Thursday, September 09, 2010


Mockingbird, A Portrait of Harper Lee, Charles J Shields, Henry Holt and Company, 2006, 288pp

 Considering that he had no access to Harper Lee and that no one else had published a book length biography about her before Mr Shields, I have to admire what he put together in Mockingbird. My only complaint is that his writing style is so clunky that reading the book was rather a drowsy chore.

 I enjoyed reading about how Harper Lee wrote To Kill A Mockingbird, found an agent and publisher, went through the editing process and then the whole fame and publicity thing. I also liked the sections on her assistance to Truman Capote as he researched In Cold Blood. Because I had seen "Capote," the movie with Philip Seymour Hoffman, I had some background on that period of their lives.

 I was also pleased that Shields presented the information he discovered about Ms Lee's failure to publish any more novels without advancing an analysis of his own about why. He demonstrated a level of respect for the privacy she obviously desires.

 Somehow, I have never read To Kill A Mockingbird nor seen the movie. As this year is the 50th anniversary of the book's publication, it is a good time to add it to my reading list. Mockingbird is worth reading, both as a biography and as a look at that period in history. Just be prepared for some dry patches.

(Mockingbird is available in paperback at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)


  1. Anonymous8:23 AM

    I hope you have the opportunity to read my biography of Kurt Vonnegut coming out in 2011. No "clunky writing" there! No "drowsy reading"! A lot has to do with the subject and Miss Lee is not a particularly interesting person.


    Charles J. Shields

  2. Dear Charles,
    I see your point. Though I must say that after more reflection and a reading group discussion, I realized that Miss Lee in many ways lived according to her Christian values and you somehow wove that into your book.
    Looking forward to your Vonnegut biography. He is a particular hero of mine.
    Thanks for visiting. I hope there are no hard feelings.