A thin but welcome snapshot of the ‘real’ Lee.



An insider’s portrait of the beloved author.

Flynt (Emeritus, History/Auburn Univ.; Keeping the Faith: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives, 2011, etc.) received his first letter from Nelle Harper Lee (1926-2016) in 1992. Over the years, they became dear friends, and this book collects their correspondence. Flynt provides revealing portraits of the very private Nelle and her sisters, Alice and Louise, and her close relationship with the Flynt family. Like the bird that inhabits the title of her famous novel, Lee was “complicated and independent” and highly protective of her family. However, as Flynt found out, once she could trust him, she was neither cold nor uncommunicative but rather “empathetic, warm, nonjudgmental, and a wonderful conversationalist.” Her letters are often chatty, funny, and satirical. The correspondence explores racial issues, personal matters, and the state of Lee’s health, but there’s also a good deal of material literary buffs and fans of Lee will enjoy. Her “literary idol” was Jane Austen. She loved Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It and read C.S. Lewis “voraciously.” Eudora Welty, she writes, was “my goddess, and with Faulkner, I think are the TWO.” Although Lee was ill, she did approve the publication of Go Set a Watchman and was especially pleased with its sales and the money she was making. Even though she was Truman Capote’s “oldest friend,” she knew he told others he had a hand in writing To Kill a Mockingbird, which grew out of a short story she had written. With a touch of glee, she writes, “I did something Truman could not forgive: I wrote a novel that sold.” He “nursed his envy for more than 20 years.” Lee calls biographer Charles Shields, whom she refused to cooperate with, a “creep,” and she was livid when she found out he had included her New York City address in it: “bush-league.”

A thin but welcome snapshot of the ‘real’ Lee.

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-266008-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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