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Welcome to the Mississippi Writers Page Newsletter for February 21-27, 2003

In this issue:

  • This week in Mississippi Literary History
  • News about Mississippi Writers
  • New books by Mississippi writers
  • Author events: readings, book signings, and appearances
  • Announcements: News briefs, conferences, calls for papers, and reader announcements
  • On the horizon: events coming up in the weeks and months ahead


The following events all happened during this week in Mississippi history.

1844: The Mississippi legislature chartered the University of Mississippi, the first public institution of higher learning in the state. The university would be built in Oxford, whose townspeople had named it that in hope of attracting the state university. (Feb. 24)

1849: Writer Katherine Sherwood Bonner was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi. (Feb. 26)

1870: The state of Mississippi was readmitted to the United States after the Civil War, the ninth state to do so. (Feb. 23)

1880: Educator David Edgar Guyton was born in Blue Mountain, Mississippi. (Feb. 21)

1894: Historian William Leo Hansberry was born in Gloster, Mississippi. (Feb. 25)

1905: Novelist Alice Walworth Graham was born in Natchez, Mississippi. (Feb. 24)

1918: Frank E. Smith, a former U.S. Congressman, newspaper editor, TVA administrator, and educator, was born in Sidon, Mississippi. (Feb. 21)

1919: Baptist theologian Fred D. Howard was born in Fulton, Mississippi. (Feb. 25)

1920: Historian John Hebron Moore was born in Greenville, Mississippi. (Feb. 26)

1926: The novel Soldiers’ Pay, by William Faulkner (his first), was published by Boni & Liveright. (Feb. 25)

1932: William Faulkner published “Lizard's in Jamshyd’s Courtyard” in the Saturday Evening Post. (Feb. 27)

1936: Business consultant James A. Vaughan was born in Shannon, Mississippi. (Feb. 21)

1937: Eudora Welty’s story “Old Mr. Grenada” was accepted for publication by the Southern Review; the story was retitled “Old Mr. Marblehall” in A Curtain of Green. (Feb. 22)

1939: Historian Steven E. Ozment was born in MacComb, Mississippi. (Feb. 21)

1939: Suffragist and state legislator Belle Kearney died of cancer in Jackson, Mississippi. (Feb. 27)

1941: Horror and fantasy writer Mary J. Turner (Shannon Riley) was born near Ripley, Mississippi. (Feb. 27)

1943: English professor Noel Polk was born in Picayune, Mississippi. (Feb. 23)

1954: English professor and fiction writer Danny Duncan Collum was born in Greenwood, Mississippi. (Feb. 26)

1983: Playwright Tennessee Williams choked to death at age 71 on the cap of an eyedropper he probably mistook for a sleeping pill at the Hotel Elysée in New York City. (Feb. 24)


Clifton Taulbert, famed author, visits Oxford

Feb. 18, 2003

By John Wilbert

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the Feb. 18, 2003, issue of The Daily Mississippian.

OXFORD, Miss. — Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Clifton L. Taulbert read some of his prized works Monday night in the Old Chemistry Auditorium as part of Ole Miss’ yearlong observance of the 40th anniversary of its desegregation.

Taulbert read from his most recent book, The Journey Home: A Father’s Gift to His Son, a story about a father dedicated to showing his son what life was like for him while growing up during segregation. Upon returning to Mississippi, Taulbert shared excerpts from his other books, which draw from his childhood.

Taulbert grew up in the Mississippi Delta community of Glen Allan from 1946 to 1962. He speaks to various audiences about his experiences of growing up in the segregated South, the inspiration for his best-selling book Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored and other autobiographical books.

“I want to set the stage about why coming home is so important to me and so important to me to bring my son, and what it means to come home,” Taulbert said. “So I kind of would take a 21st century look at making a decision to take my 21st century son back into another world and what I wanted him to encounter while on that journey.”

Taulbert expressed anticipation in visiting Ole Miss, English Department chair Joseph Urgo said.

“We approached him simply on merits of him as a writer,” Urgo said.

Taulbert said he admired James Meredith, who was the first black student at Ole Miss and credited with the university’s desegregation 40 years ago.

“I admire other people like him who pioneered their lives for the benefit of a lot of us,” Taulbert said. “I think it is just absolutely admirable how he managed to move his life through the campus despite the circumstances he faced. I’m not sure if I would be able to do that.”

