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Welcome to the Mississippi Writers Page Newsletter for April 25-May 1, 2003

In this issue:


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

1906: Entomologist Ross Elliot Hutchins was born in Ruby, Montana. (April 30)

1910: Philosopher W. T. Jones was born in Natchez, Mississippi. (April 29)

1914: Historian May Spencer Ringold was born in Winona, Mississippi. (May 1)

1925: William Faulkner published “The Kingdom of God” in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. (April 26)

1927: William Faulkner’s novel Mosquitoes was published. (April 30)

1928: Children’s writer Jean Burt Polhamus was born in Mississippi. (April 30)

1929: English professor Ernest Claude Bufkin, Jr., was born in Monticello, Mississippi. (April 27)

1930: William Faulkner published “A Rose for Emily” in Forum. (April 30)

1935: The novel Pylon, by William Faulkner, was published by Harrison Smith and Robert Haas. (April 25)

1940: Novelist Margaret-Love Denman was born in Oxford, Mississippi. (April 25)

1943: Cookbook author Mary Lou McCracken was born in Louisville, Mississippi. (April 26)

1945: In the novel Clifford’s Blues, by John A. Williams, the diary kept by the title character, who is a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camp Dachau, ends, the same day that the camp was liberated by American forces. (April 28)

1945: Richard Wright’s Black Boy was the number one bestseller in the nation. Later, U.S. Senator Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi would denounce the book as obscene. (April 29)

1946: William Faulkner published “Appendix, Compson, 1699-1945” in The Portable Faulkner. (April 29)

1957: The Town, a novel by William Faulkner and volume two of the Snopes trilogy, was published by Random House. (May 1)

1973: “The Grassroot Woman,” a one-act play by T. J. Whitaker, was first performed in Vicksburg, Mississippi, at Baltes Gym. (April 27)

1983: Journalist Turner Catledge died after suffering a stroke in New Orleans. (April 27)


Film version of John Grisham’s ‘A Painted House’ to air on CBS April 27

April 22, 2003

Fans of novelist John Grisham’s semi-autobiographical novel A Painted House have a reason to tune in to CBS-TV on Sunday, April 27, when a filmed adaptation of the novel premieres to a nationwide audience.

Unlike most of Grisham’s fiction, the novel features no lawyers, courtroom antics, or legalistic maneuverings. Instead, it focuses on rural cotton farms, baseball, and migrant workers of northeast Arkansas during the 1950s. Grisham grew up in Arkansas in the 1950s, and he applied much of what he experienced there in this decidedly different change of pace from his bestselling legal thrillers.

“This is my favorite book,” Grisham told USA Today. “The story was written as fiction, but there is a lot of family history in there.… The stories [depicted in the novel] have been around forever, ever since I was a little kid. A lot of the stories were just old family tales, handed down from a father and grandfather, both with a great sense of exaggeration. So I don’t know what’s true and what’s not.”

The book was first published in serial form in The Oxford American in 2000, a magazine for which Grisham was then publisher and which was based at that time in Oxford, Mississippi, Grisham’s part-time home. Grisham later sold his share of the magazine and it moved its base of operation to Little Rock, Arkansas. The novel, meanwhile, was published in book form in 2001 and became a bestseller.

The novel is the coming-of-age story of a seven-year old farm boy, Luke Chandler, who lives in the cotton fields with his parents and grandparents in a house that has never been painted. Set during the cotton harvest of 1952, the story brings together three distinct groups of people: the Chandler family, a family of Ozarks hill people, and Mexican migrants who are hired to harvest the cotton crop before it is ruined by floods.

The film adaptation of the novel was filmed in large measure in the towns of Lepanto and Clarkedale, Arkansas, about 30 miles from Black Oak, where Grisham grew up, on a farm much like the one depicted in the novel. At Grisham’s request, the film premiered on April 14 at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

The film stars Scott Glenn, Melinda Dillon, and Logan Lerman as Luke.

The Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation of A Painted House airs on CBS on April 27 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.


Related Links
‘Painted House’ freshens the past,” USA Today (16 April 2003)
A Painted House” — information about the world premiere of the film at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
John Grisham’s A Painted House,” from the CBS-TV web site.

