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News from Square Books

Wylie World Deflates

  From news reports around the world today it is now known that Random House and literary agent Andrew Wylie have reached an agreement over the control of digital publishing rights of authors represented by the Wylie agency and published in the U. S. by Random House.  Apparently Random House controls those rights.

But whether this agreement occurred as a result of legal authority or through Random House's threat not to do business with Wylie's clients we do not know.  Wylie's overnight enterprise, Odyssey Editions, still apparently has digital rights to the works of Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer, William Burroughs, and Oliver Sacks.

The day we heard at Square Books that Wylie had created an exlusive arrangement with Amazon to publish e-book editions, we immediately created a window display of Wylie authors' books, all tagged with a "This book NOT for sale" bookmark, as a way of demonstrating the harmful potential that such a monopoly held for readers.

In Celebration of James Dickey

    Dwight Garner has an interesting article in today's New York Times--a piece written about James Dickey on the occasion of  the 40th anniversary of Deliverance.  It reminded us of the visits that this writer, who had a sort of deliberately constructed larger-than-life personna, literary and otherwise, made to Oxford and to Square Books.  Lisa and I first met Dickey in 1977 when we were booksellers in Washington, D. C., and attended a public reading by all the then-former poetry consultants to the Library of Congress.   

Square Books is teaming up with the Southern Foodways Alliance

This fall the SFA will be releasing a new cookbook simply titled The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook (University of Georgia Press, 24.95). Editors Sara Roahen and John T. Edge picked over 170 recipes for the collection with a foreword by "Good Eats" host Alton Brown. The recipes span over 12 chapters and cover a wide range of the best of southern cooking. Sections like Gravy, Garden Goods, Roots, Greens, Rice, Grist, Yardbird, Pig, The Hook, The Hunt are all here. You’ll find recipes for chicken and dumplings, macaroni and cheese, chess pie, and many more.

Sustainable & Unsustainable Books (now at Off Square Books)

It is logical that the amount of books published about the environment continues to increase in relation to the environment's worsening. Finding the proper category in our bookstore for these books has proved difficult. Many are closely related to nature, and have been shelved in our NATURE section, but a book on, say, solar power more aptly belongs in SCIENCE. A lot of the new books on the "slow" and "go local" movements are in some way related to environmental studies, but many of those have been categorized in GARDENING or HOME LIVING. As our inventory on these sorts of books has grown they have spread throughout various sections of the bookstore.

Calling all Reading Groups

Starting a Book Club:

We offer a 15% discount for book clubs on books ordered through the store. Read on for more information.

At Square Books we are happy to stock books for your book club and provide your members with a discount. Here’s how:

Write up the selection of books you’ll be reading each month, as far in advance as possible. Email your list to

We’ll order in the books approximately one to two months ahead of time, based on when we receive your information, and place them on our Book Club section for your club members to purchase.


Book Club Tips

-How big should a group be? Try to keep it around 10-12 to ensure that there will be at least 6 at each meeting. The room should be small enough to be comfy.

-Keep selections diverse. Read works that one might not normally read.

-Try to get a variety of participants (age, experience, etc). Avoid groups that are too uniform in background and make-up. Invite members to bring their friends.

-Encourage interaction! Share contact information with each member of the group to enhance communication.

-Listening is as important as talking. A group leader can assist in allowing everyone to participate in a discussion.

-Everyone’s opinion is important. Try beginning with a ‘whip around’ question, to which everyone must respond quickly and spontaneously before settling into a more detailed discussion. Or, hand out paper and pencils and give a minute for participants to think about their answer before speaking.

-Ask participants to avoid using “I like” or “I hate” – a discussion should be an exchange of ideas, rather than emotional responses.

-Read only books readily available from the library or bookstore and try to stick with paperback editions.

-Utilize the library! Libraries are a great way to find information and recommendations, and librarians have ways of finding groups for individuals to join.

-Do you need a facilitator? A facilitator is not necessarily a part of the group, but exists to keep the discussion going smoothly and to bring in materials, which add to the discussion.

-Food is not necessary, but water is! If food is going to be a part of the meeting, set aside half an hour before or after eating and socializing. Socialization can be just as important to a group as discussion!

*Thanks to our friends at King’s English in Salt Lake City for sharing these tips with us.

Welcome to Wylie World!

On Thursday, July 22, the Andrew Wylie Agency announced it had formed an agreement with for the online bookseller to be the exclusive supplier of e-book editions written by authors represented by Wylie.

The Wylie Agency lists 757 clients, the vast majority of whom are writers and writers’ estates, including Dave Eggers, Richard Flanagan, Mary Gaitskill, Ian Frazier, Philip Roth,  Anne Lamott, Hendrik Hertzberg, Wells Tower, and the estates of Richard Yates, W. H. Auden, I. F. Stone, and Saul Bellow.


Amazon is the company that, when Macmillan Publishing refused to agree to the company’s price demands, removed the ”buy” button from all the company’s titles.  Amazon is the company that, once threatened by the George Orwell estate for selling 1984 without their permission, electronically removed the text from its customers even as they read it.  

Amazon manufactures a reading device, the “kindle,” which requires its owners to buy digital merchandise exclusively from Amazon – a bit like our selling you books that you could read only by using the bedside lamp you must also purchase from us.  And this would be the only way you could read these books.  Wylie’s authors’ electronic books will be available only via the kindle, only via Amazon, a soiling of first amendment principles that many of the agency’s authors, such as Arthur Miller and Salman Rushdie, have fought so hard to protect.

As you look at this display, we encourage you to think about the ramifications of this effort to vertically integrate the book industry and limit or exclude access to information and free expression.   And, as always, we encourage you to support independent booksellers everywhere.  Together we can let books live.

Mary Karr lights up Square Books

Her airplane delayed on account of weather, our author scooted onto the square two minutes before her scheduled appearance at five o'clock yesterday afternoon riding shotgun in an SUV and wearing black sunglasses.  When she saw us she rolled down the window and hollered, "Hey!  I like this town!  I'm a redneck!"  It was Mary Karr, and we'd been waiting fifteen years, since The Liars' Club was published, to meet her.

In a moment she was at the doorstep at Off Square Books, wriggling out of her stylish black knapsack, and greeting her readers who wasted no time approaching her.  She took a seat, signed a bunch of books for people, and, interrupting the introduction several times to edit some remarks, got out in front of the podium to be closer to the crowd of eighty or so.   Some stood cautiously in the back.

Wearing a sharp, haute-looking black outfit with a fitted sleeveless top and slightly poufy skirt, softened by a lace petticoat peeking out impatiently below the hem, she put on her bifocals, the old-school kind with the line showing, and read a short piece from Lit, which has just come out in paperback from Harper Collins (the publisher, incidentally, of To Kill A Mockingbird, whose 50th anniversary we've been celebrating this week).   Readers will remember the part in Lit when Mary realizes, at the beauty shop on her wedding day, that her mother's fallen off the wagon.  In just a few hours, her new mother in law won't be able to hide the tears that are "not--I'm guessing--of joy."

Taking questions of all sorts for about forty minutes, Mary Karr was as candid--and funny, and engaging--in life as she is in print.  It was something like an audience that had a chance to interview its favorite late-night TV show host.  She met for another forty-five minutes with a book group, finished signing stock, and made her way to Ajax.  Going over the menu there, she kept going, "Oh.  Oh.   Oh, oh, oh.   I want it all," and parted by saying she wanted to move here.  Naturally, we wish she would.

Kevin Sampsell, Mary Miller, and Claudia Smith rock Square Books...and John Grisham too

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.


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