Mississippi Books and Writers

November 2000

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

My Mississippi

Nonfiction by Willie Morris, Photographs by David Rae Morris

University Press of Mississippi (Hardcover, $40.00, ISBN: 1578061938)

Publication date: November 2000

Description from Booklist:

The distinguished Mississippi writer Willie Morris (who died last year) was editor-in-chief of Harper’s magazine in the 1960s, a period he wrote about in his fascinating memoir New York Days (1993). He was also the author, more recently, of a pair of sensitive pet books, My Dog Skip ( 1995) and Spit McGee (1999). Regardless of the time Morris spent away from Mississippi, it was a place that always remained in his heart. His last book, written in his characteristically limpid, lyrical prose, offers a heartfelt appreciation of his home state, a place often dismissed as poor and backward by “outlanders,” Morris’ term for non-Mississippians. This is not a defensive recitation of Mississippi’s virtues nor is it a whitewash of its less-than-attractive features. First, Morris wants the reader to understand the state’s beauty—“physically beautiful in the most fundamental and indwelling way, [in that] it never leaves you.” Then, with both pride and understanding, he brings into sharp focus Mississippi’s peculiar tensions and ambivalence and also its passions—“we are a singular people,” he says of his native folk. The second half of the book is an album of full-color photographs taken by Morris’ son, a professional photojournalist. These shots informally capture ordinary moments in the lives of Mississippians, from a young couple standing next to their truck with their new baby in their arms to a group of local citizens hanging out in front of the main store in a small town. Together, the text and the photographs showcase Mississippians doing what they do best—being themselves completely without artifice. —Brad Hooper. Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved

My Cat Spit McGee

Nonfiction by Willie Morris

Vintage Books (Paperback, $11.00, ISBN: 0375706933)

Publication date: November 2000

Description from Kirkus Reviews:

The pleasurable confessions of a dog man gone ailurophile—that is, become a cat man—from Morris (The Ghosts of Medgar Evers, 1997, etc.). Morris, who died last month, was an inveterate dog lover—he had even made a tidy boodle off a book and film about his dog, Skip—who underwent a conversion. His fiance had already warned him she wanted a kitten: “Her announcement, as you can only fathom, struck me in my inmost sinews.” Then, into his life, without warningand “unwarranted,” as he put it—strode an abandoned kitten, a gift from his stepson. He couldn’t very well get rid of it, so he made do, naming the cat Rivers Applewhite. Now R.A. slowly became joy enough to Morris, but nothing akin to Rivers’s son, the Spit McGee celebrated here, a cat that Morris coaxed life into when his young mother blew an emotional gasket during the birth and rejected the litter. It’s the kind of tie that binds, as Morris discovered. Through a series of linked cat tales, Morris tries to get a grip on why he became a menial to this cat and in the course of his attempt draws a deeply affectionate picture of the evolution of their friendship. The stories flash with humor, but the best also tap into Spit’s veil of mystery, when Morris attempts to decipher the cat’s interest in the telephone, or his arcane eating habits, his seemingly psychic facilities, his communicative gestures (many of which have to do with the language of the tail), and why he slept on his back, four feet to the sky, a figure of habitude like a dead cockroach. Spit goes so far as to offer Morris an insight into the music of the spheres: “Without wishing to sound histrionic, the birth of Spit … evoked for me a reserve of continuity, of the generations, of life passing on life, of the cycles.” From a man who was owned by a cat, a tender, melodious tribute. —Copyright 1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Falling Through Space: The Journals of Ellen Gilchrist

By Ellen Gilchrist

University Press of Mississippi (Paperback, $18.00, ISBN: 1578062918)

Publication date: November 2000

Description from the publisher:

Ellen Gilchrist has amassed a nationwide following, and her readers eagerly anticipate each new short story collection and novel. The sassy and moving commentaries she recorded for National Public Radio were a large part of the original kindling for this intense interest.

In Falling Through Space the spark that first attracted this audience flashes again in fifty-eight short essays drawn from those enormously successful broadcasts. To update and continue the dialogue she has always maintained with her fans, Gilchrist has added fifteen new essays.

