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

Writer and Holocaust Survivor Arnost Lustig remembered

We mourn the recent loss of Czech writer Arnost Lustig, whose stories and novels that primarily deal with the experiences of children in the Holocaust earned him broad acclaim.   Lustig had been sent to Theresienstadt in 1942 when he was 15 years old, a concentration camp that he survived and, later, Auschwitz and Buchenwald.   While being transferred to Dachau in 1945, Lustig escaped from the transport train to freedom, as his mother, father, and many other family members were killed in the Holocaust.   After the war he lived in Prague, where he worked as a journalist and became associated with a group of writers that included Vaclav Havel.  Lustig managed to escape the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia that overtook the reform movement with which he had been involved, and moved to the United States in 1970, where he lived the remainder of his life, writing and teaching at American University in Washington.  
In 1996 Northwestern University Press, one of the noblest of publishers of literature in translation, received a grant to promote some of its authors.   Square Books and the Oxford community were the grateful beneficiaries of several visits from these authors, including two Holocaust survivors, Lucien Duckstein and, later, Arnost Lustig, considered by many as the greatest Holocaust novelist, author of Children of the Holocaust and Street of Lost Brothers and winner of the Jewish Book Award and acknowledgment from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.   Duckstein came to Oxford along with the translator of the book about his Holocaust experience, Lucien's Story, and reading at Square Books and meeting with two classes at Oxford High School.   Lustig gave a memorable reading at the old Off Square Books on a cold night, November 8, 1996.   He later signed to Lisa and me a copy of his novel, The Unloved -- "with thanks, and love." RH
For more info read this article in the New York Times here.

Kate DiCamillo is coming to Square Books, Jr. on Saturday, May 14

We're excited to announce that Newberry award-winning author, Kate DiCamillo will be coming to Square Books, Jr. in May. DiCamillo is the author of some of our favorite children's books including The Magician's Elephant, The Tale of Despereaux, Because of Winn-Dixie, Great Joy, the Mercy Watson series and many, many more. You don't want to miss this event with one of today's best children's authors. 


Michael Oher brings a crowd to Off Square Books

Michael Oher fans began showing up at Off Square Books around 3 p.m. yesterday afternoon in hopes of being first in line to meet the former Ole Miss and current Baltimore Ravens football star. Oher returned to Oxford to sign copies of his new book, I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness, to The Blind Side, and Beyond. The signing began a little after 5 p.m. with a packed house eager to meet Michael and have their book signed. The steady line of people didn't let up until around 8 p.m. and Michael signed every last book for his fans patiently waiting. Action News 5 from Memphis was in attendance and you can watch the broadcast by clicking "read more."

The Southern Imaginary in American Cinema and a film festival weekend

This past weekend Oxford played host to the 2011 Oxford Film Festival, which was a huge success. Be sure to check out the film fest website here.

As a sidebar to the film festival schedule Square Books hosted four of the University of Mississippi's best scholars and professors for a panel discussion on their new book American Cinema and the Southern Imaginary (University of Georgia Press). After a brief introduction by Richard Howorth, the panelist--Katie McKee, Deborah Barker, Leigh Anne Duck and Jay Watson--signed books and discussed several topics covered in the book.

The book "examines aspects of the southern imaginary in American cinema and offers fresh insight into the evolving field of southern film studies. In their introduction, Deborah Barker and Kathryn McKee argue that the southern imaginary in film is not contained by the boundaries of geography and genre; it is not an offshoot or subgenre of mainstream American film but is integral to the history and the development of American cinema."

Be sure to check out the book and all the films shown this weekend.

Click through for photos from the event. 

Melissa & Doug take over our receiving department

Melissa & Doug, the toy manufacturers, seem like nice people, but what they really are is smart.  So smart that they can get us to totally inundate our receiving department with an entire UPS truckload (yes, one truck just for us) of their puzzles, games, art supplies, kits & toys.  Every January they make us an offer we can't refuse.  If we place an order with them in January, we won't have to pay for it until mid-December. Business is slower & so is cash flow in January, so how can I resist ordering a years supply when we won't have to pay for it until 10 months later when business is brisk.  Furthermore, when I need to reorder during the year, as a participant in this program, they will give us 90 days and free freight.  Their products are great and this program makes it so easy fto stock them.  I wish other vendors would realize that working with retailers, offering innovative & generous terms, benefits everyone. So now we just need to figure out where to put it all! -LR