Blogs

Kate DiCamillo comes to Oxford and Square Books

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!

Filmmaker and Author John Sayles comes to Square Books

Filmmaker and author John Sayles read from and discussed his new book, A Moment in the Sun, published by McSweeney's, yesterday at Off Square Books.  The crowd, eager to discuss Sayles' resume of both films and books, listened to the author read two chapters from his new epic novel about the turn-of-the-century, American way of life.  The two chapters Sayles read were just a glimpse into the world he's created in A Moment in the Sun by borrowing from history and extensive amounts of research, which he claimed is what he likes most when writing historical fiction.

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 continues his young adult series with Theodore Boone: The Abduction

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

Tom Franklin Brings Big Book Prize Home

    Tom Franklin’s excellent novel and Square Books bestseller, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, got in the running for two major book awards this spring when it was announced as one of six finalists for the Edgar Award and one of five finalists for a prestigious L A Times Book Prize as the best mystery novel of 2010.   Franklin, who lives in Oxford and teaches in the MFA program at Ole Miss, attended the Edgar ceremony April 27, this past Thursday night, then hopped on a plane the following morning in order to attend the LA Times event Friday night.   Beth Ann Fennelly, the poet and Franklin’s wife, was in the store the other day and said to us, of the awards, “I told him not to come home without at least one of them.”  
    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 and Martha Foose bring good food to Square Books

Spring is truly here and with it our palates are awakened and ready for fresh tastes.  The doors are open at Square Books and the savory smells waft in from our great restaurants on the square, making me ready to go home and get busy in the kitchen.  With two new beautiful cookbooks out, Sara Foster's Southern Kitchen, and Martha Foose's A Southerly Course, I have extra inspiration.   

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.  

A few days later, Martha Foose was in town for her follow-up to the James Beard Award winner, Screen Doors and Sweet Tea, A Southerly Course.  Martha was to be on Thacker Mountain Radio with fellow Yazoo City homie, Teresa Nicholas (Buryin' Daddy).  Sadly, Martha did not have time to cook for me, but we got in a good visit, and Martha can tell some stories.  Besides being an amazing collection of everything Delta from Dandelion Cracklings, Kibbe, Burgundy Duck, Pickled Crawfish Tails, Grilled Co-Cola Drumsticks, and Satsuma Tart, A Southerly Course is as much fun to read as to cook from.  Read about Eudora Welty while waiting for that Peach Shortcake to come out of the oven. CFR
(from left: Sara Foster, Lyn Roberts, and Sara's sister, Judy) 

Yann Martel speaks with students and community members

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.

2011 New Great Novelists to Appear at Square Books for the Oxford Conference for the Book

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.

Justin Taylor’s new novel, The Gospel of Anarchy, is the follow up to his debut collection of short stories, Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever, a staff favorite at Square Books.

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.

To read the full New York Times review for Karen Russell’s Swamplandia! go here.

To read the full New York Times review for Téa Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife go here

To read the full New York Times review for Kevin Brockmeier’s The Illumination please go here

Pages