Noel Polk


Noel Polk

Mississippi letters lost a champion when Noel Polk passed away at home after an illness. A longtime professor of English literature at the University of Southern Mississippi and later Mississippi State University, he was well-known here in Oxford mainly due to his perennial appearances at the Faulkner Conference, where he often spoke. A scholar of two of Mississippi’s greatest writers, William Faulkner and Eudora Welty, he was involved in the editing of some of Faulkner’s original texts and the Library of America editions of Faulkner. He published Children of the Dark House: Text and Context in Faulkner and Eudora Welty: A Bibliography of Her Work. A fine extract of his personal history, Outside the Southern Myth, may be found here on the site of the American Scholar

While Noel’s scholarship could be arcane – he really got down to the nitty gritty -- a personal encounter with Noel was always open, engaging, and very friendly. His contagious energy not only gave creation to the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters, he also kept a hand in sustaining the organization since he helped found it in 1978. It is no surprise to those who knew Noel that his generous enthusiasm for literature included a constant support for us here at Square Books.

Noel got his PhD at the University of South Carolina after completing his other degrees at Mississippi College, where he was a member of the MC literary brat pack that included Peggy Prenshaw, Evans Harrington, Barry Hannah, and many others. Mississippi’s powerhouse of literary greatness continues to cast its shadow over the world, and Noel worked in the boiler room. We will miss him, and extend our condolences to all his friends and family.  RH

The Dog Stars

"I could almost imagine that it was before, that Jasper and I were off somewhere on an extended sojourn and would come back one day soon, that all would come back to me, that we were not living in the wake of disaster. Had not lost everything but our lives. Same as yesterday standing in the garden. It caught me sometimes: that this was okay. Just this. That simple beauty was still bearable barely, and that if I lived moment to moment, garden to stove to the simple act of flying, I could have peace." 
What you are guaranteed to get from The Dog Stars: a hunting-fishing-nature-airplane-dog-survivalist drama. What you might not expect: being part of the rush of adventure from inside the head of Hig, the hunter-gatherer-pilot-survivalist. Hig's moment-by-moment thoughts are a necessary and constant guard in the devastated and altered land (the West) where he continues to find beauty and solace in the natural world even though people hunt and kill each other and there is only one friend and one dog to trust. Hig sets out in his 1950s Cessna aircraft to answer a vague transmission, because he wants to believe there will be a new beginning, or if not that, an end. The Dog Stars is unnerving, enthralling, moving. Peter Heller, an adventure writer/editor (Outdoors and National Geographic Adventure magazines) is in touch with more than trees and streams with this one. SLM

Swimming Studies

Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton, Blue Rider Press, 30.00

Leanne Shapton is an artist and writer who once competed for a slot on the Canadian Olympic swim team. She didn't make the squad but was good enough to get close, which meant she spent hours and months and years swimming and training and thinking -- deeply -- about what it all meant to her life. With the XXX Olympiad and the names of Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte fresh on our minds, and 100+ temperatures out there now, it's a good time to dive into Leanne Shapton's refreshingly cool memoir.

Swimming Studies is a physically lovely book whose narrative is accompanied by  the author's sketches, paintings, and an unusual photographic archive of her swimsuits.  And it's an excellent read, a provocative and pleasantly understated memoir with casual, elliptical references to art and literature and unpretentious utterances of occasional wisdom -- a friendly, welcome companion for any reader who wishes to think about what is, has been, or may become of one's life. RH

Vintage high-neck psychedelic one-piece suit, no label, used for recreational swimming, 2003-2010.
(Swimming Studies)