Originally published in 1987 by Little, Brown and Company, Falling Through Space provides a funny and intimate diary of a writer’s self-discovery. Author of more than a dozen books and winner of the National Book Award, Gilchrist is a beloved and distinctive southern voice whose life and memories are every bit as entertaining as the wild and poignant short stories for which she is famous.

The short essays that anchor this book vividly explore the Mississippi plantation life of her childhood; the books, teachers, and artists who influenced her development; and her thoughts about writing and life in general. Coupled with forty-two pictures from Gilchrist’s youth and adulthood, these slices of life create a running autobiography.

In new essays, originally published in such magazines as Vogue, Outside, New Woman, and the Washington Post Sunday Magazine, Gilchrist reveals her origins, influences, and the way she works when she writes. Required reading for any fan, this book is Ellen Gilchrist at her funniest and best. For her readers it confirms her spontaneity and her talent for finding life at its zaniest and brightest.

Ellen Gilchrist is the author of several collections of short stories and novellas including The Cabal and Other Stories, Flights of Angels, The Age of Miracles, The Courts of Love, In the Land of Dreamy Dreams, Victory Over Japan (winner of the National Book Award), Drunk With Love, and I Cannot Get You Close Enough. She has also written several novels, including The Anna Papers, Net of Jewels, Starcarbon, and Sarah Conley. Her 1994 novel, Anabasis: A Journey to the Interior, was published by University Press of Mississippi. She lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

Mississippi River Country Tales: A Celebration of 500 Years of Deep South History

By Jim Fraiser

Pelican (Paperback, $16.95, ISBN: 156554787X)

Publication date: November 2000


Mississippi River Country Tales is a historic journey through the river towns of the Deep South, beginning with De Soto and early settlement of the area, through stories of land pirates, steamboats, and scoundrels, right up through the Civil War and the struggle for civil rights. The book is further accented by nearly fifty black-and-white photographs that give natives and non-natives alike a taste of this compelling history.

The Oxygen Man

A Novel by Steve Yarbrough

Scribner’s (Paperback, $12.00, ISBN: 0743201655)

Publication date: November 2000

Description from Kirkus Reviews:

A superb first novel, about a doomed Mississippi family, by the author of three story collections (Family Men, 1990, etc.). The “oxygen man” is Ned Rose, a checker of oxygen levels in stocked ponds maintained by fish farmers in the vicinity of his hometown, Indianola, Mississippi. We first meet him (following a dreamlike Prologue) in 1996, when Ned’s employer and former high-school football teammate Mack Bell is scheming to punish the underpaid “niggers” he suspects of vandalizing his ponds. A heritage of bitterness and violence that continues to shadow not just Ned and cronies but his older sister Daisy (“Daze”) is then deftly revealedin a consistently suspenseful narrative juxtaposing the events of Daze and Ned’s adolescence (attending a segregated private “academy” their family can’t afford) in 1972-73 with the downward momentum of their middle years, when Daze, fearful she’ll relive her “trashy” mother’s loveless sexual adventuring, hesitantly considers the attentions of a much older widower, and Ned, dogged by spasmodic eruptions of the murderous rage he knows is his nature, numbly surrenders to the “force out there … that had the potential to come and sweep everything and everybody away.”

Yarbrough’s story abounds with generously detailed characterizations (malicious good-ole-boy Mack is a fine creation, as is Daze’s ill-fated high-school boyfriend Denny Gautreaux), gritty detail (Indianola is a convincingly dreary snake-infested backwater), and sharply realized scenes that resonate strongly: a macho coach whipping teenaged footballers into foulmouthed frenzy; a laconic duel of wits between Ned and a car dealer who tries to unload a broken-down Mercedes; Red’s moving conversation with his vagrant “Daddy,” an itinerant housepainter unable to keep himself at home. A wrenching, compassionate portrayal of wasted lives in explosive conflict. —Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

The Selected Letters of Tennesee Williams, Volume 1: 1920-1945

By Tennessee Williams, edited by Albert J. Devlin and Nancy M. Tischler

New Directions (Hardcover, $37.00, ISBN: 0811214451)

