1936: John Stone
was born in Jackson, Mississippi. (Feb. 7)
1942:Harpers Magazine accepts Eudora
Weltys story The Wide Net for publication. It
was previously rejected by the Saturday Evening Post, Colliers,
Red Book, Country Gentleman, Ladies Home Journal, and Atlantic,
among others. (Feb. 6)
Williams The Rose Tattoo opened at the Martin Beck
Theatre on Broadway in New York, starring Maureen Stapleton and Eli Wallach.
1954: Author and poet Maxwell
Bodenheim was fatally shot by Harold Weinberg while on a drinking
spree. Weinberg then stabed Bodenheims wife Ruth to death, as well.
1994: A jury in Hinds County, Mississippi, convicted Byron de
la Beckwith for the 1963 murder of civil rights activist Medgar
Evers. This was the Beckwiths third trial; the first two
in the 1960s ended in hung juries. (Feb. 5)
NEWS about MISSISSIPPI WRITERS
Oxford American cuts back
publication schedule to four issues per year
February 1, 2002
OXFORD, Miss. Oxford American,
an independent Southern magazine of good writing, has been forced
to cut back its publication schedule from six to four issues per year, according
to the magazines associate editor, Lisa Dixon.
The reduction in publication schedule comes
in response to the magazines shortage of subscribers. Letters published
in issues last year appealed to readers to support the magazine by becoming
subscribers or to give subscriptions as gifts to others.
The magazine was founded in 1992 under the leadership
of Marc Smirnoff, who is now editor. In 1995, novelist John
Grisham became publisher of the magazine. In 2000, Grisham published A
Painted House, a novel set in his childhood home state of Arkansas, in serial
form over the course of the years six issues.
In addition to the Grisham novel, which has
now been published as a single volume and continues to top the bestseller lists,
the magazine has scored a number of other literary coups, including the publication
in 1995 of Rose of Lebanon, a previously unpublished short story
by the Nobel Prize-winning novelist William
Faulkner, who lived just a few blocks away from the Oxford Americans
business office in Oxford. Previously unpublished stories by Walker
Percy and Zora Neale Hurston have likewise first appeared in the Oxford
Other acclaimed writers whose work has appeared
in the magazine include William Styron, Florence King, Donna
Tartt, Steve Martin, Willie
Morris, Wendell Berry, Rosanne Cash, Peter Guralnick, and Tony Earley.
The magazine has also featured a number of theme
issues, including its annual Southern Music issue, which includes
a free music CD with recordings by the artists featured.
Now on newsstands is the Winter 2002 issue,
a themed issue on Southern movies which features articles by Allen Gurganus,
Joseph McBride, and Gary Hawkins, and scenes from an unpublished and unfilmed
screenplay by William Faulkner.
For more information on the Oxford American,
including subscription rates and past issues, visit the magazines web
site at www.oxfordamericanmag.com.
Do you have a news item about a Mississippi writer? Please send your
information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEW FEATURES in the MISSISSIPPI WRITERS
The following articles were recently added to the Writer Listings:
The Summons By John Grisham
Doubleday (Hardcover, $27.95, ISBN: 0385503822)
Publication Date: February 2002
Review by Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post
You could not call me a John Grisham fan. Some years ago, I read his
first novel, A Time to Kill, the one that numerous publishers
rejected, and thought it an overwritten but honest and heartfelt look
at race and justice in the deep South. Later, I picked up one of his
bestsellers it may have been The Pelican Brief
and thought it too dumb to finish. That is where things stood with me
and Grisham when his latest, The Summons, arrived (it will be
available in stores on Feb. 5). Now, having read it more or less overnight,
I must report that either Grishams writing skills have improved
or my critical standards have declined, because I found The Summons
a pleasure to read and, considered all in all, a model of what good
commercial fiction can be.
