A little over a year ago Robert Hamblin's excellent brief biography of William Faulkner, Myself and the World, appeared here. Recently we received another most welcome 148-page biography by Hamblin, Living in Mississippi: The Life and Times of Evans Harrington, the story of one of Mississippi's most courageous intellectuals and social activists. Harrington (1925-97) was one of the most popular professors on campus, teaching all creative writing classes (Poetry, the Short Story, and Expository Prose) and most modern literature courses (Modern American Drama, the Modern English Novel, and Modern Poetry) at a time when English departments almost universally taught the work of only dead writers. Harrington was active in important civil rights and free speech issues and cases. Upon receiving the ACLU's Civil Libertarian of the Year award, one of the writers Harrington was responsible for bringing to the University of Mississippi, Barry Hannah, said, "He is Emerson's 'American Scholar.' He is Whitman's 'man of the open road.' He is not just a supporter of of the arts, civil rights, and humanitarian enlightenment, but a great participator." We will celebrate Robert Hamblin's life of Evans Harrington at the close of this year's Faulkner Conference—of which Harrington was it's 1974 co-founder. The book is now available. -- RH
With the Tuesday release by Doubleday of Camino Island, a crime thriller about the heist of rare book manuscripts from Princeton University–and the cast of characters that sets out to find the robbers, recover the manuscripts, and ensure justice for all in just under 300 pages–Grisham will hit the road again on a much-anticipated book tour that will include a stop at Square Books on June 20. While much has changed since that initial book signing event in Oxford 28 years ago, Square Books owner Richard Howorth looks back fondly on memories that link Square Books to Grisham’s early career, and the special regard each still holds for the other. Interview by Jana Hoops. Special to Clarion-Ledger Sunday print edition (June 4). Click here to read the interview, or click the "read more" link below.
Camino Island opens with a Princeton library heist of valuable manuscripts, a charismatic bookstore owner (no, this resembles no one we know) whose sideline of antiquarian books might have a shady side, and a young woman, a struggling writer, who is hired by an insurance firm to find facts and play dumb. The recipe of interesting characters and a rollicking plot, sprinkled with literary treats, makes for Grisham at his best. Order a signed first edition of Camino Island.
We hope you'll join us this Saturday, May 20th, to celebrate the publication of The Mississippi Encyclopedia, the extraordinary 1,600-page result of years of scholarship by over 700 contributors and the tireless efforts of its Center for the Study of Southern Culture editors -- Jimmy Thomas, Ted Ownby, Ann Abadie, Charles Wilson, and Odie Lindsey. Beginning at 3 pm at Oxford City Hall Courtroom, some of its contributors will present "lecturettes" on their respective topics and, at 5 pm at Off Square Books, there will be a party and book-signing with all editors and contributors present.
The Mississippi Encyclopedia
edited by Ann J. Abadie, Odie Lindsey, Ted Ownby, James G. Thomas Jr., & Charles Reagan Wilson
Mark your calendars for our event-filled month of May.
ONLY IN MISSISSIPPI
May 2 – Charles Eagles, author of the award-winning The Price of Defiance, talks about his new book, Civil Rights, Culture Wars (University of North Carolina Press, $34.95), in which the Mississippi school textbook banning of Mississippi: Conflict and Change and the subsequent federal lawsuit provide a landscape for this historian to delineate the fissures of Mississippi politics and culture.
May 11 – Yvette Johnson, born and raised in California, is the granddaughter of Booker Wright, who once was a waiter at Lusco’s, the famous Greenwood, Mississippi restaurant. When an NBC documentary film crew came through town in 1966 and asked him what it was like to live in Mississippi, his life changed at the moment he told them the truth. This loving memoir, The Song and the Silence (Simon & Schuster, $26.00), is the result of Johnson’s determined search for who her grandfather was, what happened, and why.
May 20 – Many here remember “The Encycloparty” of 1989, when we celebrated the publication of The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Now we will celebrate The Mississippi Encyclopedia (UP Mississippi, 1,481 pp., $70), with the Center for the Study of Southern Culture’s editors, James Thomas, Ann Abadie, Charles Wilson and Ted Ownby and as many of the over 700 contributors who are here. “Speed lectures” begin at 3 p.m. in the upstairs courtroom of City Hall; reception and Monster Book Signing begin at 5 p.m. at Off Square Books.
STRONG NEW VOICES
May 3 – Many of you now know Bill Cusamano here, who says that Brain Van Reet (a former Marine and recipient of a James Michener fellowship) has written a first book, Spoils (Lee Boudreaux, $26.00), that will be to the second Gulf War what Going After Cacciato was to Vietnam, and that this “…high octane novel immediately hits high gear and never stops accelerating straight through to its conclusion.”
May 15 – Edan Lepucki, contributing editor at The Millions and author of first novel sensation California, makes her first visit to Square Books with Woman No. 17 (Hogarth, $26). A single mom takes on a young nanny to help out with her not-that-much-younger son and the toddler daughter, and things get tense, comical and complicated in this “family noir.”
May 18 – With perhaps the most talked-about first novel of 2017, Omar El Akkad will make a first visit to Oxford, bringing his American War along. The story occurs 60–80 years from now, the Mississippi River is the Mississippi Sea, and the state of Mississippi, along with Alabama and Georgia (“the Mag”) have seceded. Lisa Howorth, who ain’t scared of nuthin, calls it “scary and compelling.”
