A packed house at Off Square Books on May 14th greeted author Damien Echols with a standing ovation after he spoke about his experience on Death Row, and his memoir, Life After Death.
Echols, one of three Arkansas youths charged with the murders of three
children in 1993, spent 18 years in prison, a decade of which was on
Death Row. The case became well-known after two documentaries, “Paradise
Lost” and “West of Memphis,” raised questions of their guilt. DNA
evidence disproved their involvement, and with the rallying cries for
exoneration from supporters, some quite famous and influential, the
three were released from prison in 2011 -- but only by virtue of the
Alford Plea, a kind of split-the-baby-in-half knife of “justice” which
allows them to declare their innocence but maintains the guilty verdict
imposed by the State of Arkansas, thereby protecting the prosecution and
the state from the damages of civil litigation many believe they are
due. There was talk of forming a “Mississippi Alliance for Arkansas to
Do Better” that supports complete exoneration of the West Memphis Three.
Life After Death is the story of Echols’ childhood, his imprisonment, and the spiritual survival skills he cultivated while on Death Row (Buddhism, meditation and reading, always reading).
Pulitzer Prize winning author Oscar Hijuelos stopped by Off Square Books yesterday to read and discuss his new memoir Thoughts Without Cigarettes. Hijuelos is the author of eight novels including The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, which made him the first Hispanic to win the Pulitzer Prize and was later made into a film. During his reading, as you will hear, Hijuelos discussed the inspiration and process behind writing Mambo Kings. He even played a little guitar in between chapters. After the reading Hijuelos answered questions from the audience and played some more guitar before signing books. Signed copies of Thoughts Without Cigarettes are available here. You can listen to the entire reading below.
Oscar Hijuelos plays guitar for Lyn and Richard after his signing.
The overflow crowd served as a testament to the sustaining energy and quality of the Oxford literary scene. Those in attendance were some of Oxford’s finest, including fellow-writers Curtis Wilkie, Jack Pendarvis, Ann Fisher Wirth, Ace Atkins, Lee Durkee, Neil White, John T. Edge, John Brandon, Jesmyn Ward, and Tom’s wife, the poet, Beth Ann Fennelly. Also in the crowd was Laura’s husband, David Simon, creator of The Wire and Treme on HBO, with their new baby—in a turquoise tutu. The Ole Miss English Department was represented by several faculty members and Chairman Ivo Kamps, and lots of students, MFAers and otherwise. Also present was the University’s number one reader, Chancellor Dan Jones.
The crowd was not simply big. It had a very friendly, pleasant buzz about it, as if all recognized the happy anticipation of reading a very good book and the achievment of writing it--by a guy we like.
To see photos and listen to the readings from the event please click read more.
Signed Copies of both books are available.
Singer/Songwriter and Oxford favorite, Alejandro Escovedo, stopped by Off Square Books Tuesday afternoon, September 14, to play some songs and talk about his friend Larry Brown before playing later that night at Proud Larry's. Off Square Books was packed with fans and friends of Alejandro to enjoy this rare, candid performance. He and Larry were close friends drawn together by their love of music and writing and the processes of creating both. Alejandro's latest record, Street Songs of Love (which we have at Off Square Books), pays homage to Larry's home in Tula, Mississippi with his song aptly titled "Tula" along with other great songs featuring Bruce Springsteen, among others, as guest musician. You can listen to Alejandro's full performance by clicking below.
Eugene Marten, following Alejandro's performance, read from his latest novel published by Tyrant Books, Firework. Michael said of Firework in the latest Dear Reader that, "Marten masters a world of blue-collar minutiae with spare, striking prose and meticulous detail, a breakout achievement that also tackles issues of gender, class, race, identity and family." Eugene's reading can be heard by clicking below.
photos by Ed Wright
Howard Norman read from his latest novel, What is Left the Daughter, at Off Square Books on Wednesday, July 28. To listen to the reading please click the play button below.
To purchase a signed copy of What is Left the Daughter please click here.