Mississippi Books and Writers


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

Looking Around for God: The Oddly Reverent Observations of an Unconventional Christian

By James A. Autry

Smyth & Helwys (Paperback, $16.00, ISBN: 1573124842)

Publication date: January 2007

Description from the publisher:

James Autry, author of Looking Around for God, thinks that the true message of the old spiritual is not just that God has an eye on the sparrow—it’s that God is demonstrating that if these details are worth God’s attention they are certainly worth ours. It may be that we will more readily find God in the details of this world—and of our own lives— than anywhere else.

Looking Around for God, Autry’s tenth book, is in many ways his most personal, as he considers his unique life of faith and belief in a God often clouded by church convention. In assembling these personal essays, stories and poems, Autry strives to share how God has been revealed in many different circumstances of his life, while at the same time offering a few ideas for how the Christian church might better serve in making God’s love and presence manifest in the world.

Platte River

By Rick Bass

Bison Books (Paperback, $18.95, ISBN: 0803259735)

First published 1994.

Publication date: March 2007

Description from the publisher:

“Three fascinating long stories from a greatly gifted writer avatar of the outdoors. . . . Beautifully written and filled with radiant imagery and a powerful sense of the mysteries of nature—human and otherwise.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Bass writes beautifully.”—Booklist

“Bass is known primarily for his lucid and lyrical writing about nature, and this collection has plenty of that. . . . But what makes this a compelling book are his finely detailed, complex characters, simple men and women crafted with sympathy and understanding.”—Publishers Weekly

“Within this rich blend of naturalism touched by mystery, the exhilarating landscapes of Montana, upstate New York, and northern Michigan inform the book as fully as the human principals.”—Library Journal

Rick Bass is one of the foremost writers of his generation, charging headlong past the hard surface of modern life to illuminate human beings and their relationship to the natural world. Platte River is a collection of three novellas, each a singular exploration of the human heart set against the backdrop of God's creation.

Filled with arresting images—chinook winds flying through a valley, couples skating in the dark on thin ice, tools made from animal bones, a delicate shape frozen in a river—“Mahatma Joe” is about an evangelist who settles in Grass Valley, Montana, and the woman who becomes obsessed with his vision of the world. In “Field Events” a woman falls in love with a man even larger than her discus-tossing brothers. And the title novella, “Platte River,” portrays one man's lyric meditation on loneliness, the nature of peace, and the quest for love.

Rick Bass, a recipient of the pen/Nelson Algren Award in 1988, is the author of numerous short stories, novels, and nonfiction works, including The Diezmo: A Novel and The Roadless Yaak: Reflections and Observations About One of Our Last Great Wilderness Areas.


Journeyman’s Road: Modern Blues Lives from Faulkner’s Mississippi to Post-9/11 New York

By Adam Gussow

University of Tennessee Press (Hardcover, $30.00, ISBN: 1572335696)

Publication date: June 2007

Description from the publisher:

Journeyman’s Road offers a bold new vision of where the blues have been in the course of the twentieth century and what they have become at the dawn of the new millennium: a world music rippling with postmodern contradictions. Author Adam Gussow brings a unique perspective to this exploration. Not just an award-winning scholar and memoirist, he is an accomplished blues harmonica player, a Handy award nominee and veteran of the international club and festival circuit. With this unusual depth of experience, Gussow skillfully places blues literature in dialogue with the music that provokes it, vibrantly articulating a vital American tradition.

Journeyman’s Road tells unfamiliar stories about a popular American art form, takes contrarian positions, explodes familiar mythologies, and frames the contemporary blues scene in bold, new ways. Taking its title from Gussow’s self-described status as a “journeyman”—a musician who has completed his apprenticeship and is well on his way to becoming a master—this new book brings together articles that Gussow wrote for publications such as Blues Access and Harper’s, as well as critical scholarly essays, including the first comprehensive examination of William Faulkner’s relationship with the blues.

At the heart of Gussow’s story is his own unlikely yet remarkable streetside partnership with Harlem bluesman Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee, a musical collaboration marked not just by a series of polarities—black and white, Mississippi and Princeton, hard-won mastery and youthful apprenticeship—but by creative energies that pushed beyond apparent differences to forge new dialogues and new sounds.