TRUTH BE TOLD
May 8 – “To write a memoir, and to consider the importance of another human being is to try to credit what otherwise might go unremarked–partly by acknowledging that mysteries lie within us all, and by identifying within those mysteries, virtues.” So writes Richard Ford in his artful effort to bring to life his mother, father, and a young Richard, in Between Them: Remembering My Parents (Harper, $25.99). Generous in his appearances at Square Books over his career, Richard Ford has, every time, given a splendid, memorable reading.
May 10 – Two days following Richard Ford’s visit, his old friend Curtis Wilkie will be here with his old friend and longtime partner in ink at the Boston Globe, Tom Oliphant. Together they have written a fascinating account of a five-year period in American history, from 1955 to 1960, showing exactly how a presidential campaign and its young candidate, John F. Kennedy, fashioned themselves and flourished to “the squeaker” of a victory, in The Road to Camelot (Simon & Schuster, $28.00).
May 17 – John T. Edge arrived in Oxford as a curious and enterprising student a couple of decades ago or so, and, through eager curiosity, industrious scholarship and several books, a case may be made that he now is the preeminent authority on just about anything having to do with food in the American South. That case is now closed with The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the American South (Penguin, $28).
May 4 – You might guess that, with a title like Your Killin’ Heart (St. Martin’s, $25.99), the book might deal with country music and be set in Nashville. And you’d be right about Peggy (Peden) O’Neal’s first novel, a Minotaur mystery with a slice of humor and winner of the Malice Domestic Best First Mystery competition.
May 16 – Some of our best events feature books about the natural world, and we can’t wait for Lynn Frierson Faust to come to Oxford to talk about summertime favorites in her book, Fireflies, Glow-worms, and Lightning Bugs (Univ. of Georgia Press, $32.95). Yikes -- “Predatory Photuris versicolor complex females often mimic the flashes of other fireflies.”
May 23 – With a movie out and now on the Indie Bestseller list, A Dog’s Purpose reminds us of Bruce Cameron’s visit here when that novel first appeared. He returns to Oxford, where he has many dog-loving readers, with A Dog’s Way Home (Forge, 24.99), another great story based on dog-and-human relationships from the dog’s point of view.
Note: All events are at Off Square Books beginning at 5 p.m. Visit our event page for a full listing of May's events.
Raffle has ended. We'll draw the winners on Monday, May 22nd.
One of the more colorful aspects of Square Books' history involves the many book signings held here when John Grisham began writing books. These went from a family-and-friends affair for A Time to Kill, to lines going out the door, down Van Buren and around the corner at 11th St. beyond Harrison, requiring John to ice down his arm every few hours or so. Eventually this changed, and we now typically receive enough signed copies to satisfy orders from his (and our) faithful readers.
He will have a new suspense novel out this fall, but, come June 6, we will have Camino Island, and John Grisham will return to Square Books for a limited appearance on June 20.
For those of you are ordering (or have already ordered) signed copies of Camino Island, we will ask if you would like to participate in a raffle, a drawing of 200 names (by publisher's guidelines) whereby those selected may have the opportunity to get their copies of Camino Island signed in person. The drawing will be an open affair—we will not try to game the system. You have until May 19th to enter the raffle. Here are the details:
- You may still order and receive signed copies of the book, regardless whether you wish to enter the raffle.
- Raffle ends May 19th. Winners will be notified May 22. Don't call us, we'll call you, please.
- Raffle winners may get one or two (but no more) copies signed at the in-person event—only copies of Camino Island purchased from Square Books, no older books or memorabilia, etc.
- The signing will begin at 1 p.m. June 20. Raffle winners may come to the main store beginning 9 a.m. to pick up your ticket. The tickets, valid for one person per ticket, will help us do the signing in an orderly fashion and to prevent people from having to stand in line too long.
- At 5 p.m. raffle winners may return to Off Square Books to attend a live interview with John Grisham. At this event there will be no book-signing, etc.
Camino Island opens with a Princeton library heist of valuable manuscripts, a charismatic bookstore owner (no, this resembles no one we know) whose sideline of antiquarian books might have a shady side, and a young woman, a struggling writer, who is hired by an insurance firm to find facts and play dumb. The recipe of interesting characters and a rollicking plot, sprinkled with literary treats, makes for Grisham at his best. — RH
When Mary Ann Connell was born, her father told the town: If it's a boy, I'll send up black smoke; if it's a girl, I'll send up white. The entire town of Louisville, Mississippi, saw white smoke billowing from the chimney, announcing Bill Strong had a daughter. This smoke--determined by gender--would come to define Mary Ann's life in ways none of them could have excepted. As a child, fire robbed her of a precious piece of her life. Later, Mary Ann faced a different kind of firestorm as she became one of the first women lawyers practicing in Oxford, Mississippi. An Unforeseen Life is Mary Ann's account of the many joys and trials of her life--from attending Harvard Law School with classmate Barack Obama, to serving as the president of a national association of university attorneys; from losing her husband to cancer to defending the wrongful termination suit of beloved Ole Miss football coach Billy Brewer. This powerful memoir is a funny, touching account of a life "most richly blessed," if sometimes in unexpected ways. The book releases on April 11th from The Nautilus Publishing Company and we'll have an event at Off Square Books at 5pm that evening. Click here to pre-order.