Beginning tonight, Thursday August 20th and continuting through Sunday, Square Books and Mississippi in general will be celebrating the book. Thursday evening at 5 p.m., we welcome back Sandra Beasley, a former Summer Poet in Residence at Ole Miss with her new book of poetry Count the Waves. All day Saturday at the State Capitol in Jackson, the first inaugural Mississippi Book Festival will be happening, featuring some of the most outstanding writers from the Magnolia State. To wrap up the weekend, former Governor Haley Barbour will be at Off Square Books on Sunday at 2 p.m. to discuss his new book America's Great Storm - the story of Barbour's leadership in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. We hope you will be able to attend one (or all) of these fantastic events happening in our great state this weekend.
The Fall '15 issue of Dear Reader is now on our site, with the printed piece soon in the mail. The new issue is loaded with exciting upcoming books, including Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham, William Gay's last novel, Little Sister Death, The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr, a new book of early Truman Capote stories, a cookbook from our friends at Garden & Gun, many choices for children, and loads of books whose authors will be here, including Deborah Diesen, Kenneth Oppel, Garth Stein, Joy Williams, Jon Meacham, Paul Theroux, Jonathan Franzen, Sloane Crosley, Ron Rash, Bonnie Jo Campbell, and a proverbial mess of Mississippians: Haley Barbour (soon, Aug. 23!), Elise Winter, John Hailman, Matthew Guinn, Taylor Kitchings, Stuart Stevens, Bruce Levingston, and Neely Tucker.
Come join us Thursday, August 6th at 5 p.m. at Off Square Books for this special discussion.
The newly published book by Harper Lee has been a subject of controversy for months. Since several days prior to the publication of Go Set a Watchman on July 14, when a few “exclusive” reviews set off a flurry of press articles about the book and its publication – at least nine in the New York Times in the month of July – at least one calling the book “a fraud,” and “one of the epic money grabs in the modern history of American publishing.” There have been articles about the articles, such as Newsweek’s “How Mad at the New York Times is Harper Lee’s Publisher?”The book sold 1.1 million copies in its first week of publication, and conversations about the book’s legitimacy, or illegitimacy, the people behind its publication, and Harper Lee’s ideas and intentions about both this book and To Kill a Mockingbird continue unabated. We estimate an average of fifteen such conversations a day that take place here at Square Books, and you’re encouraged to take part or attend our event August 6.This event encourages observations and remarks by members of the audience and will be moderated by Richard Howorth. There will be brief opening remarks by Deborah Barker, Professor, University of Mississippi, whose areas of study include gender, southern film, and women writers of the 19th and 20th centuries and by Laurie Jones, Pastor of Marks Presbyterian Church and native of Monroeville, Alabama, Harper Lee's hometown.
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.