James and Judy Meredith with Richard Howorth
Following the success of his recent appearance on August 30, 2012, when James Meredith spoke to the press and an overflow crowd at Off Square Books, then signed copies of his new book, A Mission from God: A Memoir and Challenge for America (Simon & Schuster, 25.00) and had his picture taken countless times, for a total of nearly four hours, the famous Mississippian returned to Oxford on Saturday, September 15, and signed many more books (now available at Square Books).
Mr. Meredith again spoke to us passionately of his ambitions for Mississippi, explicated in his book -- the necessity and hope for a better education for Mississippi's children, the independence from government, the role of church and family in our culture, and his belief that "Mississippi shall one day be -- not on the bottom, but on top." But he had additional reasons to return to Oxford -- the Ole Miss - Texas football game. So he donned his red shirt and Rebel baseball cap and joined a distinguished group of alums in the Chancellor's box, where ESPN cameras found him, naturally, rooting for the home team. "Right now, I just want to be ahead at half-time," he said at one point.
Once half-time began, just before the 1962 undefeated Ole Miss team was honored on the field, Chancellor Dan Jones quickly gathered a crowd inside and spoke: "Everyone here is special. But tonight we honor someone who changed our University, our state, and our nation, and made them, and all of us, better...." James Meredith didn't quite get his wish for the football game, nor has he got his wish for Mississippi's achievement. But he remains determinedly hopeful for the prospects of both the team and Mississippi. As he should, warrior that he is. RH
Thacker Mountain Radio on Thursday, September 20th at 6 p.m. features a double reading from two fine writers. Mississippian and Emory University historian Joe Crespino reads and signs copies of STROM THURMOND'S AMERICA (Hill & Wang, hd., 30.00). In his new book, Crespino adjusts the image of the late South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond (1902-2003), and reveals how he helped foster modern conservatism and altered the course of the nation. Crespino's wife, the lovely Caroline Herring, who just so happens to be a founding member of Thacker, is the featured musical guest.
September 27th Thacker welcomes Lawrence Norfolk.
Lawrence Norfolk, author of Lempriere's Dictionary and The Pope's Rhinoceros, has written a new novel that will be among the biggest fiction books of the fall. A young boy growing up in a 17th Century English village, John Saturnall is cast into the forest when the villagers believe his mother to be a witch. She is ill and starving, and without the knowledge John has gained from her of how to prepare food from the wild, he would surely die, too. He is taken on as a kitchen boy at a nearby manor, where his culinary skills serve to advance his position in the kitchen and his status in the household, and soon he has caught the eye of Lady Lucretia. Under threat from dogmatic Christians and looming Civil War, whether John Saturnall's skills, cunning and chance can meet the great challenges of time create the tension of John Saturnall's Feast (Grove Press, hd. 25.00), a novel that will appeal to readers who enjoy history, cooking, romance, and drama, brilliantly written. RH
The following comes from the September 10 Special Convention Issue of Time magazine:
“His laptop lies open, alone on the polished desk, across from a tray where an aide has placed the two novels he is reading at the moment, HOME by Toni Morrison and SALVAGE THE BONES by Jesmyn Ward. Both authors are award-winning women who focus on the same subject, the hardship and heroism of poor Americans…”
Toni Morrison's HOME is available in hardcover ($24) Google eBook ($11.99) and signed first edition ($100).
Wilderness has received frequent early comparisons, coincidentally, to Charles Frazier's first novel. Set in Washington State thirty years after the Civil War's Battle of Wilderness, in which Abel Truman had fought, the aged veteran undertakes a final quest in which he rediscovers violence and brutality. Abel also finds a generous, kind spirit of humanity in this place, the account of which Annie Dillard said "the landscapes are huge" and "Abel's story...both simple and rich, the novel unforgettable."
In 2004 and 2005 Kevin Powers was a machine gunner in Mosul and Tal Afar, the combat setting of The Yellow Birds in chapters that alternate with the story's stateside events. This short novel is written with great intensity and artistry. Described by Colm Toibin as "compelling" and Ann Patchett as "inexplicably beautiful," Tom Wolfe has hailed The Yellow Birds as "The All Quiet on the Western Front of America's Arab Wars."
Please join us to help Oxford welcome two promising writers into the world of readers. RH
Opening with a riveting account of his 1966 assassination attempt 2 miles outside Hernando, Mississippi, James Meredith's new book, A Mission From God: A Memoir and Challenge for America, rarely loses its grip on the reader captured by the voice that admits, "I befuddle people," avering that "I refused to be forced into a special category where I am expected to behave in certain ways and hold certain beliefs." The author (with William Doyle) ranges across a spectrum of history and events, including his genealogical history (an especially fine portrayal of his mother and father), his military career, his spiritual connection to Japan, his encounters and friendships with Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, and others, the crisis surrounding his desegregation of Ole Miss (and encounter with the white woman who was in love with him), his career with Jesse Helms, all the while espousing his core beliefs about humanity, politics, and his principles of American citizenship. While the enigma of James Meredith ultimately remains, we know more of this man now than we ever have through the blunt honesty of this book, portrayed by the amazing and amiable character of James Meredith, as well as the utterly sensible and noble challenge that arrives at the end of the book. RH
Journalist and professor Joe Atkins will interview James Meredith briefly and moderate a question and answer session at 5:30 Thursday, August 30, during Mr. Meredith's appearance in conjunction with his book, A Mission From God.