Listen, you fool:
This is how Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, starts her letter to Robert E. Bell, and what a wonderful way to start a letter it is!
She admonishes herself for waiting an entire year after his novel’s publication (he wrote The Butterfly Tree in 1959) to write and tell him how much she admires his book.
“To tell you that it was poetry from the first word to the last, not even excepting that hideous printers’ error on about page 42”
She goes so far as to invite him to New York to visit her. “When in the hell are you coming up here? Now. I insist.”
I can identify with her need to work in a quiet environment and wanting to rip the phone off the wall at times (“I yanked the phone off of the wall the other night; it had rung 18 times that day.”)
Nelle (her first name and the one she uses to sign the letter) certainly knows how to write a great letter.
This is another gem from The Morgan Library’s collection. They periodically change what they put on display, and I was delighted to find her letter there this past weekend. I’ve never read The Butterfly Tree so I will, of course, be picking it up – with a recommendation like this, how could I not?