Reading Matters

‘Mockingbird’ – ‘respectable hammock reading’

When I was just out of college, I became hooked on the book reviews of one Phoebe Lou Adams who wrote for The Atlantic Monthly. This is the sentence that first welded me to her: “The plot was like an orchard planted by a drunk and never revisited thereafter.”

It occurred to me that maybe Adams had weighed in on Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” when it was released in 1960.

In fact, she had, calling it “respectable hammock reading, if anybody reads in hammocks anymore.”

Adams thought “Mockingbird” was “frankly and completely impossible, being told in the first person by a six-year-old girl with the prose style of a well-educated adult.”

Adams offers more benign description, then concludes: “A variety of adults, mostly eccentric in Scout’s judgment, and a continual bubble of incident make ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ pleasant, undemanding reading.”

She also reviewed the book “Truman Capote,” by former Charlottean Marie Rudisill. Here’s what Adams said:

“In the course of describing the peculiar upbringing of Truman Capote, his Aunt Marie complains that her newphew has for years refused to speak to her. This memoir is not likely to improve family relations.”

Adams, who reviewed some 4,000 books for The Atlantic Monthly from 1952 to 2000, died at age 83 in 2002, in Putnam, Conn.