Do you have a news item about a Mississippi writer? Please send your information to


The following articles were recently added to the Writer Listings:

NEW BOOKS by Mississippi Writers

Rescuing Jesus from the Christians Rescuing Jesus from the Christians

By Clayton Sullivan

Trinity Press International (Paperback, $16.00, ISBN: 1563383802)

Publication date: April 2002

Description from Booklist:

Sullivan says he writes “for reflective laypersons who are not satisfied with the belief system they encounter in orthodox Christianity” rather than for academics or clergy. It appears, however, that he writes for laypersons who have just begun their reflection, with no knowledge of biblical scholarship and no more knowledge of theological tradition than might be derived by an uncritical ear from Sunday morning sermons in an evangelical congregation. Since Sullivan comes out of a Southern Baptist tradition and writes at least in part as a response to that denomination’s fundamentalist turn, dissatisfied members of that tradition may be the audience he really has in mind. Readers will encounter here a rudimentary summary of historical Jesus research, an introduction to the longstanding distinction between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith, and an invitation to participate in a Christianity measured more by its social engagement than by its theology or its attitude toward the Bible. —Steven Schroeder. Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.

Jesus and the Sweet Pilgrim Baptist Church Jesus & the Sweet Pilgrim Baptist Church: A Fable

By Clayton Sullivan

Reprint edition; first published 1992

University Press of Mississippi (Paperback, $15.00, ISBN: 1578063329)

Publication date: April 2002

Description from the publisher:

A Mississippi fable of divine visitation, jealousy, murder, and salvation.

For a long time nothing much has changed for the poor black congregation of the Sweet Pilgrim Baptist Church of Clearwater, Mississippi. Eastertime has dutifully rolled around again. The azaleas are in bloom.

And then off in the distance comes a wondrous music—a music that thunders throughout the sky with sweet majesty. It brings in its trail a celestial cloud and signals a heavenly visit: Jesus and Simon Peter have come to town. But they are women. Jewish women—well dressed and built like runway models, to be exact. “At times I’ve come to earth in the form of a man. But this time I’ve come as a woman. Is something wrong with me appearing as a woman?” Ms. Jesus asks the surprised churchgoers.

In short order, this unexpected turn of events becomes the norm. Jesus and Simon Peter drink chablis with the locals; arrange for oil drilling on black families’ tiny lots; make some folks rich and a few bitterly envious; get caught up in civil rights matters; and figure in a suspense-filled series of events that bring joy and prosperity, hatred and murder, and, as a final surprise, redemption.

When Clayton Sullivan first published Jesus and the Sweet Pilgrim Baptist Church with Doubleday in 1992, many sang his little fable’s praises. Morgan Freeman called the book “A delightful, if reverent, romp up and down the aisles of a Mississippi Baptist congregation. Fun!”

Eugenia Price said, “That Jesus the Carpenter of Nazareth was the Son of God occurred to almost no one until coarse and uncouth people as well as legalistic, brainy, religious types began to see Him live, act and speak in a way unlike anyone else. Whether they spoke in vulgarities or in pious-sounding platitudes, people were taken off guard by the fact that He was a common workman, homeless, lived simply—even crudely—did and said startling, unorthodox things that shook people to their roots, as in Clayton Sullivan’s remarkable fable, Jesus and the Sweet Pilgrim Baptist Church. This is a fable. No one is claiming that Jesus might come again as a well-dressed Jewish woman. So, put aside your prejudices and read it. The Gospel is here in all its simple, shining power.”

Clayton Sullivan is a retired Baptist minister living in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He is a professor emeritus of philosophy and religion at the University of Southern Mississippi.

AUTHOR EVENTS: Book Signings, Readings, and Appearances

April 30: Barnard Observatory lecture hall, The University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi, 12 p.m.

Brown Bag Lunch & Lecture: “Darkness on the Delta: A Black & White History in 8MM from the Pepper Collection of the Southern Media Archive,” by Margaret Pepper Grantham, Oxford librarian. 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 


Yoknapatawpha Summer Writers Workshop

The University of Mississippi is hosting a four-day writing workshop June 26-29, 2003. The program will feature workshops and lectures on craft, book signings and readings by such writers as Barry Hannah, Tom Franklin, David Galef, Cynthia Shearer, Beth Ann Fennelly, and Ann-Fisher Wirth. Tuition for the workshop is $395 per person and includes workshops, lectures, panel discussions, readings, and one evening reception. The registration deadline is Friday, June 6, 2003. For more information, visit the workshop web site,

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

July 20-24, 2003

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

October 16, 2003

Elmore Leonard, author of more than 30 novels (including Bandits, Get Shorty, and Tishomingo Blues), numerous film and television productions, essays and commentaries, will read and talk about his career. For more information on Leonard, visit Elmore Leonard’s new book, When the Women Come Out to Dance, is to be published in November 2003. Johnson Commons Ballroom, The University of Mississippi, 7 p.m. Sponsored by the John and Renee Grisham Visiting Writers Series and the Department of English at the University of Mississippi.

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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