Mississippi Books and Writers

September 2003

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

They Write Among Us: New Stories and Essays from the Best of Oxford Writers

Edited by Jim Dees

Jefferson Press (Paperback, $16.95, ISBN: 0971897417)

Publication date: September 2003


An anthology of stories and essays from writers in Oxford, Mississippi, including Larry Brown, Tom Franklin, Beth Ann Fennelly, Willie Morris, and others.

The Rabbit Factory

By Larry Brown

Free Press (Hardcover, $25.00, ISBN: 0743245237)

Publication date: September 2003

Description from Publishers Weekly:

Grimly realistic, tragic-absurd and raunchy, Brown’s latest novel returns to his deep South fictional territory and to the characters—poor, largely uneducated, hard-drinking, cigarette and dope smoking—that he portrays so well. This time he juggles a large cast with one thing in common: they’re long-time losers whose paths intersect in or near Memphis.

Arthur is nearly 70, impotent and fearful of losing his sexy younger wife, Helen. She tries to seduce teenaged Eric, a pet shop employee who fled his abusive father’s rabbit factory—a metaphor for the uncaring world in which these people exist. Anjalee is a prostitute who smites the heart of Wayne, a navy boxer. Domino has survived a prison term and now works butchering meat for a gangster named Mr. Hamburger, who sells it to a man who owns lions. Trouble is, the body of one of Mr. Hamburger’s victims turns up in the meat locker, which complicates Domino’s extracurricular job dealing weed over the border in Mississippi.

The plot includes several murders, lots of sex, domestic spats and plenty of action in bars. Even the violent scenes veer close to farce. Dogs figure prominently, one of them a pit bull named Jada Pickett. Miss Muffet, who is the housekeeper for one of the spoiled canines, has a plastic leg. Yet even with the advantage of Brown’s keen eye for the absurdities of life and for the habits of people who live on the edge, the book fails to deliver the punch of his earlier works. Fay, his most accomplished novel to date, was darker, but one could identify with the protagonist. Here, the characters are all self-absorbed and incessantly whiny, and their obsessive rambling thoughts are recounted in numbing detail. Readers will understand well before the end that these sad lives will never go anywhere but down. —Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


By John Grisham

Doubleday (Hardcover, $19.95, ISBN: 0385511612)

Publication date: September 2003

Description from Publishers Weekly:

Grisham demonstrated he could produce bestsellers without legal aid with The Painted House and Skipping Christmas, and he'll undoubtedly do so again with this slight but likable novel of high school football, a legendary coach and the perils of too early fame. Fifteen years after graduation, Neely Crenshaw, one-time star quarterback of the Messina Spartans, returns home on hearing news of the impending death of tough-as-nails coach Eddie Rake.

Neely knows the score: “When you’re famous at eighteen, you spend the rest of your life fading away.” It’s a lesson he’s learned the hard way after destroying his knee playing college ball and drifting through life in an ever-downward spiral. He and his former teammates sit in the bleachers at the high school stadium waiting for Rake to die, drinking beer and reminiscing. There is a mystery involving the legendary ’87 championship, and Neely has unfinished business with an old high school sweetheart, but neither story line comes to much.

Readers will guess the solution to the mystery, as does the town police chief when it’s divulged to him (“ ‘We sorta figured it out,’ said Mal”) and Neely’s former girlfriend doesn’t want to have anything to do with his protestations of love (“You’ll get over it. Takes about ten years”). The stirring funeral scene may elicit a few tears, but Neely’s eulogy falls curiously flat. After living through four hard days in Messina, the lessons Neely learns are unremarkable (“Those days are gone now”). Many readers will come away having enjoyed the time spent, but wishing there had been a more sympathetic lead character, more originality, more pages, more story and more depth. —Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

On William Faulkner

By Eudora Welty, afterword by Noel Polk

University Press of Mississippi (Hardcover, $25.00, ISBN: 1578065704)

Publication date: September 2003

Description from the publisher:

Eudora Welty and William Faulkner crossed literary and personal paths.

Eudora Welty said that being in the same state with the phenomenal William Faulkner was like living near a big mountain. On William Faulkner reveals her encounters with that mountain, both personal and literary.

The new book brings together Welty’s reviews, essays, lectures, and musings on Faulkner, including such gems as her reviews of Intruder in the Dust and The Selected Letters of William Faulkner, as well as her comments during her presentation of the Gold Medal to Faulkner during the National Institute of Arts and Letters awards ceremony in 1962. The collection also features an excerpt from a letter she wrote to the novelist Jean Stafford, telling of meeting Faulkner and of going sailing with him. Included too are Welty’s impassioned defense of Faulkner’s work — published as a letter to the New Yorker — and the obituary of the Nobel laureate that she wrote for the Associated Press.

In addition, the book includes a cryptic postcard Faulkner wrote to Welty from Hollywood, plus five photographs, and a caricature of Faulkner drawn by Welty during the 1930s.

