Looking for Harper Lee offers up two good-natured, short essays by one of Monroeville's critically acclaimed novelists, Mark Childress. Childress, like many of us, was bitten by the Mockingbird bug at an early age. He had a distinct advantage though; Childress happened to spend his summers in the hometown of reclusive author, Harper Lee.
Lee's international best-seller To Kill a Mockingbird inspired him to write, and eventually he became a reporter. In time, Childress worked up the nerve to send Ms. Lee a well-intentioned letter asking for an interview. He was rebuffed, but undaunted; he later sent a copy of his own novel to Harper's sister, Alice. Childress tells us he was pleasantly surprised to receive a personal letter from Harper Lee herself expressing her enjoyment of his novel. Looking may be a quick read, but even so, it pulls you in with Childress's quick wit and deep thoughts.
At the completion of the title essay, Mark Childress had yet to meet or interview Harper Lee, but as luck would have it, he happened to meet Ms. Lee unexpectedly a few months later. He was in town and enjoying dinner at a local favorite, David's Catfish, when he noticed the author and her sister. The stars(and catfish fillets) were on his side because, after introducing himself, he was invited to sit down for a quick chat. Childress doesn't go on record to say much about their brief meeting, but readers of Looking for Harper Lee will undoubtedly be glad that he met his inspiration and that he continues down the same literary path as Lee, a point he speaks to in "Something in the Water."
- Additional Information
ISBN 1492883670 EAN 9781492883678 Publisher Createspace Publish Date Oct 3, 2013 Copyright Date Oct 3, 2013 Binding Paperback
Customer Reviews 3 item(s)
- A Must-Read for Mockingbird Lovers
Looking for Harper Lee, by Mark Childress, is a concise, moving article that is definitely worth a read. It deserves a spot on the shelf next to To Kill a Mockingbird, for anyone who loves Harper Lee’s tale or for anyone who’s interested in the journey of a writer.
Childress accomplishes a lot in a small amount of space—he summarizes To Kill a Mockingbird, he explains his own first experience with the novel, he describes his emotional attachment to the novel and its author, he discusses the initial positive and negative reviews of the novel, and he describes his own journey looking for Harper Lee.
Childress first read Mockingbird just a few doors down from where Harper Lee lived. He read the novel on a porch swing, looking out over the same street where Lee imagined that Scout, Jem and Dill played “Boo Radley,” where Atticus shot a mad dog, where Jem tormented and made amends with Mrs. Dubose, and where Scout and Jem were attacked on their way home from the Halloween pageant.
This had a profound affect on Childress: “The book moved me as no book had ever done. It made me want to learn how to make that kind of magic, to tell that kind of truth.”
Childress went on to become a reporter and writer, all because of Harper Lee and her book. He describes his attempts to contact Ms. Lee—his anecdotes will charm you and make you laugh. This short piece is definitely worth a read.
- A Backstage Pass for To Kill a Mockingbird
As a writer, I’m always interested in other people like me—people who write—whether they write for a living, write to have a voice, or write for personal therapy. Words on paper aren’t everyone’s thing, but you’d be surprised how many people write for some reason or another. That’s probably why Looking for Harper Lee caught my attention. It’s an essay written by Mark Childress about the hero of his hometown of Monroeville, AL, Harper Lee.
Childress remembers people talking about Lee around the table during his youth and, being a child who loved books, he asked to read the one everyone in town seemed to be abuzz about. Lying on a front porch swing, he devoured To Kill a Mockingbird, and it made a lasting impression. Childress tells his Looking for Harper Lee audience this is the book that made him want to be a writer.
Childress goes on to share how a family friend introduced him to the places Lee talks about in her novel, the tree stump in front of the “Radley” home, for instance, as though these were real places—and many of them were, as the setting of Maycomb, AL, was undoubtedly based on Monroeville, Harper Lee’s childhood home. Childress invites us in, and tells us even more about his own attempts to reach out to the reclusive Harper Lee, and his gratitude for her approval of his own book.
Even better, this edition of Childress's Looking for Harper Lee includes a second essay, entitled "Something in the Water," in which he speaks to the fact that so many writers have sprung up in South Alabama, perhaps in large part to the influence of Harper Lee. It is a literary heritage worthy of Monroeville, Lee's and Childress's hometown, also known as the Literary Capital of Alabama.
Looking for Harper Lee gives us an insider’s perspective on Monroeville, on Mockingbird, and even on Lee herself. It’s a satisfying gift for those who love To Kill a Mockingbird, and perhaps even more satisfying for those of us who write—a sort of backstage pass to one of the greatest works of all time.
- Looking for Harper Lee Review
Looking for Harper Lee is an essay written during Mark Childress’s years as a journalist, so it is a quick and easy read. It tells of Childress’s many (failed) attempts to speak to the reclusive Harper Lee.
Before reading this essay, I had actually already heard Mark Childress tell the story of how he tried to gain Ms. Lee’s attention. My favorite part is when he sent her a letter requesting an interview, and she sent the same letter back, declining the invitation. He did get to meet her many years after writing this, but more importantly he not only gained a deeper appreciation for To Kill a Mockingbird, but also came to understand and respect Ms. Lee even more as well.
If you are a fan of Childress and Lee, this short, sweet and to the point essay would be a great read for you.