Taulbert also participated in a book signing Monday at Off Square Books in downtown Oxford. Taulbert, whose visit was sponsored by the John and Renee Grisham Visiting Writer Series and the Department of English, also chatted with fans in the bookstore.

“It’s a great honor for us to have him here,” Urgo said. “He’s a major voice in African-American letters.”

Ethel Young-Minor, assistant professor of English and African-American studies, escorted Taulbert around campus and Oxford Monday.

“The whole idea of him being from Mississippi and the whole world has embraced him, I think we need to do a better job of embracing him here at home,” Young-Minor said.

Taulbert said he is proud to see how things have changed within Mississippi since he moved away from the state when he was 16-years-old.

“I try to find whatever spark of light there is, and I can honestly say that when I returned to my home state for whatever reason, I see an experience with remarkable change,” Taulbert said.

“The world has not come of age. It is still growing in progress and so will the state of Mississippi.”

Taulbert will receive another distinguishing mark Saturday when he gets the Richard Wright Award of Literary Excellence in Natchez.

Aside from writing five books largely based on growing up in the Mississippi Delta, Taulbert is also president of The Building Community Institute in Tulsa, Okla., whose philosophy statement establishes a goal “to energize our efforts to rebuild and build anew environments that foster justice, compassion, productivity and vision.”


Key West festival honors Tennessee Williams

Feb. 23, 2003

KEY WEST, Fla. (Reuters) — Ernest Hemingway may have been the most famous raconteur to put Key West on the map, but playwright Tennessee Williams is getting his due for works influenced by life in this southern paradise town.

Key West’s first Tennessee Williams Festival culminates on Monday—the 20th anniversary of Williams’ death at age 72 at New York’s Hotel Elysee on February 24, 1983—with a gala appearance by actress Elizabeth Ashley. Ashley starred in a Broadway revival of Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1955.

Williams, who moved to the town on an island south of Miami during the mid-1940s when he was in his mid-30s, won his first Pulitzer in 1948 for his sultry A Streetcar Named Desire.

Williams rewrote the famed play while living at Key West’s downtown La Concha Hotel, although he began penning it as a resident of New Orleans.

In Key West, Williams was known for dressing casually in white, often sporting a mustache and beard. He enjoyed local watering holes such as Sloppy Joe’s and Captain Tony’s Saloon, cycling around the 2-by-4-mile (3.3 km by 6.6 km) island and taking daily ocean swims.

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NEW BOOKS by Mississippi Writers

The Undiscovered Country: The Later Plays of Tennessee Williams

Edited by Philip C. Kolin

Peter Lang (Hardcover, $32.95, ISBN: 0820451304)

Publication date: November 2002


Tennessee Williams’s foray into “dragon country with some new dramatic armor” during the fading decades of his career may have displeased some fans, but many scholars believe the playwright's later works contributed mightily to the American theatre.

The Undiscovered Country: The Later Plays of Tennessee Williams is a collection of 15 original essays by Dr. Philip C. Kolin, professor of English at the University of Southern Mississippi, and 14 other Williams scholars. The book—published by the international house of Peter Lang in New York, Berlin and Bern, Switzerland—is the first book exclusively devoted to Williams’s plays written and produced after Night of the Iguana, from 1961 to his death in 1983. It argues that Williams was a rarely gifted experimental artist at work and that his later plays are vital to the American theatre, although they radically depart from his earlier works of psychological realism.

“Williams was not simply static, not just recreating earlier successes or repeating them,” said Kolin, a Chicago native who has been a member of the Southern Miss faculty for 29 years. “He wanted to enter what he called ‘dragon country’with new dramatic armor. His later plays are very, very different in the way they represent or misrepresent reality. They are not as familiar (as his earlier works) but that doesn’t mean they are inferior.… But some people attacked him for being a different playwright, for attempting new dramatic forms. They wanted him to remain with the same type of realism that characterized his Broadway successes in the 1940s and ’50s.”

Rather than focusing on his earlier, more popular works such as The Glass Menagerie, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Streetcar Named Desire and Night of the Iguana, essays in Kolin’s book address Williams’s later plays, which include Seven Descents of Myrtle, Bar of a Tokyo Hotel, Small Craft Warnings, Red Devil Battery Sign, Clothes for a Summer Hotel, and the first essay written on Williams’s still unpublished play, A House Not Meant to Stand.

