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
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
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
PADGETT POWELL WILL BE A GUEST ON THACKER MOUNTAIN RADIO THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 6. SIGNING AFTER THE SHOW.
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.
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.