Square Books continued its summer-time reading series an
“Off Night” at Off Square Books Monday night. This time the featured authors
were some of the best up-and-coming writers out there. Kevin Sampsell, Mary
Miller, and Claudia Smith all took turns at the lectern to read short shorts
from their latest work. Also, surprise guest John Grisham sat in to do a
reading from his first young adult novel, Theodore Boone. Yes, the John
Grisham. It was a great night.
After attendees sipped on bourbon with ginger ale and mingled
with the authors the reading began. Claudia Smith read from her chapbook from
Future Tense Press, Put Your Head in My Lap. Claudia’s stories were short yet
packed an emotional punch that very few people can pull off in just a few pages.
Her sentimental and very real stories are dead on. Claudia lives in Hattiesburg
where she teaches at the University of Southern Mississippi. I’m sure we’ll be
seeing more from her in the future, much like the next writer, Mary Miller.
Mary also lives in Hattiesburg and recently finished up with
the writing program there. She’s heading to Austin, TX in a few weeks so we
were glad she was able to come by the bookstore for a reading before leaving
Mississippi. Her book of short stories, Big World, from Hobart’s Short
Flight/Long Drive imprint, has been a staff favorite at Square Books. We can’t
get enough of it and are steadily trying to get everyone that comes in the
store to read it. So far so good. She read the story, “Pearl,” which she is
currently turning into a novel. The story is about a recently divorced girl
that moves back in with her parents. She’s bored and lonely so she finds
herself in a strange situation with a male colleague from work involving a
casino and the awkward question of, “one bed or two?” Mary’s reading was
excellent and for those who were here last week to experience Adam Ross’
reading from Mr. Peanut I think this one gave it a run for the money in the
raunchy department. Mary is also a writer to be on the look out for in the future.
She’s the real deal.
After a brief intermission for folks to refill their
cocktails, Square Books owner Richard Howorth fronted the crowd with a surprise
introduction for John Grisham. No one was expecting this. Mr. Grisham, who
stopped by to sign some books, said he was happy to read with some talented,
up-and-coming writers. He read the first chapter from his latest book, Theodore
Boone, gave a brief thanks, and was gone.
Kevin Sampsell then took the stage joking of Grisham’s
appearance, “I didn’t think he was going to come…I mean we talked on the phone
before the reading.” Kevin proceeded to read a handful of short sections from
his memoir, Common Pornography—recently released on Harper Perennial. Kevin’s
book is extremely personal and nostalgic for everything that molded him while
growing up on into his twenties. The book is hilarious, sad, emotional, and extremely
well written. Jonathan Ames compared the writing to Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son. It’s been garnering terrific praise all
over the place and we now know why. Kevin’s reading was a perfect end to
another great “Off Night" at Off Square Books. This was without a doubt the best
way to spend Monday night, and we can’t wait to see what these writers do next.