The seminal biographer of William Faulkner, Joseph Blotner, died last week at 89. He was authorized by the Faulkner family around the time of the death of the great author to write the biography that would take him many years to complete. Faulkner had been a mentor and friend to Blotner, who made numerous trips to Oxford for research. Immediately after Faulkner's death, Blotner went about the house with a device recording every book title in the house, published as The Library of William Faulkner: A Catalog. When his two-volume biography -- over 2,000 pages -- was released, there was a book-signing event at Duvall's clothing store on the square, as there was no bookstore in Oxford at the time.
The New York Times obit is here.
David Rees was here this fall with his new book, How To Sharpen Pencils -- "a practical and theoretical treatise on the artisanal craft of pencil sharpening, with illustrations showing current practice," and just recently he was seen in a Mo Rocca segment on CBS Sunday Morning. David is as stylish as he is astute, you will notice from his T-shirt choice in the clip. We still have signed copies (19.95) from this lovely little book, published by our friends at Melville House. RH
After thirty-three seasons managing in Major League Baseball, Tony La Russa thought he had seen it all--that is, until the 2011 Cardinals. Down ten and a half games with little more than a month to play, the Cardinals had long been ruled out as serious postseason contenders. Yet in the face of those steep odds, this team mounted one of the most dramatic and impressive comebacks in baseball history, making the playoffs on the night of the final game of the season and going on to win the World Series despite being down to their last strike--twice.
Now La Russa gives the inside story behind this astonishing comeback and his remarkable career, explaining how a team with so much against it was able to succeed on baseball's biggest stage. Opening up about the devastating injuries, the bullpen struggles, the crucial games, and the players who made it all possible, he reveals how the team's character shaped its accomplishments, demonstrating how this group came together in good times and in bad to become that rarest of things: a team that actually "enjoyed" it when the odds were against them.
-- Call or come by Square Books now to get your tickets to have your book signed and meet one of baseball's greatest managers.
The night began with a pitch for Read This! Handpicked Favorites from America's Indie Bookstores, with an introduction by Ann Patchett. This little gem (Coffee House Press, $12 pb) recommends books from booksellers representing twenty-five U.S. bookstores, including a few here at Square Books, and is an excellent little toilet-side reference-book stocking-stuffer, if it's not too early to say so. Then poet-bookseller Travis Smith began reading the essay by Jack Pendarvis (who was home with that cold that seems to be making its rounds in Oxford) that appears in another new bibliobook, My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop (Black Dog & Leventhal, $23.95), containing essays by 82 writers on their favorite bookstores -- Barry Moser on Lemuria, Abraham Verghese on Prairie Lights, Edith Pearlman on Brookline Booksmith, John Grisham on That Bookstore In Blytheville, a really interesting and fun tome. Travis's reading was nearly complete when he was interrupted by cheering from the crowd -- for Jack, who had magically healed and came forward to read his final paragraph. It is a lovely essay.
There followed that complicated book-signing thing where lots of writers are involved, like herding cats. It was a you-had-to-be-there kind of evening, many leaving with a sigh, saying, "Oh, that was fun!" But we didn't know what to say to the person who at one point asked if we reckoned she could get one of Tom Franklin's books by what she called "on a kindle." She was clearly lost. RH
Richard Howorth with Ellen Douglas
Ellen Douglas was the first writer to do a book-signing at Square Books, just over a month after the store opened. During plans to open the store I had learned that her novel, The Rock Cried Out, was to be published in the fall. I had not met her but knew that she had been a friend of my mother’s at Ole Miss, and I wrote to her to see if she might come to the store, as she was living in Jackson at the time.
“I would like to do an autograph party for you, if you feel you can drum up enough trade to make it worth our while,” she responded. “I’ve done successful ones and miserable ones and I know it takes a lot of promotion to pull one off.” University of Mississippi English professor Doreen Fowler wrote a good review for the Memphis Commerical Appeal; we did our best to promote the event, and on October 20, 1979, we sold forty-nine copies of The Rock Cried Out -- with one copy left for stock.
Ellen Douglas’s Apostles of Light was a 1973 National Book Award finalist. She received the Mississippi Institute for Arts and Letters Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. Many of her books, in which characters of family and community bring Mississippi’s lore and legacy to life, remain in print.
She returned many times to Oxford, where she taught creative writing at the University of Mississippi from 1979 to 1983, to the Oxford Conference for the Book, and to Square Books, where she gave a memorable reading, along with John Grisham and Larry Brown, on the occasion of our 25th anniversary.
Ellen Douglas was a masterful storyteller who was unafraid to peer into the fragile fissures of society and the human heart and tell the reader what she found. She leaves behind her three sons, Ayres, Richard, and Brooks Haxton, the poet, and their families. RH
Roll on over to Two Stick Sushi Bar to meet Mississippi native and sushi chef Marisa Baggett. Along with Marisa's delicious sushi rolls, Two Stick is preparing a specialty kiwi gimlet cocktail for the perfect accompaniment. Marisa's new book not only offers simple sushi recipes for the home cook but also educates the reader about the importance of seafood sustainability. Eat, drink and be educated!