Undercutting familiar myths about the down-home sources of blues authenticity, Gussow celebrates New York’s mongrel blues scene: the artists, the jam sessions, the venues, the street performers, and the eccentrics. At once elegiac and forward-looking, Journeyman’s Road offers a collective portrait of the New York subculture struggling with the legacy of 9/11 and healing itself with the blues.

Filled with photographs and complete with a comprehensive bibliography, Journeyman’s Road is an expedition through the evolution and culture of the blues, a trip filled with the genre’s characteristic collisions and contradictions, paradoxes and multiplicities, innovative calls and often unexpected responses.

Adam Gussow is the rare academic who has lived the life of a bluesman. An accomplished harmonica player, recording artist, and journalist, he is assistant professor of English and southern studies at the University of Mississippi. He is the author of Seems Like Murder Here: Southern Violence and the Blues Tradition and Mister Satan’s Apprentice: A Blues Memoir.

The Lay of the Land

By Richard Ford

Vintage (Paperback, $14.95, ISBN: 0679776672)

Publication date: July 2007

From Publishers Weekly :

Frank Bascombe meticulously maps New Jersey with a realtor’s rapacious eye, and he is an equally intense topographer of his teeming inner landscape. In the first of Ford’s magisterial Bascombe novels (The Sportswriter, 1986), Frank staved off feelings of loss and regret with a dissociated “dreaminess.” He graduated to a more conventional detachment during what he calls the “Existence Period” of the Pen/Faulkner and Pulitzer Prize-winning Independence Day (1995). Now we find the 55-year-old former fiction writer and sports journalist in a “Permanent Period,” a time of being, not becoming. He’s long adjusted to the dissolution of his first marriage to women’s golf instructor Ann Dykstra (which foundered 17 years earlier after the death of their nine-year-old, firstborn son, Ralph) and settled for eight years with second wife Sally Caldwell in Sea-Clift, N.J. Permanence has proven turbulent: Sally has abandoned Frank for her thought-to-be-dead first husband, and Frank’s undergone treatment for prostate cancer. The novel’s action unfolds in 2000 over the week before Thanksgiving, as Frank bemoans the contested election, mourns the imminent departure of Clinton (“My President,” he says) and anticipates with measured ambivalence the impending holiday meal: his guests will include his 27-year-old son, Paul, a once-troubled adolescent grown into an abrasive “mainstreamer,” who writes for Hallmark in Kansas City, Mo., and his 25-year-old daughter, Clarissa, a glamorous bisexual Harvard grad who’s unfailingly loyal to her dad. Frank’s quotidian routines are punctuated by weird but subtly depicted events: he happens on the scene of a bombing at the hospital in his former hometown of Haddam, N.J., clenches his jaw through an awkward meeting with Ann, provokes a bar fight and observes the demolition of an old building. But the real dramatic arc occurs in Frank’s emotional life—until the climax takes him out of his head. Ford summons a remarkable voice for his protagonist—ruminant, jaunty, merciless, generous and painfully observant—building a dense narrative from Frank’s improvisations, epiphanies and revisions. His reluctance to “fully occupy” his real estate career (“it’s really about arriving and destinations, and all the prospects that await you or might await you in some place you never thought about”) illuminates the preoccupations of the boomer generation; for Frank, an unwritten novel and broken relationships combine with the dwindling fantasy of endless possibility—in work and in love—to breed doubt: “Is this it?” and “Am I good?” Frank wonders. The answers don’t come easy.

—Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The Judas Field: A Novel of the Civil War

By Howard Bahr

Picador (Paperback, $14.00, ISBN: 0312426933)

Publication date: July 2007

Description from Publishers Weekly:

A middle-aged salesman in 1885 Mississippi, Cass Wakefield is a Civil War veteran of the Army of Tennessee, which saw action far from the leadership of Robert E. Lee, and ended, badly, at the battle of Franklin in 1864. Cass agrees to accompany a neighbor, 54-year-old terminally ill widow Alison Sansing, to Tennessee to recover the bodies of her father and brother, killed at Franklin. As they travel north, Cass’s memories return with painful vividness, culminating as he walks over the scene of his army’s disastrous defeat. Bahr (The Black Flower) moves back and forth between the tattered post-Reconstruction South and the war. He describes the effect of weapons on flesh in gruesome detail and brings to life a long-gone era with its strange smells, foods, fashions and principles. Though his uneducated characters often seem a little too articulate, their insights are excellent. Author of other well-regarded novels on the same period, Bahr treats the war as a natural disaster not unlike a hurricane.

—Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


The BrokerPlaying for Pizza: A Novel

By John Grisham

Doubleday (Hardcover, $21.95, ISBN: 0385525001)

Publication date: September 2007


Rick Dockery was the third-string quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. In the AFC Championship game against Denver, to the surprise and dismay of virtually everyone, Rick actually got into the game. With a 17-point lead and just minutes to go, Rick provided what was arguably the worst single performance in the history of the NFL. Overnight, he became a national laughingstock and, of course, was immediately cut by the Browns and shunned by all other teams.

But all Rick knows is football, and he insists that his agent, Arnie, find a team that needs him. Against enormous odds Arnie finally locates just such a team and informs Rick that, miraculously, he can in fact now be a starting quarterback. Great, says Rick—for which team?

The mighty Panthers of Parma, Italy.

Yes, Italians do play American football, to one degree or another, and the Parma Panthers desperately want a former NFL player—any former NFL player—at their helm. So Rick reluctantly agrees to play for the Panthers—at least until a better offer comes along—and heads off to Italy. He knows nothing about Parma—not even where it is—has never been to Europe, and doesn’t speak or understand a word of Italian.

To say that Italy—the land of opera, fine wines, extremely small cars, romance, and Football Americano— holds a few surprises for Rick Dockery would be something of an understatement.

The New Wolves: The Return of the Mexican Wolf to the American Southwest

By Rick Bass

Lyons Press (Paperback, $14.95, ISBN: 1599212285)

First published: 2001

Publication date: September 2007

Description from the publisher:

The award-winning writer documents changing wildlife patterns

This is the hopeful story of the resurgence of a long-hunted animal that nearly disappeared from the planet. The Mexican wolves were reintroduced to the Blue Mountains a few years ago, and Bass’ celebration of their revival is writing at its best. Bass’ newest release, The Lives of Rocks, is creating new readers for this classic from 2001.

“This is a ballad of a book, a hymn to the gloriously defiant power of survival.” —Publishers Weekly

“Enthralling and brilliant.” —Jim Harrison.

The Lives of Rocks: Stories

By Rick Bass

Mariner Books (Paperback, $13.95, ISBN: 061891966X)

Publication date: October 2007

Description from Booklist:

Bass draws on his geological expertise to ground his latest collection of stop-in-your-tracks short stories on a bedrock of realism only to have his wild-hearted characters race off to realms surreal and mythic. In “Pagans,” three teens use an abandoned construction crane on a polluted river to create art out of junk and test their courage. In “Goats,” two friends want to be ranchers, but their calves routinely escape. Bass meshes wit with an elegiac sensibility to capture the dark ambience of a world besieged by rampant desecration and destruction. His jittery and desperate characters struggle with desire, sorrow, and fear; intending to help each other, they are, instead, helpless. Bedeviled men and women are inextricably connected to the land, from the “treacherous shifting Yazoo clay of Mississippi” to the snowy mountains of Montana, the setting for two unforgettable linked tales about a resolute and resourceful woman, modes of survival, and the majestic cycles of existence. Embedded in each paradoxical story is Bass’ perception of everything from a rock to an elk, an egret, a woman, and a tree as a precious “carrier of life” on a planet graced with a “topography of spirit.” Compassionate and hard-hitting, knowledgeable and transcendent, Bass is essential.

—Donna Seaman. Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.

The New Granta Book of the American Short Story

Edited by Richard Ford

Grove Press (Paperback, $18.95, ISBN: 1847080251)

Publication date: November 2007


In 1992, Richard Ford edited and introduced the first Granta Book of the American Short Story. It became the definitive anthology of American short fiction written in the last half of the twentieth century—an “exemplary choice” in the words of The Washington Post—with stories by Eudora Welty, John Cheever, Raymond Carver, and forty others demonstrating how much memorable power can lie in the briefest narration. In the years since, Ford has been reading new stories and rereading old ones and selecting new favorites. This new collection features more than forty stories, including some he regretted overlooking the first time around, as well as many by a new generation of writers—among them Sherman Alexie, Junot Díaz, Deborah Eisenberg, Nell Freudenberger, Matthew Klam, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Z. Z. Packer. None of the stories (though a few of the writers) were in the first volume. Once again, Ford’s introduction is an illuminating exposition of how a good story is written by a master of the craft.

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