Saturday was a fine, fun day upstairs at Square Books, where, beginning at precisely 9:00 a.m., some sixty-odd readers read without stopping from Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, in ten minutes shifts until they had finished at 7:00 p.m. Who went first? Susan Robinson. Why Susan Robinson? Naturally, because she signed up to go first and drove 550 miles from Oklahoma City just to do so. Like many others, Susan hung around for much of the day, dropping in from time to time to see what Scout and them are up to now. You can see pictures of every reader on our Facebook page, with a quote from some part of the passage read by each reader.
Many old Mockingbird and Square Books friends, like Ann O’Dell and Eunice Benton, were great readers. Several were obviously pros, like Alex Mercedes and Ricardo Carroll, who have these great booming or projecting voices, and read flawlessly. Tom Franklin, reading the passage when the jury’s decision is announced, became a bit emotional, as did we all. I didn’t get to hear everyone, but I can say that Abigail Meisel, Mary Edith Walker, and Susan Hayman are all terrific readers. One reader got a solid round of applause, young Ze Carroll, who appeared to be about eleven or twelve years old. His dad stood behind him to help pronounce a few words he probably had never encountered, not to mention the dialog and Southern colloquialisms, but young Ze read marvelously. Another really fine reader, Bo Wilson, arrived here at 7:30 a.m. and, not counting a lunch break, didn’t leave until we were done, at 7:00 p.m.
Special thanks to Lyn Roberts, for organizing and supervising, to Norma Barksdale, the same, including the great Mockingbird #tkam excerpts on Facebook, and to all the other readers and to the other booksellers – many of whom became readers at the end, as our estimate for finishing time was a bit short.
Several people suggested this event was so much fun we ought to do it again with some other book. So we may. National Public Radio had someone there at 9 a.m. to record several readers – and afterwards, ambush them with questions regarding Atticus Finch’s racism that purportedly reveals itself in Go Set a Watchman, which most of them hadn’t heard about and came from “an exclusive review” from the New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani on July 10, meaning we had only Lord Michiko to believe in for four days. We agree with the sentiments of Mary Badham, who played Scout in the movie verson of TKAM and was later quoted in the Times (perhaps atoning for Kakutani's earlier alarm), "I wish the press had given the book a chance to be read before it was discussed." There was a time when the press never preempted a book's publication -- no publisher would allow it, but the internet, perhaps, has changed that. And one has to reckon an "exclusive" arrangement implies the Times giving something up something of value in return.
The book has been tightly embargoed and we were not allowed to allow other people to read it until Tuesday, July 14. It’s almost enough to make one run screaming home to watch CNN’s 24-hour “news” cycle of, speaking of racists, Donald Trump’s reality campaign. The Lafayette County – Oxford Library will show the movie version of TKAM tonight, Monday, July 13, beginning at 5:30, and we will open Square Books’ doors on Tuesday at 7:30 a.m., with coffee and donuts, for everyone who has come to get his or her or their copy of Go Set a Watchman. And, a related and recent addition to our event schedule: "How Did Go Set a Watchman Change Our Notions about Scout, Atticus, and Harper Lee?" -- a discussion forum for readers of Harper Lee's books -- will take place at Off Square Books 5:00 p.m. Thursday, August 6.
Come join us for a marathon reading of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird in celebration of her novel Go Set a Watchman to be released on Tuesday, July 14. We encourage people to sign to read for 10 minute shifts. Please call or visit the store to set a time to read. In the afternoon, as we approach the end of the story, there will be punch and appetizers followed by a champagne toast at the conclusion. On Tuesday July 14th we will open at 7:30 AM to sell Go Set a Watchman.
On Monday, June 15th, please help us welcome Marja Mills with her memoir and biography of Harper Lee, The Mockingbird Next Door. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of the best loved novels of the twentieth century. But for the last fifty years, the novel's celebrated author, Harper Lee, has said almost nothing on the record. Journalists have trekked to her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, where Harper Lee, known to her friends as Nelle, has lived with her sister, Alice, for decades, trying and failing to get an interview with the author. But in 2001, the Lee sisters opened their door to "Chicago Tribune "journalist Marja Mills. It was the beginning of a long conversation--and a great friendship. In 2004, with the Lees' blessing, Mills moved into the house next door to the sisters. She spent the next eighteen months there, sharing coffee at McDonalds and trips to the Laundromat with Nelle, feeding the ducks and going out for catfish supper with the sisters, and exploring all over lower Alabama with the Lees' inner circle of friends. Nelle shared her love of history, literature, and the Southern way of life with Mills, as well as her keen sense of how journalism should be practiced. As the sisters decided to let Mills tell their story, Nelle helped make sure she was getting the story--and the South--right. Alice, the keeper of the Lee family history, shared the stories of their family. The Mockingbird Next Door is the story of Mills's friendship with the Lee sisters. It is a testament to the great intelligence, sharp wit, and tremendous storytelling power of these two women, especially that of Nelle. Mills was given a rare opportunity to know Nelle Harper Lee, to be part of the Lees' life in Alabama, and to hear them reflect on their upbringing, their corner of the Deep South, how To Kill a Mockingbird affected their lives, and why Nelle Harper Lee chose to never write another novel - until now.
Today, May 12, is the release of John Grisham's Theodore Boone: The Fugitive. This is book 5 in the Theo Boone series. On a field trip to Washington, DC, Theo spots a familiar face on the Metro: Duffy, who jumped bail and was never seen again. Theo’s quick thinking helps bring Duffy back to Strattenburg to stand trial. But now that Duffy knows who he is, Theo is in greater danger than he’s ever been in before. Even when everything is on the line, Theodore Boone will stop at nothing to make sure a killer is brought to justice. So be sure to stop by Square Books Jr. and grab your signed copy today.
On this Saturday, May 2nd, For Mississippi Bookstore Day we are selling some of the limited edition special items produced for Independent Bookstore Day, like the tea towel with the Pat Conroy quote and the Margaret Atwood stencil, as well as an exclusive and very special tshirt designed by Laurie Fisher, the author of the bestselling WHERE DO THEY GO ON GAME DAY. Throughout the day we'll serve some refreshments and raffle off items. We will also include a FREE Roz Chast tote for purchases over $50.00 while supplies last. But as we are celebrating bookstores, we'll mostly just do what bookstores do best, recommend and sell books to all who come to see us at any of the three Square Books stores on the square in Oxford.
We knew somewhat vaguely about a project being done by Alysia Steele, who teaches in the Meek Journalism School here at the University of Mississippi, a book of photographs of older African American women from the Delta, to be published by Center Street, a division of Hachette Books.