Japan and the original cemetery packaging from Westwood Village Mortuary, was intense.  Bidders haled from Russia, China, South America, and Germany, as well as the United States.

Capote’s ashes found their way to auction due to Carson’s death last year. Julien told CNN, “He (Capote) told her he didn’t want to sit on a shelf. This is definitely right in line with his wishes,” and, “If it wasn’t for it being Truman Capote, it would have been disrespectful.”  There is truth to this statement. Capote was always one seek the limelight, and somehow being sold at an auction that made headlines is fitting.

Truman Capote: In Good Company

Other items belonging to Capote were also sold: About fifty items including shirts, trousers, ice skates, a few books, and the shirt he wore on the day of his death were all sold to the highest bidders, most at prices from $50 to $2,000, according to the auction house. A small collection of Capote’s prescription bottles sold for $5,000.  The same auction brought in winning bids for items once owned by Steve Jobs and Dennis Hopper, and locks of Marilyn Monroe’s hair brought $70,000.

Truman Capote: “Rest in Peace” Just Doesn’t Fit

According to the auction house, the buyer of Truman Capote’s ashes has promised that the scribe’s adventures will live on.  No, it doesn’t seem that Truman Capote will ever rest in peace.  Then again, I am not sure he ever wanted to.

Yes, Truman Capote was talented and eccentric—but then, many of the best writers are.  Who is your favorite eccentric writer and why?  Let us know in the comments below.

Truman Capote:  Years of Influence

Truman_Capote_by_Jack_Mitchell Featured Image (2)
Truman Capote by Jack Mitchell, Source: Wikipedia Commons
Truman Capote by Jack Mitchell, Source: Wikipedia Commons

Capote: Celebrating the Birth of One of Monroeville’s Own

The end of September would mark the 92nd birthday of a man that Monroeville claims as one of its famous, gifted children–Truman Capote.

Capote and Harper Lee

Capote, who spent much of the time during his formative years in Monroeville, was born Truman Streckfus Persons.  He was a dear friend from childhood of Nelle Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird; the character in Lee’s novel—Dill- bears striking resemblance to Capote.  Eventually, the two would work together to complete Capote’s 1966 true crime novel and the work for which he was best known, In Cold Blood.

Capote on Writing

It was while writing In Cold Blood that Capote refined his abilities to memorize long, detailed quotes from subjects.  The New York Times quotes Capote as saying that he had, ”a talent for mentally recording lengthy conversations, an ability I had worked to achieve while researching The Muses Are Heard, for I devoutly believe that the taking of notes, much less the use of a tape recorder, creates artifice and distorts or even destroys any naturalness that might exist between the observer and the observed, the nervous hummingbird and its would-be captor.”

Capote on Fame

While Capote was a gifted writer, his flamboyant persona sometimes reaped more notoriety than his written works.  He moved to New York City in 1933 and wrote for The New Yorker before publishing his first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms in 1948. It was Other Voices, Other Rooms that made him a star and began a barrage of regular media attention, which by all accounts, he enjoyed immensely.  Capote was known to love (and share) a great bit of gossip, and for his quick and edgy wit.

”I had to be successful, and I had to be successful early,” Capote once said, ”The thing about people like me is that we always knew what we were going to do. Many people spend half their lives not knowing. But I was a very special person, and I had to have a very special life. I was not meant to work in an office or something, though I would have been successful at whatever I did. But I always knew that I wanted to be a writer and that I wanted to be rich and famous.”

Eventually, Capote became a familiar face on TV, and was often featured on the Johnny Carson show, among others.

Capote: Final Years

By the late 1970s, Capote was suffering from alcohol and drug abuse, and his star was fading somewhat. To keep his fame from waning, in 1975 he consented to allow Esquire to print excerpts from an unfinished book. The consequence was dire as Capote relayed apparently true and less than flattering stories about his circle of well-known friends, naming them and detailing their exploits.

Truman spent a good deal of his final years in the company of Joanne Carson, ex-wife of Johnny Carson, and passed away in her home on August 25, 1984 at the age of 59.

The Broadway play Tru was based on Capote’s life and offered a fresh voice to tell Capote’s story for the time it was in production (1989-90), five years after the author’s death.

Among his essays, novels, stories and screenplays, are The Grass Harp (1951), The Muses Are Heard (1956) and Music for Chameleons (1980).  His unpublished first novel, Summer Crossing, was found and sent to print in 2005.  Capote referred to the work as “the tiny terror.”  If you’re interested in reading more of Capote’s works, The Complete Stories of Truman Capote is a great place to start.

What are your favorite Capote works and why?  Let us know in the comments section below.