Publication date: November 2000

Description from Booklist:

It is fascinating to watch a major artist emerge—the first flashes of talent, the false steps, the distractions of friends, lovers, and family. It is doubly fascinating when the artist is someone as seductive and determined to capture attention as Tennessee Williams. This volume of his letters begins with a note, riddled with spelling errors, from the eight-year-old Williams at his grandfather’s house to his mother and ends with a flurry of excited letters dating from the weeks following his first Broadway success, The Glass Menagerie. In between, we see Williams in several phases: distracted student; defensive college dropout; money-begging pathetic case; outraged, rejected writer; high-potential low achiever drifting through New Orleans, New Mexico, and New York. At times, especially during the period when he attended, in succession, the University of Missouri, Washington University, and the University of Iowa without ever quite finding his calling, it seems miraculous that he ever did pull it together. Each letter in this addictively readable collection is accompanied by some biographical text that places it in context in Williams’ life and explains the obscurer and more personal allusions he makes. —Jack Helbig. Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.

Marvelous Old Mansions and Other Southern Treasures

By Sylvia Higginbotham

John F. Blair (Paperback, $16.95, ISBN: 0895872277)

Publication date: November 2000

Description from the publisher:

Southerners have always been proud of their heritage, and there is no place where this pride shows more than the restoration of historic homes.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Southern landowners built lavish testaments to their wealth. After the Civil War, many of these once-wealthy planters found themselves struggling financially. As a result, some of these architectural treasures were lost.

Beginning in 1858 with the chartering of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, Southerners began to preserve and restore their grand homes. Organizations such as the Daughters of the Revolution, the Colonial Dames, and the Daughters of the Confederacy, as well as historic foundations all rallied to preserve what Sherman’s March to the Sea and America’s march toward progress had not yet discovered.

In Marvelous Old Mansions and Other Southern Treasures, you’ll find 132 historic homes, eight gardens, and thirteen living villages of historic districts. These sites are located throughout Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Some of the mansions were the homes of famous men such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson. Others were home to less-known men who poured their heart, soul, and fortune into their property. Certain houses may seem less grand than others at first glance, but they all played important roles in the history of their home states.

Whether you’re interested in architecture, interior decorating, antiques, and history or simply looking for a way to spend an enjoyable day, this book will expose you to some of America’s most lasting treasures.

A Pirate Looks at Fifty

Nonfiction by Jimmy Buffett

Ballantine (Paperback, $14.95, ISBN: 0449005860)

Publication date: November 2000

Description from Publishers Weekly:

The breezy pop craftsman of “Margaritaville” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise” famously spends most of his time sailing, trotting out 1970s chestnuts on the summer tour circuit—and writing. Buffett’s bestselling Tales from Margaritaville (1989) and Where Is Joe Merchant? (1992), among other books, created a world of sun-baked characters whose doings bore some resemblance to those of their author. This memoir draws back the curtain between fact and fiction, and genially takes stock in a manner likely to appeal to the Me generation. Though he rambles, repeats himself and may even raise hackles (“I have been too warped by Catholicism not to be cynical”), Buffett is earnest and unapologetic in his hedonism, seeing his mock pirate’s life as the antithesis of the conformity foisted on him as a child in Alabama. In a series of loosely chronological vignettes, Buffett quickly takes us from his bar-band beginnings to a brush with death when he crashes one of his fleet of seaplanes. A lower-latitude voyage with his family (in a newer, bigger plane) to celebrate his 50th birthday makes up the bulk of the book, and takes them from Florida to the Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Colombia and the Amazon. The diaristic logbook that Buffett keeps along the way provides endless opportunities to muse on the music business; his older, wilder ways; navigation and, on the horizon, approaching mortality. Buffett’s prose won't itself win him more “parrotheads” (as his fans are called), but those with enough patience or reverence to wade through long descriptions of beloved gear, favorite books or “fucking tikki pukki drinks” will find beneath these amblings a disarmingly direct character. Simultaneous audio, CD and large-print edition; author tour.

—Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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