Tony La Russa signs ONE LAST STRIKE

Tony La Russa, the number-three all-time winningest manager in major league baseball history (he retired in 2011 only thirty-five wins behind John McGraw; the no. 1 is safely held by Connie Mack), came to Square Books November 29 to sign copies of his new book, One Last Strike, published by our friends at Morrow. He sat down at 6:45 p.m. in the back of the main store, pulled out of his pocket and plopped down on the table three enormous rings -- one for each of his World Series titles, one with the Oakland A's and two with the St. Louis Cardinals -- and began signing books for the four hundred-plus fans who greeted him enthusiastically. Many were in Cardinals' jerseys, caps, and jackets; some were moms or wives getting Christmas gifts; lots of coaches, all kinds of coaches, came through, including former Ole Miss and Chicago Cub great Donnie Kessinger, who knew La Russa back in the day; and many in the crowd were Ole Miss students, including the four freshmen pictured below, who got themselves a book and a memorable college first-year experience:

from left to right: John Beykirch, Katie Raimondo, La Russa, Mercedes Klein and Chase Markham

Mr La Russa -- who, whenever addressed that way, immediately corrected, "Tony -- Mr. La Russa is my dad" -- alternately sat and stood while he, Tony, as we now know him, signed books, without a break, until 10:30 p.m.  There were lots of stories, lots of pictures, lots of questions, lots of requests to include "11 in '11" with the signature. He finally finished up and got out with us for some pizza and a beer, when eventually Slade said, "You know, what's the deal with all the signs for steals, bunts, hit and run -- how on earth do you guys do that, and do you ever get confused?" Tony rose from his chair and began, "I probably shouldn't tell you some of this -- trade secrets..." and patiently proceeded with a 15 minute dissertation and demonstration, touching his nose, his ear, rubbing his arms -- at which point those who hadn't figured out which man in the bar was the famous baseball manager were probably able to guess, if they weren't trying to steal third.

We had filled up the front window with about 80 copies of One Last Strike that did not get signed; so, when we walked back by the store after dinner, Tony cheerfully closed the game by signing those remaining copies. Tony La Russa -- winner, champion, and one of our favorite authors, ever.  RH

Go here to find out about Tony's animal rescue foundation, ARF

World Book Night

Go to to read about World Book Night, 2012

Joseph Blotner, 1923-2012

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 on CBS Sunday Morning

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

Baseball Legend Comes to Oxford

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