Saturday dawned gray and gloomy, but that did not deter Oxford visitors from seeing baseball, softball, Ole Miss graduation -- and Kate DiCamillo! Over one hundred-fifty of Square Books Jr.'s favorite readers and their parents gathered at Off Square Books to hear Kate DiCamillo read from and talk about her award-winning books for children.
Ms. DiCamillo, or Kate, as anyone who has met her will feel comfortable calling her, began by reading from the Josette Frank Award winner and Newbery Honor book BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE. As fond as we are of that book and the movie made from it, hearing Kate read the first chapter was a thrill and seemed even funnier than we remember.
Taking questions from the audience, Kate paraphrased Ray Bradbury in saying that writing a novel is like "...jumping off a cliff and building your wings on the way down." She added that in writing one of her most recent books, THE MAGICIAN'S ELEPHANT, she learned that one could also, by writing, "..build your own ladder out of the pit."
Her advice to aspiring writers? "Read, read, read." What she would say to all young people? "Read, read, read." Where she got her ideas and how she started? "Reading." She indulged her enthusiastic audience by reading from her Newbery Award winner, THE TALE OF DESPERAUX, and TIGER RISING when asked.
Kate patiently signed books for everyone who asked, and returned after lunch (she was thrilled to dine at City Grocery) to sign orders for those who could not be there and for Jr. stock. All went away happy, hoping she will return to Oxford with her next book, and, more importantly, hoping that she will keep writing her magical stories. Thank you Kate DiCamillo, and thank you Jennifer Roberts, from Candlewick, for coming, too!
After the reading, John Sayles was brief, articulate, and brilliant in talking about why he wrote the book and fielding a host of questions from the audience about the novel and about his many films. Regarding the inspiration for his film "Passion Fish," he said that Ingmar Bergman's film "Persona" combined with his time working as an orderly in a hospital both served as catalysts. He discussed the Southern setting for his film "Matewan," which seemed to be a crowd favorite, and talked about his book on the making of that film, Thinking in Pictures: The Making of the Movie Matewan. Before wrapping up the evening and signing everyone's books, Sayles discussed his method of writing versus his method of filmmaking, pointing out their distinct differences. Filmmaking, to paraphrase, is about everything that is revealed and shown to the audience while writing is everything that isn't. A Moment in the Sun is an excellent book and Publisher's Weekly says it "will stand among the finest work on [Sayles'] impressive resume." Call today for signed copies. DS
John Grisham is back with Theodore Boone: The Abduction, the follow-up to Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer. Just when it seems like life for Theo is back to the status quo, a new legal mystery comes to town--and Theo is the only one who can crack the case.
"Not since Nancy Drew has a nosy, crime-obsessed kid been so hard to resist." -The New York Times
To home Tom Franklin triumphantly comes, then, with the L A Times Prize, presented by Attica Locke, who visited us in the summer of 2009 with her award winning first novel, Black Water Rising. Another winner at the Los Angeles ceremony, for the 2010 Innovator’s Award, are our friends at Powell’s Books, for “cutting edge work to bring books, publishing, and storytelling into the future.”
Hooray for Tom Franklin and Powell’s Books!
Sara Foster, the owner of Foster's Market, the acclaimed gourmet stores for pick-up or eat-in in North Carolina, came to Square Books a week ago to promote her fourth (and I think best) cookbook. Sara wanted to have samples of her recipes and graciously offered to prepare them if I could find a kitchen for her. That is how I ended up cooking alongside a famous chef. As Sara's pound cake from her first book has become our family standard, I thought I'd try her Buttermilk Pound Cake with Tangy Buttermilk Glaze (p 316), while Sara and her sister effortlessly whipped up Deviled Ham Salad (p 11), Carmelized Red Onion Tarts (p 14) and Rosemary Cheese Crackers (p 8). We brought all these tasty treats to the store for the event that afternoon and enjoyed them with an Edward Sellers' Paso Robles Rhone. All was delicious and quickly gone. The Rosemary Cheese Crackers were great plain or with a little brie and a dab of pepper jelly. I wish Sara & Judy were still in my kitchen, but will think of them as I prepare Roasted Asparagus with Country Ham, Red-Eye Gravy and Poached Eggs (p 84) for Easter brunch.
One of the Barksdale Honors College classes is reading Yann Martel’s Life of Pi this semester, and when it was announced the author planned to visit Square Books on March 9, we immediately received a request from the class professors asking whether he might meet with the class. Through the good offices of Spiegel and Grau, the publishers of Martel’s new paperback edition of Beatrice and Virgil, which brought him to Oxford, the meeting was arranged. At 3 p.m. close to 50 students convened at Off Square Books to hear what the 2002 Man Booker Prize winner had to say. An initial question about Life of Pi led to a lengthy discussion about faith as the book’s major construct, why Hinduism was used as a particular vehicle (it’s a monotheistic religion that may be expressed and accessed in a variety of ways), and some of the writer’s own ideas about religion and philosophy -- all fascinating. At the end of the discussion Martel was presented a personally inscribed copy of I Beat the Odds, by former Ole Miss football player Michael Oher, who, while the discussion took place, had been in the back room signing copies for the ongoing demand at Square Books.
Recently heralded young American writers will be featured in the 2011 Oxford Conference for the Book March 24 – 26. Karen Russell, Téa Obreht, Kevin Brockmeier, and Justin Taylor, among others, will be here in support of their new books.
The highly-regarded book reviewer, Janet Maslin, has called Karen Russell’s Swamplandia! a “wave-making debut novel.” Russell’s first book—a collection of short stories titled St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves—was a huge success, landing her on most critics’ year-end lists. She came to Square Books in 2006 to read from and sign copies of the collection. She will return to Oxford as a book conference panelist along with writers Tom Franklin and Kevin Brockmeier on Saturday, March 26 at 4 p.m.
Téa Obreht’s first novel, The Tiger’s Wife, also received an excellent review in the New York Times, from the famously fastidious critic, Michiko Kakutani. The Tiger’s Wife is “a precocious debut…a richly textured and searing novel,” writes Kakutani, further asserting that Obreht “writes with remarkable authority and eloquence, and she demonstrates an uncommon ability to move seamlessly between the gritty realm of the real and the more primary-colored world of the fable.” The precocious Ms. Obreht, a Serbian native who is twenty-five years old, will be joined by author Justin Taylor and moderator Lyn Roberts for a reading at the book conference on Friday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m.
In his new novel, The Illumination, Kevin Brockmeier “devotes his considerable gifts of description to the illuminated wounds of his characters” in a book that is “deeply felt and precisely observed,” according to Scott Hutchins in the New York Times. Kevin, who lives in Arkansas and has visited Square Books previously, will join Karen Russell and Tom Franklin on Saturday, March 26 at 4 p.m.
There are many other notable authors appearing at this year’s conference, which includes the first panel on graphic novels, one that includes recent best graphic novel of the year nominee (National Cartoonist Society) Joyce Farmer, Michael Kupperman, Joe Matt, and Jack Pendarvis. The “Comic Book Auteurs” panel will be held Saturday, March 26 at 2 p.m.
A full list of writers and participants at the conference as well as a detailed schedule can be found here.