Mississippi Books and Writers

September 1998

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

Turning Japanese

A Novel by David Galef

Permanent Press (Hardcover, $24, ISBN: 1579620108)

Publication date: September 1998

Description from Booklist (19 August 1998):

Spending a year in Japan after graduating from Cornell in the late 1970s was Cricket Collins’ plan. But the year stretched to almost five because it was all so seductive: the work (teaching conversational English) was plentiful and profitable; the controlled society (which allowed foreigners a certain latitude) was appealing; and he liked the food. Increasingly immersed in a culture so different from his own, Collins eventually fits in neither. The problem with viewing the expatriate experience through the lens of this protagonist is that Collins is less than stable to begin with. He grew up solitary, the only child of a mother who died when he was nine and a distant father, and in Japan he commits acts of petty theft, hears—and answers—voices in his head of persons living and dead, and finally shouts insults at his students. So it is no surprise that his story turns dark. Interesting from a cross-cultural standpoint but ultimately lacking uplift. Review By Michele Leber. —Copyright © 1998, American Library Association. All rights reserved.

The Sky, the Stars, The Wilderness The Sky, the Stars, the Wilderness

Fiction by Rick Bass

Mariner Books (Paperback, $12.00, ISBN: 0395924758)

Publication date: September 1998


About the wilderness, I need some persuading. Yet at their best the three novellas in The Sky, the Stars, the Wilderness provide that persuasion. Varied in their settings and characters, unified in their mood and central concerns, they offer an unsentimental but ecstatic portrayal of the physical world. (Michael Gorra, The New York Times Book Review)

The three novellas that constitute The Sky, the Stars, the Wilderness resonate with the myriad links, like perceptions of space and time, that connect viewer and viewed, subject and object, and persistently complicate such points of view. Each link is only relative, but each represents on an elemental level an attempt to bridge the gap between the ineffable awe and apartness that nature invokes…. In this poignant meditation, Bass has carved a curious and meaningful niche for himself among nature writers. (Thomas Curwen, The Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review)

Divorce Boxing

Poetry by David Chapman Berry

University of Washington Press (Paperback, $14.00, ISBN: 0910055432)

Publication date: September 1998

My Brother Bill

Biography by John Faulkner

Hill Street Press (Paperback, $16.50, ISBN: 1892514001)

Publication date: September 1998 (Reprint Edition)

Sarah Conley: A Novel Sarah Conley: A Novel

Fiction by Ellen Gilchrist

Little Brown & Company (Paperback, $13.00, ISBN: 0316314927)

Publication date: September 1998


In her 15th book, Ellen Gilchrist offers the story of a woman charting the middle passages of a rich and turbulent life. Sarah Conley is an editor at Time magazine and a successful novelist, but her progress is checked by her unresolved past: as the novel opens, an old love for her best friend’s husband is rekindled.... Unfortunately, while Gilchrist raises themes worthy of good fiction, she develops them with strategies better suited to soap opera. (Patrick Giles, The New York Times Book Review)

Flights of Angels Flights of Angels

Short stories by Ellen Gilchrist

Little, Brown, & Company (Hardcover, $24.00, ISBN: 0316314862)

Publication date: September 1998

Description from Kirkus Reviews (15 August 1998):

Gilchrist rounds up the usual suspects “and a few newcomers” in an uneven but always readable eighth collection. Yes, Rhoda, many of the other Mannings, and their various cousins are back: since In the Land of Dreamy Dreams (1981), they have provided Gilchrist with a convenient, semi-autobiographical framework through which to explore both the madness of family ties and the violent yet homey atmosphere of the American South. But a number of new, generally younger characters give the collection this time a shot in the arm: Gilchrist displays a nice grasp of the apprehensive yet anticipatory, all-possibilities-are-open attitude of young adults in “Excitement at Drake Field,” “The Southwest Experimental Fast Oxide Reactor,” and a series of stories about teenager Aurora Harris, though she can’t resist immersing these people too in intricate family and social networks. (Southerners like Gilchrist, it seems, don’t do alienation “just the mingled security and oppression of an omnipresent support/undermine system.”) The author’s political opinions, more openly displayed than usual, also give bite to some lazy writing. Gilchrist slings adjectives with abandon (“fine young smooth thick golden beloved skin”), and the impact of a tough, uncompromising lie about Aurora’s decision to have an abortion (“The Triumph of Reason”) is blunted “for the attentive reader” by the fact that the subsequent linked story is dated three months earlier in 1997 but, by internal evidence, takes place ten months later. Too bad, because “Have a Wonderful Nice Walk” has some delicious humor and a vintage Gilchrist line: “Well, that’s the past and the past is a swamp where we wander at our peril.” Nonetheless, her characters wander there frequently, and for the most part we’re glad they do. Gilchrist has always excelled in delineating smart, sexy, crazy people struggling to come to terms with a legacy of beloved, bewildering progenitors. A mixed bag, but Gilchrist’s emotional candor and gift for storytelling make it appealing. —Copyright © 1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Mule Trader: Ray Lum’s Tales of Horses, Mules and Men

