Jospeh Blotner

The seminal biographer of William Faulkner, Joseph Blotner, died last week at 89. He was authorized by the Faulkner family around the time of the death of the great author to write the biography that would take him many years to complete. Faulkner had been a mentor and friend to Blotner, who made numerous trips to Oxford for research. Immediately after Faulkner's death, Blotner went about the house with a device recording every book title in the house, published as The Library of William Faulkner: A Catalog. When his two-volume biography -- over 2,000 pages -- was released, there was a book-signing event at Duvall's clothing store on the square, as there was no bookstore in Oxford at the time.   

Joseph Blotner also edited Faulkner's Selected Letters and, with Frederick Gwynn, comments from Faulkner's classes at the University of Virginia, Faulkner in the University, and he wrote the landmark biography of another great Southern writer, Robert Penn Warren: A Biography. He later revised and condensed his 2-volume work into one volume (a mere 780 pages), which has always been in print and remains, after many others, the standard biography of Faulkner. Joe Blotner was an extremely amiable scholar, indeed, a gentleman, who, among other things, enjoyed playing tennis and drinking a martini, possibly two, with Tommy Ethridge and my father, the late Beckett Howorth, Jr.  RH

The New York Times obit is here.

David Rees was here this fall with his new book, How To Sharpen Pencils -- "a practical and theoretical treatise on the artisanal craft of pencil sharpening, with illustrations showing current practice," and just recently he was seen in a Mo Rocca segment on CBS Sunday Morning. David is as stylish as he is astute, you will notice from his T-shirt choice in the clip. We still have signed copies (19.95) from this lovely little book, published by our friends at Melville House.  RH
We have just learned that Tony La Russa, one of the all-time winningest managers in baseball will be signing ONE LAST STRIKE: FIFTY YEARS IN BASEBALL, TEN AND A HALF GAMES BACK, AND ONE FINAL CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON at Square Books on Thursday, November 29th at 7pm.

After thirty-three seasons managing in Major League Baseball, Tony La Russa thought he had seen it all--that is, until the 2011 Cardinals. Down ten and a half games with little more than a month to play, the Cardinals had long been ruled out as serious postseason contenders. Yet in the face of those steep odds, this team mounted one of the most dramatic and impressive comebacks in baseball history, making the playoffs on the night of the final game of the season and going on to win the World Series despite being down to their last strike--twice.

Now La Russa gives the inside story behind this astonishing comeback and his remarkable career, explaining how a team with so much against it was able to succeed on baseball's biggest stage. Opening up about the devastating injuries, the bullpen struggles, the crucial games, and the players who made it all possible, he reveals how the team's character shaped its accomplishments, demonstrating how this group came together in good times and in bad to become that rarest of things: a team that actually "enjoyed" it when the odds were against them.


-- Call or come by Square Books now to get your tickets to have your book signed and meet one of baseball's greatest managers. 

On Monday night Ron Borne attracted a large and very friendly hometown crowd for the event that included his book, Beginnings & Ends, a selection of favorite first and last lines in stories by contemporary Oxford writers. A fairly good part of that crowd consisted of the writers themselves -- John T. Edge, Ace Atkins, Larry Wells, Neil White (who is also the publisher), Beth Ann Fennelly, Tom Franklin, Curtis Wilkie, Chris Offutt, John T. Edge, Jim Dees, and the Most Distinguished Writer in Residence, Jere Hoar. Each took a turn at the podium, reading a spot or two of their stuff and some, a bit by others -- Barry Hannah, Larry Brown, Dean Wells, and Willie Morris -- so that the evening was almost wake-ish in fond remembrances of Oxford writers past. In fact, Dr. Borne said something like, "this is the way I hope my funeral will be," didn't he?

The night began with a pitch for Read This! Handpicked Favorites from America's Indie Bookstores, with an introduction by Ann Patchett. This little gem (Coffee House Press, $12 pb) recommends books from booksellers representing twenty-five U.S. bookstores, including a few here at Square Books, and is an excellent little toilet-side reference-book stocking-stuffer, if it's not too early to say so. Then poet-bookseller Travis Smith began reading the essay by Jack Pendarvis (who was home with that cold that seems to be making its rounds in Oxford) that appears in another new bibliobook, My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop (Black Dog & Leventhal, $23.95), containing essays by 82 writers on their favorite bookstores -- Barry Moser on Lemuria, Abraham Verghese on Prairie Lights, Edith Pearlman on Brookline Booksmith, John Grisham on That Bookstore In Blytheville, a really interesting and fun tome. Travis's reading was nearly complete when he was interrupted by cheering from the crowd -- for Jack, who had magically healed and came forward to read his final paragraph. It is a lovely essay.