Grisham's hero, Ray Atlee, is 43 and teaches law at the University
of Virginia. His wife has recently left him for a rotund, 64-year-old
billionaire, one of those rich Yankees who have bought up the fine antebellum
mansions around Charlottesville in recent decades. Ray is lonely, but
in general life is okay until, one day, he receives a letter from his
ailing father to come home to Clanton, Miss., to discuss the fathers
will. Ray must obey this is the summons of the title
but he dreads the trip. His widowed father, although a highly
respected judge, has long been estranged from his two sons. Nor is Ray
in any hurry to see his brother, a onetime high school football star
who has spent the past 20 years either stoned or in rehab.
When Ray arrives at the now-decaying mansion where he grew up, he finds
his father dead and $3 million in cash hidden in his study. Ray makes
a quick decision to tell no one about the money, because 1) his father's
good name might be disgraced, 2) the IRS would want half of it and 3)
his brother, if given his share, would surely embark on a terminal binge.
A fourth reason occurs to the reader, if not to Ray: The prospect of
sudden wealth is not entirely unpleasant. The rest of the novel is devoted
to answering two questions: Where did the money come from, and can Ray
stay one jump ahead of the person or persons he soon learns are hot
on his trail?
Its a good yarn, and most readers will simply climb aboard and
enjoy the ride, but for writers and would-be writers, The Summons
can serve as a veritable handbook on how to write a bestseller. First
off, Grisham abides by the hoary rule to write what you know, for he
clearly knows a great deal about lawyers and about Mississippi. Moreover,
he is careful about what he does not put in the book, which contains
virtually no dirty talk, sex or violence. You can give this novel to
your maiden aunt without fear of offending. Nor does Grisham have anything
to say about race relations, although calling the home town Clanton
can be taken as a not-too-subtle nod to Mississippis unhappy past.
If The Summons does not challenge your mind, neither does it
insult your intelligence. Grisham starts with a surefire plot: A man
finds millions of dollars in cash. It is an appealing fantasy, and if
it happened to us, we might well behave as recklessly as Ray does. (If
he behaves sensibly, there is no novel.) Grisham keeps us in suspense
as Ray zigzags about the South with the cash stuffed in three garbage
bags in the trunk of his car and persons unknown in pursuit. He weaves
in the classic themes of father-son conflict and sibling rivalry, and
he also touches a couple of trendy bases when Ray checks out one of
Mississippis new gambling casinos and when he boards a yacht to
dine with one of those Southern lawyers who have become obscenely rich
by winning class-action suits.
Grisham entertains us with larger-than-life characters the old
judge himself, the billionaire in Charlottesville, Rays 300-pound
sister-in-law. He relates all this in prose that is unobtrusive but
punctuated with deft touches, as when Ray stops in a diner and gives
his order to an elderly waitress: One glass of ice tea, one sandwich,
and she wrote it all down in great detail. We know that waitress.
Suspense, big bucks, a gripping plot, outsized characters, two brothers
in conflict all these will help The Summons become a bestseller.
But there is another factor more important than any of them, one they
dont teach in writing class, and that is Grishams exceptional
skill as a storyteller. That is the X factor. Any editor can toss out
a recipe for a bestseller, but not one writer in 10,000 has the magic
to cook up a seamless story with near-universal appeal. If you think
its easy, try it sometime.
AUTHOR EVENTS: Book Signings, Readings,
Feb. 4: Bondurant Auditorium, The University of Mississippi Campus,
Oxford, Mississippi, 7:00 p.m. National Book Award winning poet Lucille Clifton will give a reading
at 7:00 p.m. Her most recent book of poetry is Blessing the Boats:
New and Selected Poems 1988-2000. Square Books will host a reception
in her honor at 4:00 p.m. at Off Square Books.
Feb. 5: Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi, 5:00 p.m. Jim ONeal, co-founding publisher and editor of Living Blues
magazine, will discuss his book The Voice of the Blues: Classic Interviews
From Living Blues Magazine. The event will feature special music.
Feb. 7: Lemuria, 202 Banner Hall, Jackson, Mississippi, 5:30 p.m. Ken Murphy will sign copies of his book My South Coast Home:
Photos of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. For more info, call (601)
Feb. 7: Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi, 5:30 p.m. Bernice McFadden will return to Square Books and Thacker Mountain
radio to read from This Bitter Earth, a sequel to her best-selling
novel Sugar. Broadcast starts at 5:30PM at Off Square Books.