By William R. Ferris, foreword by Eudora Welty

University Press of Mississippi (Paperback, $16.00, ISBN: 1578060869)

Publication date: September 1998


First published in 1992 as You Live and Learn. Then You Die and Forget It All, Mule Trader preserves the true story of Ray Lum (1891-1979), a mule skinner, a livestock trader, an auctioneer, and an American original. Recorded over several years, the book captures Lum’s colorful folk dialect as well as Lum’s natural storytelling technique.

Veneer: Stories

Fiction by Steve Yarbrough

University of Missouri Press (Paperback, $17.95, ISBN: 0826211852)

Publication date: September 1998


Fellow Mississippi writer Lewis Nordan writes, “Steve Yarbrough’s work dazzles me in every way. The Mississippi that he writes about is not one of racist sheriffs and magnolias but of offshore gambling and movie stars and forty-dollar steaks; its veneer is no less glittering than the California he writes about with equal skill and insight, and what is revealed beneath these American surfaces is the sad depths of our common humanity. Yarbrough is a thoroughly American writer, and the news of his superior talent needs to be heralded throughout this land that he writes of with such compassion and love.”

Welty: Complete Novels Eudora Welty: Complete Novels

Fiction by Eudora Welty, edited by Richard Ford and Michael Kreyling

Library of America (Hardcover, $35.00, ISBN: 188301154X)

Publication date: September 1998


This two-volume collection reveals the singular imaginative power of one of America’s most admired Southern writers. Complete Novels gathers all of Welty’s longer fiction, from The Robber Bridegroom (1942) to her Pulitzer Prize-winning The Optimist’s Daughter (1972).

Welty: Stories, Essays, and Memoir Eudora Welty: Stories, Essays and Memoir

Fiction by Eudora Welty, edited by Richard Ford and Michael Kreyling

Library of America (Hardcover, $35, ISBN: 1883011558)

Publication date: September 1998

Description from Kirkus Reviews: (June 15, 1998)

The Library’s first publication of the work of a living author efficiently showcases the universally praised fiction of a southern regionalist whose early stories were championed by such notable contemporaries as Katherine Anne Porter and Robert Penn Warren. The Stories volume includes 41 pungent and resonant tales (counting as individual stories the seven chapters of Welty’s 1949 masterpiece, The Golden Apples) that unforgettably display their creator’s sure grasp of racy local idiom and color (“Why I Live at the P.O.,” “Powerhouse”), compassionate scrutiny of social inequity and racist violence (the fable-like “A Worn Path” and the furious “Where is the Voice Coming From?”), and mischievous inventive power (“Petrified Man,” “The Wide Net”). The companion edition, Complete Novels (ISBN 1-883011-54-X), conveniently gathers together works that, while generally less known than Welty’s stories, often equal their structural concision and thematic clarity. Most deserving of a second look, perhaps, are the rueful country comedy The Ponder Heart (1954) and the best family-reunion novel ever written…. Welty, who’s 90 and still lives in (her birthplace) Jackson, Mississippi, has understandably produced little new work in recent years. But her supple, funny, gently judging voice is heard again to stunning effect throughout this indispensable homage to one of our greatest writers. —Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

What I Learned on the Way to the Top What I Learned on the Way to the Top

Nonfiction by Zig Ziglar

Honor Books (Hardcover, $15.99, ISBN: 1562925423)

Publication date: September 1998


High-impact quotes and stories, peppered with Ziglar’s patented humor.

Black Boy Black Boy

Autobiography by Richard Wright, introduction by Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

Harperperennial Library (Paperback, $10.00, ISBN: 0060929782)

Publication date: September 1998


Black Boy is a classic of American autobiography, a subtly crafted narrative of Richard Wright’s journey from innocence to experience in the Jim Crow South. An enduring story of one young man’s coming off age during a particular time and place, Black Boy remains a seminal text in our history about what it means to be a man, black, and Southern in America.