“With the exception of Small Craft Warnings, most of the later plays had very limited or no Broadway runs,” said Kolin. “This book is the first one to look at Williams’s accomplishments apart from simple autobiographical readings and judges the plays on their own merits.… Some represented the theatre of the absurd, some were post-modern memory plays, some were theological inquiries, and some focused on Williams and contemporary art.”

The professor said Williams, a native of Columbus, Miss., was a prolific writer who penned more than 80 full-length plays during his lifetime, most of them written from 1961-1983. He acted in one of his plays only once, playing the role of the drunken “Doc” in Small Craft Warnings. A photo of Williams in that role graces the front cover of Undiscovered Country.

“I think he wanted to become one with his script,” Kolin said of Williams’s lone venture onto the stage.

Other contributors to the book include Annette J. Saddik, Michael Paller, Allean Hale, Una Chaudhuri, Gene D. Phillips, Terri Smith Ruckel, Felicia Hardison Londré, Robert F. Gross, Robert Bray, Verna Foster, George W. Crandell, Norma Jenckes, James Fisher and Thomas Keith.

A widely respected authority on Williams’s plays, Kolin has published four other books on the playwright. He also has published more than 20 books and 180 articles on Shakespeare, Edward Albee, David Rabe, contemporary American theatre history, and business and technical writing. He is the general editor for the Routledge Shakespeare Criticism series and is founding co-editor of Studies in American Drama, 1945-Present.

Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams, 1920-1945 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; Paperback, $21.95, ISBN: 081121527X)

Publication dates: November 2000 (Hardcover edition), September 2002 (Paperback edition)

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.

The 16th Mississippi InfantryThe 16th Mississippi Infantry: Civil War Letters and Reminiscences

Edited by Robert G. Evans

University Press of Mississippi (Hardcover, $40.00, ISBN: 1578064864)

Publication date: November 2002

Description from the publisher:

Words and memories of Mississippi men who fought the major campaigns of the Civil War.

They fought in the Shenandoah campaign that blazed Stonewall Jackson’s reputation. They fought in the Seven Days’ Battles and at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg, in the Wilderness campaign, and at Spotsylvania. At the surrender they were beside General Robert E. Lee in Appomattox. From the beginning of the war to its very end the men of the Sixteenth Mississippi endured.

In this collection of their letters and their memories, both historians and Civil War buffs will find the fascinating words of these common soldiers in one of the most notable units in the Army of Northern Virginia.

Gathered and available here for the first time, the writings in this anthology include diary entries, letters, and reminiscences from average Mississippi men who fought in the war’s most extraordinary battles. Chronologically arranged, the documents depict the pace and progress of the war. Emerging from their words are flesh-and-blood soldiers who share their courage and spirit, their love of home and family, and their loneliness, fears, and campaign trials.

From the same camp come letters that say, “Our troops are crazy to meet” the enemy and, “It is not much fun hearing the balls and shells a-coming.” Soldiers write endearingly to wives, earnestly to fathers, longingly to mothers, and wistfully to loved ones. With wit and dispatch they report on crops and land, Virginia hospitality, camp rumors and chicanery, and encounters, both humorous and hostile, with the Yankee enemy.

Many letters convey a yearning for home and loved ones, closing with such phrases as “Write just as soon as you get this.” Though the trials of war seemed beyond the limits of human endurance, letter writing created a lifeline to home and helped men persevere. So eager was Jesse Ruebel Kirkland to keep in touch with his beloved Lucinda that he penned, “I am on my horse writing on the top of my hat just having met the mail carrier.”

Robert G. Evans is a judge of the Thirteenth Circuit Court of the State of Mississippi. He lives in Raleigh, Mississippi.

Lost Landmarks of MississippiLost Landmarks of Mississippi

By Mary Carol Miller

University Press of Mississippi (Hardcover, $35.00, ISBN: 1578064759)

Publication date: November 2002

Description from the publisher:

A guide to historic buildings lost to neglect, flames, “progress,” and bulldozers.

Mississippi’s architectural heritage is one of columns and capitals, most readily envisioned in the great mansions of Natchez and Columbus. But for every Stanton Hall or Waverly, there was an equally memorable structure built for law, worship, or education.

Antebellum Mississippians expressed their pride in their state and communities by erecting elegant Greek Revival schools and churches that rivaled those in Charleston and Boston. Even the darker side of life brought out the creativity of the state’s architects and carpenters, shown in the grim visage of the old State Penitentiary and the graceful lines of the Insane Asylum.