There followed that complicated book-signing thing where lots of writers are involved, like herding cats. It was a you-had-to-be-there kind of evening, many leaving with a sigh, saying, "Oh, that was fun!" But we didn't know what to say to the person who at one point asked if we reckoned she could get one of Tom Franklin's books by what she called "on a kindle." She was clearly lost.  RH

Richard Howorth with Ellen Douglas

Josephine Haxton, who wrote eleven books under the pen name Ellen Douglas, died Wednesday, November 7, 2012, at age 91. She has passed on to writers’ heaven and leaves behind a large imprint upon Mississippi cultural heritage and Square Books history, too.

Ellen Douglas was the first writer to do a book-signing at Square Books, just over a month after the store opened. During plans to open the store I had learned that her novel, The Rock Cried Out, was to be published in the fall. I had not met her but knew that she had been a friend of my mother’s at Ole Miss, and I wrote to her to see if she might come to the store, as she was living in Jackson at the time.

“I would like to do an autograph party for you, if you feel you can drum up enough trade to make it worth our while,” she responded. “I’ve done successful ones and miserable ones and I know it takes a lot of promotion to pull one off.” University of Mississippi English professor Doreen Fowler wrote a good review for the Memphis Commerical Appeal; we did our best to promote the event, and on October 20, 1979, we sold forty-nine copies of The Rock Cried Out -- with one copy left for stock.

Ellen Douglas’s Apostles of Light was a 1973 National Book Award finalist. She received the Mississippi Institute for Arts and Letters Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. Many of her books, in which characters of family and community bring Mississippi’s lore and legacy to life, remain in print.

She returned many times to Oxford, where she taught creative writing at the University of Mississippi from 1979 to 1983, to the Oxford Conference for the Book, and to Square Books, where she gave a memorable reading, along with John Grisham and Larry Brown, on the occasion of our 25th anniversary.

Ellen Douglas was a masterful storyteller who was unafraid to peer into the fragile fissures of society and the human heart and tell the reader what she found. She leaves behind her three sons, Ayres, Richard, and Brooks Haxton, the poet, and their families.  RH

Ellen Douglas




Roll on over to Two Stick Sushi Bar to meet Mississippi native and sushi chef Marisa Baggett. Along with Marisa's delicious sushi rolls, Two Stick is preparing a specialty kiwi gimlet cocktail for the perfect accompaniment. Marisa's new book not only offers simple sushi recipes for the home cook but also educates the reader about the importance of seafood sustainability. Eat, drink and be educated!

Our buyer has just returned from Chicago where he found lots of great deals on bargain books. These shipments will be coming in the next few weeks and we will keep you posted on some treasures as they arrive. The first shipment came yesterday & we received some terrific cookbooks, kids books and an assortment of $5.99 paperbacks .  

And while you are browsing watch out for our star books. These are bargain and used books that have been marked down to $1, $2, and $5. The inventory is always changing in our bargain section at Off Square Books, so for the best deals shop early and often!

Given the importance of what they do, and the controversies that often surround them, and the violent people they sometimes confront, it is remarkable that in the history of this country only four active federal judges have been murdered.

Judge Raymond Fawcett has just become number five.

Who is the Racketeer? And what does he have to do with the judge’s untimely demise? His name, for the moment, is Malcolm Bannister. Job status? Former attorney. Current residence? The Federal Prison Camp near Frostburg, Maryland.

On paper, Malcolm’s situation isn’t looking too good these days, but he’s got an ace up his sleeve. He knows who killed Judge Fawcett, and he knows why. The judge’s body was found in his remote lakeside cabin. There was no forced entry, no struggle, just two dead bodies: Judge Fawcett and his young secretary. And one large, state-of-the-art, extremely secure safe, opened and emptied.

What was in the safe? The FBI would love to know. And Malcolm Bannister would love to tell them. But everything has a price—especially information as explosive as the sequence of events that led to Judge Fawcett’s death. And the Racketeer wasn’t born yesterday . . .

Nothing is as it seems and everything’s fair game in this wickedly clever new novel from John Grisham, the undisputed master of the legal thriller.

Grisham fans, we have plenty of signed copies of CALICO JOE released April 10th.