Native Son Native Son

A Novel by Richard Wright

Harperperennial (Paperback, $10, ISBN: 0060929804)

Publication date: September 1998


Richard Wright’s Native Son is an essential text of African-American literature and a great piece of reading. The novel is the tragic story of Bigger Thomas, a hard-working, honest black man trying to get by in the white man’s world. When he takes a job as a chauffeur for a wealthy white family with a left-leaning college-age daughter, he sees trouble inexplicably coming his way. How it happens will leave you spellbound, and will also show how a person with the best intentions can be trapped in a noose of race and class.

Haiku Haiku: This Other World

By Richard Wright, edited by Yoshinobu Hakatuni and Robert L. Tener

Arcade (Hardcover, $23.50, ISBN: 1559704454)

Publication date: September 1998

Description from Library Journal (September 15, 1998):

Historian John Henrik Clarke once described Wright as “writing with a sledgehammer,” and the powerful early works Native Son (1940) and Black Boy (1945) bear that out. But in the last creations of his life, he wrote as if with a gentle quill pen. During his final illness in France in 1960, Wright happened upon an English translation of Japanese haiku. Fascinated by the form, he began writing in it himself, producing over 4000 poems. Before his death, he selected 810 for publication, and now nearly 40 years later they are newly in print. Wright adheres strictly to the formal structure (three lines, five-seven-five syllables per line) and to the notion that the season of the year must be stated or implied. The poems are simple, Zenlike treasures:


As my delegate

The spring wind has its fingers

In a young girl’s hair.


For seven seconds

The steam from the train whistle

Blew out the spring moon.

The collection has a melancholy air, perhaps a reflection of Wright’s failing health and expatriate status. Highly recommended.

—Judy Clarence

Children of the Dark House

Nonfiction by Noel Polk

University Press of Mississippi (Paperback, $18.00, ISBN: 1578061032)

Publication date: September 1998


This book collects choice selections of Polk’s criticism of William Faulkner from the past fifteen years. Its publication and underscores the significance of Polk’s indispensable work in Faulkner studies, both in criticism and in the editing of Faulkner’s texts. In the title essay, his focus is mainly upon the context of Freudian themes, expressly in the works written between 1927 and 1932, the period in which Faulkner wrote and ultimately revised Sanctuary, a novel to which Polk has given concentrated study during his distinguished career. He has connected the literature with the life in a way not achieved in previous criticism. Although other critics, notably John T. Irwin and André Bleikasten, have explored Oedipal themes, neither perceived them operating so completely at the center of Faulkner’s work as Polk does in this essay.

Citizen Soldiers Citizen Soldiers

Nonfiction by Stephen E. Ambrose

Touchstone Books (Paperback, $16.00, ISBN: 0684848015)

Publication date: September 1998

Description from Kirkus Reviews (1 September 1997):

A worthy sequel to Ambrose’s 1994 D-Day. Bestselling historian Ambrose (Undaunted Courage, 1996) uses firsthand recollections of combat veterans on both sides to flesh out his well-researched narrative. He picks up the epic drama by following, almost step by step, various individuals and outfits among the tens of thousands of young Allied soldiers who broke away from the deadly beaches of Normandy and swept across France to the Ardennes, fought the Battle of the Bulge, captured the famed bridge at Remagen, and crossed the wide Rhine to final victory in Europe. Ambrose observes that the U.S. broke the Nazi war machine with massive aerial bombing, artillery, and the great mobility of attacking tanks and infantry. But, he argues, it was not technology but the valor and character of the young GIs and their European counterparts that ultimately proved too much for the vaunted German forces. While generally approving of Allied military leadership, Ambrose faults Eisenhower and Bradley as too conservative and believes the great human and materiel cost of victory could have been reduced by adopting Patton’s more innovative and bolder knockout movements. He deplores the sending of inadequately trained 18-year-olds as replacements on the front lines, where they suffered much higher casualty rates than the foxhole-wise GI veterans. The troops fought under the worst possible conditions in the Ardennes, during the worst winter in 40 years; Ambrose describes the long, freezing snowy nights; the wounds, frostbite, and trench foot; and the fatigue and the tensions of facing sudden death or maiming. The troops rallied to drive the enemy back to the Rhine and into Germany, but took some 80,000 casualties. With remarkable immediacy and clarity, as though he had trained a telescopic lens on the battlefields, Ambrose offers a stirring portrayal of the terror and courage experienced by men at war. —Copyright © 1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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