Commenting on the place of both writers in contemporary literature, an essay by the noted literary scholar Noel Polk puts the collection in context and offers assessment and appreciation of their achievements in American literature.

On William Faulkner is a valuable resource for exploring Faulkner’s work and sensing Welty’s critical voice. Her sharp critical eye and graceful prose make her an astute commentator on his legacy.

Eudora Welty is the author of many novels and story collections, including The Optimist’s Daughter (Pulitzer Prize), Losing Battles, The Ponder Heart, The Robber Bridegroom, A Curtain of Green and Other Stories, as well as three collections of her photographic work—Photographs, Country Churchyards, and One Time, One Place: Mississippi in the Depression (all from the University Press of Mississippi).

William Faulkner is the author of The Sound and the Fury, Light in August, Absalom, Absalom!, Sanctuary, As I Lay Dying, among others. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950.

Noel Polk, a professor of English at the University of Southern Mississippi, is the author of many critical studies on Welty and Faulkner and is the co-editor of the Library of America edition of Faulkner’s works.

Elroy Nights

By Frederick Barthelme

Counterpoint Press (Hardcover, $24.00, ISBN: 1582431280)

Publication date: September 2003

Description from Publishers Weekly:

This slight story of midlife crisis and fantasy romance follows Barthelme’s familiar path along the southern Gulf Coast. Elroy Nights is a 50-something art professor at a small, third-rate Mississippi university. Amicably separated from his wife, Clare, he fills his otherwise solitary life with occasional visits or dinner at Clare’s when her grown daughter Winter is there. When Winter brings home Freddie, a free spirit of a girl who will be Elroy’s student in the coming term, Elroy is instantly smitten. But the affair into which they casually fall leads to tragedy for their friends and near disaster for them. As Elroy ambles along, attempting to rediscover his youth by hanging out with his students, drinking and smoking again, taking impromptu road trips and listening to collegiate wisdom, he narrates his adventures, such as they are, but remains little more than a hazy collection of half-formed impressions. None of the other characters ever quite emerges as three-dimensional, either. The story is too precious and whimsical by half; no events-be they deaths, shootings or divorce talks-leave much of a mark. Through it all, Elroy observes and questions (“I thought it would be great to be inside somebody else’s head for a while, to hear the noise in there,” he thinks about Freddie), striving halfheartedly to regain his bearings. Barthelme’s 13th work of fiction-with its slight romance and unexceptional protagonist-may disappoint fans of his earlier work.

Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Where Is Joe Merchant? A Novel Tale

A Novel by Jimmy Buffett

Harvest Books (Paperback, $14.00, ISBN: 0156026996)

Publication date: September 2003

Description from Kirkus Reviews:

The relaxed and reigning king of beach music, who most recently told Tales From Margaritaville (1989), tries his hand at a relaxed and rambling novel. It's about seaplanes, a pretty girl, a vanished rock star, the curse of jet skis, a magic scepter, disrupters of paradise, and conch burgers. Joe Merchant, of the title, is the missing, presumed dead rock star whose sister Trevor Kane has returned to Florida to enlist her old lover Frank Bama to check out rumors of Merchant’s survival. Trevor left Frank, a Vietnam vet who would rather fly than get serious, years ago because he seemed to love his ancient seaplane more than he loved her. Frank’s doughty seaplane, however, is just what she needs to go in search of someone named Desdemona, who might be somewhere in the Caribbean. There is a Desdemona, and she does have a psychic link to the missing musician. She’s been getting extrasensory messages for months. Also on the trail of Mr. Merchant and Desdemona are trash journalist Rudy Breno and one-armed, archvillainous soldier-of-fortune Colonel Cairo. Colonel Cairo is obsessed with the restoration of his missing arm, a task requiring a missing crystal. Desdemona might know something about that. The searches are Florida-intense, which is to say that there is plenty of time for subplots about Frank’s chum who has been blowing up the jet skis that make paradise too noisy, and about a coldblooded killer with eyeballs tattooed on his eyelids who’s not, after all, a subplot. So laid-back and rambling it’s perilously close to sloppy, but Buffett’s considerable charms as a performer and goof-off artist keep things afloat. The uninitiated may be baffled; his fans will be enchanted.

Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

The Ninemile Wolves

Nonfiction by Rick Bass

Mariner Books (Paperback, $13.00, ISBN: 0618263020)

First published 1992

Publication date: September 2003

Description from the publisher:

One of Rick Bass’s most widely respected works of natural history, The Ninemile Wolves follows the fate of a modern wolf pack, the first known group of wolves to attempt to settle in Montana outside protected national park territory. The wolf inspires hatred, affection, myth, fear, and pity; its return polarizes the whole of the West—igniting the passions of cattle ranchers and environmentalists, wildlife biologists and hunters. One man’s vigorous, emotional inquiry into the proper relationship between man and nature, The Ninemile Wolves eloquently advocates wolf reintroduction in the West. In a new preface, Bass discusses the enduring lessons of the Ninemile story.

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