As with the mansions of the Cotton Kingdom, many of Mississippi’s landmark buildings have been lost over the years, victims of war, fire, neglect, or decay. Sprawling Gulf Coast hotels rose, prospered, and disappeared. Spas overflowed for decades with revelers, then vanished as their “healing waters” lost their cachet. Huge college buildings were pressed into service as Civil War hospitals, and several were destroyed in the process. Courthouses, the visible symbol of legitimacy for so many young towns, often suffered the same fate. Those landmark structures that survived the war were gradually replaced with more modern edifices, and economic shifts doomed factories, hotels, and even colleges.

Lost Landmarks of Mississippi reviews dozens of these forgotten buildings, capturing their beauty in rare black-and-white photographs and telling the stories of their place in Mississippi history.

Mary Carol Miller is the author of Lost Mansions of Mississippi (University Press of Mississippi) and Written in the Bricks. She lives in Tupelo, Mississippi.

AUTHOR EVENTS: Book Signings, Readings, and Appearances

Feb. 26: Barnard Observatory lecture hall, The University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi, 12:00 p.m.

Brown Bag Lunch and lecture: A reading by Shay Youngblood, the John and Renee Grisham visiting writer-in-residence at the University of Mississippi. Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture,

March 19: Barnard Observatory lecture hall, The University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi, 12:00 p.m.

Brown Bag Lunch and Lecture: “The Artistic Passionate Eye of Eudora Welty,” by Katherine Wiener, a Jackson scholar. Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture,

If you know of upcoming literary events by or about Mississippi writers, please let us know by writing us at 


Mississippi writers nominated for Southeast Booksellers Association awards

Several Mississippi writers have been nominated for the Southeast Booksellers Association 2003 Book Awards. In the fiction category, two of the six books nominated are by Mississippi writers: The Little Friend, by Donna Tartt, and The Heaven of Mercury, by Brad Watson. In the children’s literature category, Laurie Parker was nominated for The Turtle Saver. And in the nonfiction category, a book by Robert Gordon takes as its subject a legendary Mississippi musician: Can’t Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters.

The purpose of the five-year-old awards, says Wanda Jewell, SEBA’s executive director, “is to honor books of exceptional merit that are set in the South or by Southerners—preferably both.” The awards will be presented at an April 4 dinner during the SEBA Spring Seminar and Book Awards Celebration weekend at the Park Hotel in Charlotte, N.C. For more information, including ticket ordering and hotel reservations, go to the SEBA Web site at Winners will be
posted on the site on March 5.

Call for Papers: Faulkner in the World

Scholars from Europe, Asia, South America, Africa and Oceania are invited to submit their proposals for a compilation of international essays on the reception of William Faulkner’s fiction in specific national, political and historical contexts, to be published in 2004.

The purpose of this volume is to offer a multifaceted discussion of ways in which different political and cultural settings outside North America affect the reading of Faulkner’s fiction; in other words, to study not only the impact of his fiction on different cultural contexts worldwide, but also the impact of those same contexts on the reading of Faulkner; how different worldviews frame and inform his artistic production. History and memory, national imaginations, cultural difference and
cultural affinity are the suggested themes for the critical analyses to be gathered.

Finished papers (no longer than 6000 words, MLA style) should be submitted to:
Paula Mesquita (University of Coimbra)
Rua Diogo de Castilho, 12 r-c
Celas 3000-140 Coimbra

The deadline for submission is 30 September 2003.

New fan web site on Charlaine Harris

One of our readers has informed us of a new web site on mystery writer Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampires series. Visit the site, “Sookie Stackhouse,” online at


The following events are planned for the coming weeks and months. You may wish to begin planning now to attend or participate.

March 25, 2003

Poetry Reading by Andrew Hudgins, Bondurant Hall Auditorium, The University of Mississippi campus, in Oxford.

March 26-30, 2003

Seventeenth Annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, New Orleans, Louisiana. For information, visit their web site at

April 10-13, 2003

Oxford Conference for the Book, Oxford, Mississippi.

July 20-24, 2003

30th Annual Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference, The University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi. Information and registration forms available at

If you know of additional news items for this newsletter or if you have suggestions, please write us at

For more information about events in the Oxford and University of Mississippi community, see the Ole Miss Community Calendar:

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