Mississippi Books and Writers

June 1997

Note: Prices listed below reflect the publisher's suggested list price. They are subject to change without notice.

A Place Called Mississippi: Mississippi Narratives

Nonfiction edited by Marion Barnwell

University Press of Mississippi (Hardcover, $47.50, ISBN: 0878059636)

Publication date: June 1997

Dixie’s Dirty Secret

Nonfiction edited by James Dickerson

Turner Publishing (1st Edition, Hardcover, $22.95, ISBN: 1570363641)

Publication date: June 1997

Lightning Song Lightning Song

A Novel by Lewis Nordan

Algonquin Books (Hardcover, $18.95, ISBN: 1565120841)

Publication date: June 1997


Every time lightning strikes in Lewis Nordan’s novel, strange things happen. Lightning strikes, and an old man dies; lightning strikes again and he comes back to life; love affairs begin and end amid the perilous crackle of electrical storms. Young Leroy Dearman inhabits a flat, Mississippi landscape punctuated by singing llamas, wild dogs, and his own eccentric family members: a grandfather who drinks poison, a mother obsessed with the kidnapped Italian politician Aldo Moro, an uncle who seduces his mother, and a father infatuated with an Indian maiden. Leroy himself is tortured by erotic fantasies involving a buxom high school baton twirler. His torment is hardly eased when he discovers his uncle’s cache of skin magazines. When the baton-twirling Circe finally makes Leroy’s dreams come true lightning strikes.

All of this could become a cartoon version of rural Southern life in the hands of a less accomplished writer. But Lewis Nordan hits all the right notes in Lightning Song, delving beneath surface eccentricity to expose the loneliness, the confusion, and the longing for love that dwell in the heart of every character. Funny and sad, its atmosphere as emotionally charged as the air just before a thunderstorm, Lightning Song is a rare and wonderful read.

Absalom, Absalom!: The Corrected Text

A Novel by William Faulkner

Large Print Edition

G.K. Hall (Hardcover, $24.95, ISBN: 078388138X)

Publication date: June 1997

Brief Review:

One of Faulkner’s greatest novels, Absalom, Absalom! recounts the story of Thomas Sutpen, born into a poor farm family in western Virginia in the early 1800s who runs away with plans to create a vast “design” of wealth and power. When he appears in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi (Faulkner’s apocryphal setting for most of his novels), he carves out of the wilderness a vast plantation, marries a local shopkeeper’s daughter, and settles into the life of a planter when his wife bears him two children, Henry and Judith. But when Henry brings home Charles Bon, a classmate from the University of Mississippi, who becomes romantically engaged with Judith, Sutpen’s design begins to unravel. On the eve of the Civil War, Henry spurns his birthright, and together he and Bon leave. It is only after the war, after Henry and Bon have served together in the same regiment throughout the war, that one of the central mysteries of the novel emerges: why did Henry shoot Charles Bon at the gate of Sutpen’s mansion?

The present-day of the novel is 1909-10 and is told primarily by contemporaries, including Rosa Coldfield, the fiercely proud sister of Sutpen’s wife, a spinster who after her sister’s death spurns Sutpen’s rude sexual advances; Jason Compson, a confirmed cynic and nihilist who did not witness the key events befalling the Sutpen family but heard most of them from his father; Quentin Compson, Jason’s son, a romantic young man who is drawn into the Sutpen saga against his will by Rosa Coldfield, but once he is involved he must follow it to its logical end; and Quentin’s roommate at Harvard, the Canadian Shreve McCannon, who along with Quentin feels compelled to complete the saga by any means necessary. These memorable characters not only recount historically factual information about Sutpen’s story; they also freely add to it and change it in order for it to make sense. The novel, then, which is a compelling exploration of Southern history, race, and gender, is likewise a powerful statement about how we interpret the past and impart meaning to it. John B. Padgett

Harriet Tubman

A Children’s Biography by Sterling Plumpp, illustrated by Adjoa J. Burrowes

Third World Press (Paperback, $5.95, ISBN: 9992881941)

Publication date: June 1997

Like Unto Like: A Novel

By Sherwood Bonner, introduction by Jane Turner Censer

Southern Classics Series, Reprint Edition

University of South Carolina Press (Paperback, $14.95, ISBN: 1570031843)

Publication date: June 1997

Description from the publisher:

Originally published in 1878 after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow recommended it to Harper and Brothers, Like unto Like marks the emergence of a feminist critique of southern society a full generation before Ellen Glasgow and Kate Chopin published their well-known works. The novel follows a romance between a free-spirited, intellectual southerner, Blythe Herndon, and a former abolitionist and Union soldier, Roger Ellis. Blythe initially sees marriage to an outsider as an escape from the strictures of southern society but soon realizes that even Roger will expect a certain deference from his wife. Over the course of the novel she also comes to acknowledge her inability, despite a desire to be free from convention, to accept Roger’s egalitarian views on race relations, his notions of free love, and his past affair with a married woman.

A coming-of-age story set in the Reconstruction South, Like Unto Like challenges the limitations placed on nineteenth-century women. In addition to warning female readers of the potential dangers of marriage, Bonner depicts the trials of womanhood in the postwar South, recognizes theimportance of race in southern attitudes, and breaks new ground in creating a range of African American characters, some of whom transcend stereotype. Jane Turner Censer’s sensitive introduction to this edition of the novel accords Bonner the long-delayed literary recognition she deserves.

Women With Men Women With Men: Three Stories

By Richard Ford

Knopf (Hardcover, $23.00, ISBN: 0679454691)

Publication date: June 1997


From the Pulitzer and PEN/Faulkner Award-winning author of Independence Day comes a stunning new book of three long stories: “Jealousy,” originally published in The New Yorker; “The Womanizer,” published previously in Granta, and an original story, “The Predicament.”

Undaunted Courage Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West

Nonfiction by Stephen E. Ambrose

Touchstone (Paperback, $17.00, ISBN: 0684826976)

Publication date: June 1997


See the entry for the hardcover edition for a brief review from Booklist.

American Political History American Political History: Essays on the State of the Discipline

Edited by John F. Marszalek and Wilson D. Miscamble

University of Notre Dame Press (Paperback, $15.00, ISBN: 0268006520)

Publication date: June 1997

Description from the publisher:

The contributors to this volume, all first-rank historians, consider the criticisms that have been levied against political history in the past several decades. They discuss what insights the discipline still produces, what methodologies it uses, and what its future direction should be. Their essays demonstrate how vibrant the field of political history is and how different are current approaches from past emphases on campaigns, elections, and terms of office.

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