Feb. 7-9: Magnolia Independent Film Festival Starkville Cinema, Starkville, Mississippi. For more information
on ticket prices and feature schedule, visit the film festival web site
at www.magfilmfest.com or
call (662) 494-5836.
Feb. 9: Lemuria, 202 Banner Hall, Jackson, Mississippi, 1:00 p.m. Jim Fraiser and West
Freeman will sign copies of The Majesty of the Mississippi Delta.
For more info, call (601) 366-7619.
Feb. 9: Gin Mill Mall, 109 Pershing Ave., Indianola, Mississippi,
2:00 p.m. Stephen Kirkpatrick will sign copies of his book of photographs,
Wilder Mississippi. For more info, call (662) 887-3209.
Feb. 12: Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi, 9:00 a.m. John Grisham will
return to Oxford to sign copies of his novel The Summons. Please
read the rules below carefully and be sure to contact us if you have
any questions. At 9 a.m. on the morning of the 12th, well pass
out numbered tickets to the first 200 people in line. If you receive
a ticket you will be able to return that afternoon and have John Grisham
sign two copies of The Summons for you. Your ticket will tell
you what time to return. He will only sign copies of The Summons
purchased from Square Books. No other items or previous books will be
allowed to be signed.
If you know of upcoming readings and appearances by Mississippi
writers, please let us know by writing us at email@example.com.
ON THE HORIZON
The following events are planned for the coming weeks and months. You
may wish to begin planning now to attend or participate.
March 1, 2002 David Galef, University
of Mississippi professor of English and creative writing, will sign
and read from his new story collection, Laugh Track, at Square
Books in Oxford.
March 8, 2002 Jim Fraiser will sign
and talk about Majesty of the Mississippi Delta at Square Books
in Oxford. From historic Port Gibson up the river to Memphis, Fraiser
details the architectural features of homes, churches, and stores dating
back as far as the early 19th century.
March 21, 2002 Clinton, Mississippi, resident Nevada
Barr will return to Square Books in Oxford this time on Thacker
Mountain Radio, with her newest novel, Hunting Season. Its
the tenth book in the Anna Pigeon series. Anna investigates the murder
of a man at a Natchez Trace tourist spot. The show starts at 5:30 p.m.
March 27, 2002 Edward Cohen returns
to Square Books in Oxford to read from his book The Peddlers
Grandson: Growing Up in Jewish in Mississippi. 5 p.m.
April 5, 2002 Richard Ford returns
to Square Books in Oxford with a new collection of short stories, A
Multitude of Sins. 5 p.m.
The Ninth Oxford Conference for the Book April 11-14, 2002
The University of Mississippi and Oxford, Mississippi
Check back for registration information.
Interhostel: Views from the South: Literature, History, and
April 21-26, 2002
E. F. Yerby Conference Center, University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi
Short-term academic program for individuals 50 and older (with accompanying
spouses or adult companions of any age). Sponsored by the Institute
for Continuing Studies. Fee: $845 (includes five nights hotel accommodations,
meals, classes and extracurricular activities). Sponsored by: UM Institute
for Continuing Studies. For more information, please contact: Lynne
Geller at 662-915-7282; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
April 27, 2002 Childrens book writer Laurie
Parker will give a reading at Square Books in Oxford from her new
book, The Turtle Saver. Its the story of a man who stops
on the Natchez Trace to move a turtle off the pavement and ends up setting
off a hilarious chain of events.
The 29th Annual Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference:
Faulkner and His Contemporaries
July 21-26, 2002
The University of Mississippi, Oxford
Information on registration is forthcoming.
If you know of additional news items for this newsletter or if you
have suggestions, please write us at email@example.com.
For more information about events in the Oxford and University, Mississippi
Community, see the Ole Miss Community Calendar: www.olemiss.edu/calendar/