Sweet Home Alabama

No, not the song. made ya look!

Today’s post could also be titled serendipity. It’s one of those “things.” It all starts with one of modern Lit’s most fabled names: Harper Lee. In case you’ve been out of the loop of 20th century American Fiction/ Southern Fiction, Ms. Lee is the reclusive author of To Kill a Mockingbird.  Other than a few essays and articles, that’s it. No other works. Do not be fooled though. She is the recipient of:

Pulitzer Prize (1961)
Brotherhood Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews (1961)
Alabama Library Association Award (1961)
Bestsellers Paperback of the Year Award (1962)
Member, National Council on the Arts (1966)
Best Novel of the Century, Library Journal (1999)
Alabama Humanities Award (2002)
ATTY Award, Spector Gadon & Rosen Foundation (2005)
Los Angeles Public Library Literary Award (2005)
Honorary degree, University of Notre Dame (2006)
American Academy of Arts and Letters (2007)
Presidential Medal of Freedom (2007)

Ms. Lee chooses to live quietly, almost never making a public appearance, and by all accounts enjoying life at home and in the company of a small, trusted group of friends. She is in her 80’s.

The next character in today’s tale is Fannie Flagg. A more recent entry into Southern Lit, her most famous novel is Fried Green Tomatoes. She was privileged to cross paths with Ms. Lee in NYC of all places as she was working on that novel. After receiving encouragement from Ms. Lee, she kept on working, revising, and eventually got the work published.  After publication, her editor called with news that there was a new quote for the book jacket:

Flagg’s editor called her one day to say they had received the first quote for book’s dust jacket. She read it to her over the phone: “Idgie Threadegoode is a true original. Huckleberry Finn would have tried to marry her.”

“Well, that’s very generous, loving, and kind,” Flagg remembers saying. “Who is it from, a relative of yours?” No, it was from Harper Lee.

 “She was an angel to me twice,” Flagg said. “Meeting her was the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me, I admire her dignity, her incredible mind, and talent.”

(click HERE for the full article)

So, there is a past between these two authors. There is shared history growing up in Alabama. There is something else.

 Ms. Flagg was announced as the winner of this year’s Harper Lee award, given by the Alabama Writers Symposium.  This award is intended to recognize:

 the lifetime achievement of a writer who was born in Alabama or whose literary career developed in the state. The recipient is selected through a process coordinated by the Alabama Writers’ Forum, a statewide literary arts organization founded in appreciation of Alabama’s strong literary heritage with a commitment to its continuation. The Forum is funded by the Alabama State Council on the Arts.

 The recipient of the annual award must be a writer of national reputation whose work has been recognized by critics, publishers and editors as clearly superior. Evidence of such may be publications in major magazines and literary journals and books published with major houses or reputable smaller literary presses. In addition, the recipient should have received awards, prizes and other accolades from recognized experts in the field of literary arts. Those eligible for consideration are native Alabamians whose literary careers have developed in Alabama or elsewhere or those not originally from Alabama whose literary careers have developed in Alabama. Only living writers are eligible. This annual award includes a $5,000 cash prize and The Clock Tower Bronze by Frank Fleming. This award is funded by George F. Landegger.

Well. As if that weren’t enough, Ms. Lee attended the award ceremony. Can you imagine being nominated for an award given in your home state (and the subject of many of your works) , named after one of your idols, AND getting to receive it while she makes one of her rare appearances?!?! It gets better. Ms. Lee also received a Harper Lee award this year. If you click on the link here, you can read the whole story. It brought a tear to my eye.

harper-lee-murphy

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