So Long Waldo

Hooray for Katherine, the grand prize winner of the complete box set of Waldo books.
The month of Waldo ended with a bang! The Waldo party was a blast with a large crowd of kids and parents in attendance for the grand prize drawings. The party began with yet another Waldo hunt to find three Waldo figures hidden in the store. The three winners  each received a mixed candy bag donated by Holli's Sweet Tooth. Meanwhile, the real Waldo (Dr. John Bruce) was hiding behind the curtain, but the kids are expert hunters now and found him, too. Our very own Jackie Boyce played hostess as Wenda and organized a Waldo coloring activity and served a delicious slice of Waldo cake to everyone.
Believe it or not, there were 185 names in the grand prize drawing! We had a total of 6 grand prizes that included Waldo tote bags, Waldo postcard books, a Waldo poster book and the ultimate supreme grand prize of the complete box set of Waldo books. The prizes also included donated items such as t-shirts from Square Books, Jr., Cat Daddy's and Something Southern, crayons and a crayon holder from Belles and Beaus and a magnet board from Warehouse 605. Waldo in his infinite position of authority drew the names, and all the winners ended up being from right here in Oxford even though the competition was stiff with many entrants being from all over the southeast. However, no one went home empty handed as each child received a Waldo postcard as a memento.
We thank everyone who came to the party, everyone who participated in the hunt - those who were local and those from out of town, and all of the participating businesses around the Square who made the event possible. 

You & Me



Ian Frazier says “Padgett Powell is one of the best writers in America—and one of the funniest, too.” His stories are cousin to Barry Hannah’s (read the masterpiece Typical), his ear for dialog is Weltian, and I believe him to be Faulkner’s closest stylistic kin. Not at all derivative, though--his writing is aggressively his own. You and Me will conjure up Godot for smarties, but me, I’m thinking “Water Liars.” Basically, two baby-boomer geezers (yes, that’s us) with nothing better in this world to do sit around and jaw about stuff: “Things disturb them.” Just a few of those things are sex, Parker shotguns, Miles Davis, fishing, R. Crumb, cowardice, Jayne Mansfield, lard-and-hair sandwiches, nihilism, dogs, Tarzan, GERD, Sherman, Oz, people who should die of a terrible virus (tyrants, driving cell-phone talkers, litterbugs), and the deaths of Julia Child and Ray Charles, which “contributed directly to the collapse of Life as we thought we knew it.” As the guys put it, they “are talky bums with decent clothes and odor under control but bums all the same...” Powell craycray for sure, but pert near genius. LH



A new mystery series starring a Memphis crime scene photographer with ghostly assistance. 

Jackie Lyons is a former vice detective with the Memphis Police Department who is trying to put her life back together: her husband has sent divorce papers, she's broke, and needs a place to live. But a failed marriage, unemployment, and most recently a fire in her apartment aren't her only problems: she also sees ghosts.

Since Jackie left the force, she's been making ends meet by photographing crime scenes for her old friends on the force, and for the occasional collector. When she is called to the murder scene of the Playhouse Killer's latest victim, she starts seeing crime scenes from a different perspective-- her new camera captures images of ghosts. As her new camera brings occasional ghostly visitors into sharper relief, it also points her toward clues the ex-detective in her won't let go: did the man she has just started dating kill his wife? Is the Playhouse Killer someone she knows?

As Jackie works to separate the natural from the supernatural, friend from foe, and light from dark, the spirit world and her own difficult past become the only things she can depend on to solve the case.

A technical writer/editor for the U.S. Postal Service, JEFF CROOK is also the author of several fantasy books in the Dragonlance series including Conundrum and The Thieve's Guild. He lives in Mississippi with his wife and two sons. This is his first mystery.  


Friday, July 6, marks the fiftieth anniversary of William Faulkner's death on July 6, 1962. His home town of Oxford -- incidentally celebrating at this time its 175th birthday -- has changed enormously since the time he lived and wrote about this place and its people.   But it seems that interest in his literature of Yoknapatawpha remains as great today -- based on sales at Square Books -- as at any time since those books were published, just as critical regard continues to be of great esteem (see John Jeremiah Sullivan's marvelous piece on Absalom, Absalom! in the June 28 New York Times Magazine.

When Faulkner was buried here in Oxford, businesses on the Square closed for a fifteen-minute period, from 2:00 -- 2:15 p.m., as the long hearse carrying the small body of the great writer motored slowly around the Square on its way to St. Peter's Cemetery. In a similarly modest demonstration of respect, on Friday, July 6, at that same time of day, Square Books will close its stores for a fifteen minute period.

For more information about the fiftieth anniversary of Faulkner's death, click here.
For more information on this web site about William Faulkner, click here.