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Welcome to the Mississippi Writers Page Newsletter for Feb. 15-21, 2002.

In this issue:


THIS WEEK in MISSISSIPPI LITERARY HISTORY

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

Year:

1861: Jefferson Davis, a former U.S. senator from Mississippi, was inaugurated the first and only president of the Confederate States of America in Montgomery, Alabama, a month prior to Abraham Lincoln's inauguration in Washington, D.C. (Feb. 18)

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

1896: Pearl Rivers died in an influenza epidemic in New Orleans. (Feb. 15)

1925: William Faulkner published “Damon and Pythias Unlimited,” in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. (Feb. 15)

1935: Ellen Gilchrist was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi. (Feb. 20)

1938: The Unvanquished, a novel by William Faulkner, was published by Random House. (Feb. 15)

1944: Richard Ford was born in Jackson, Mississippi. (Feb. 16)

1956: Tennessee Williams received notification from the Group Theatre in New York City that he had been awarded $100 for three one-act plays under the title American Blues which included “Moony's Kid Don't Cry,” “The Dark Room,” and “The Case of the Crushed Petunias.” Williams had listed his birth year as 1914 in order to qualify for the contest limited to those aged 25 and under. He was actually 28 years old at the time. (Feb. 20)

1957: William Faulkner went to the University of Virginia for his second semester as writer-in-residence. (Feb. 15)

1984: Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings was published by Harvard University Press in Cambridge. (Feb. 20)

2002: Publication of Hunting Season, by Nevada Barr. (Feb. 18)

 


NEWS about MISSISSIPPI WRITERS

Book conference follows Larry Brown’s short stories to the screen

February 13, 2002

By Lucy Schultze

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Feb. 13, 2002, edition of The Oxford Eagle.

The Ninth Oxford Conference for the Book will follow one story’s journey from page to screen as it features a special screening of the new movie Big Bad Love.

The film, which premieres this weekend in New York, is based on a collection of short stories by local author Larry Brown and stars Arliss Howard and Debra Winger.

“Larry Brown is one of our great Oxford writers, and he has been involved with the book conference since it started in 1993,” said Dr. Ann Abadie, associate director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.

“We are thrilled for him that the movie is coming out at this time, and delighted that we in Oxford and Lafayette County will be able to share it with all the visitors who come to this literary center.”

Oxford Mayor Richard Howorth has been working with representatives at IFC Films to plan the event since November, when he attended a screening of the film in New York. Because the film was scheduled to be released in April, he arranged the screening to coincide with the conference.

Celebrating books, writing and reading, the annual conference also explores the practical concerns of those involved in the literary arts, such as literacy, freedom of expression and the book trade itself.

This year’s conference is dedicated to Mississippi playwright Tennessee Williams, and will include discussions on his life, career and influence. The program will also include readings from Williams’ plays, and a presentation of his one-act play The Gnadiges Fraulien.

The screening for Big Bad Love will be held on the first evening of the conference, April 11, at 8 p.m. in Fulton Chapel. Beyond the 375 tickets allotted for conference attendees, an additional 500 free tickets will be available through the university’s central ticket office.

Abadie said a panel discussion with Howard, Winger and Brown will precede the movie screening, with a reception following to honor the stars and author.

Brown, an Oxford native and former city firefighter, has published four novels, two essay collections and two story collections including Big Bad Love.

The film, which is rated R for language and some sexuality, explores the lives of struggling Mississippi writer Leon Barlow (Howard) and his ex-wife Marilyn (Winger). Also starring in the film are Paul Le Mat, Rosanna Arquette and Angie Dickinson.

Big Bad Love marks Howard’s debut as a director; he and brother James also wrote the screenplay for the film. It also marks Winger’s first film since 1995, when she vowed to leave movies for good. Howard, her husband, convinced her to return to the screen as his co-star.

Filming for Big Bad Love took place in Oxford and Holly Springs in the fall of 2000, and the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2001.

Ninth annual book conference to focus on Tennessee Williams

February 14, 2002

Since its inauguration in April 1993, the Oxford Conference for the Book has celebrated books, writing, and reading and has also dealt with practical concerns on which the literary arts depend, including literacy, freedom of expression, and the book trade itself.

The 2002 program, scheduled for April 11-14 at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, is the ninth in the series and will consist of readings, lectures, and discussions on current issues affecting book culture.

This year’s conference is dedicated to Tennessee Williams (1911-1983). Drama critic Mel Gusso and literary scholar W. Kenneth Holditch will discuss the life and career of this great American playwright. Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Paula Vogel will comment on Williams’s work and his impact on her own writing. There will also be readings of selections from Williams’s plays and a presentation of his one-act play The Gnadiges Fraulein.

Another special event of the conference will be a gathering of authors who have served as John and Renée Grisham Southern Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi. Tom Franklin, current Grisham Writer in Residence, and seven of the eight former holders of the visiting position will participate in the conference: Tim Gautreaux, Mary Hood, Randall Kenan, Mark Richard, Darcey Steinke, Claude Wilkinson, and Steve Yarbrough. The gathering will celebrate the University’s new Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing.

The conference will celebrate American Poetry Month with readings by poets Beth Ann Fennelly, Natasha Tretheway, and William Trowbridge. The Young Authors Fair, sponsored in collaboration with the Junior Auxiliary of Oxford, will bring an outstanding children’s author to local schools and to the conference.

The conference is open to the public without charge. To assure seating space, those interested in attending should preregister. Reservations and advanced payment are required for four optional events honoring conference speakers: a cocktail buffet on Thursday at Isom Place ($50 per person), a cocktail party on Friday at Off Square Books ($25 per person), a country dinner on Saturday at Taylor Catfish ($25 per person), and a lunch on Sunday ($15 per person). All proceeds for the cocktail buffet on Thursday and the cocktail party on Friday will go toward supporting the conference and are tax deductible. Participants are invited to make additional tax- deductible contributions to help support the conference.

For more information on the conference, including a downloadable registration form, visit the conference web site at www.olemiss.edu/depts/south/ocb/.


Do you have a news item about a Mississippi writer? Please send your information to mwp@olemiss.edu.


NEW FEATURES in the MISSISSIPPI WRITERS PAGE

The following article was recently added to the Writer Listings:


NEW BOOKS from or about Mississippi

A Multitude of Sins: Stories
Stories by Richard Ford
Knopf (Hardcover, $25.00, ISBN: 0375412123)
Publication date: February 2002

Description from Booklist:

Ford’s novel Independence Day (1995) won both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Here, in 10 short stories, he meticulously explores love and intimacy, particularly the way people often fail to meet the challenges of truly connecting with their partners; 7 out of the 10 stories deal with infidelity.

Yet even in the passionate liaisons forged outside of marriage, regret is a common theme. In the powerful “Abyss,” Residential Agent of the Year Frances Bilandic, married to a man suffering from a terminal degenerative disease, enters a tumultuous affair with fellow realtor Howard Cameron. Her impulsive decision to ditch a seminar and take a side trip to see the Grand Canyon has unforeseen consequences: “What had been wrong with her? He wasn’t interesting or witty or nice or deep or pretty. And up here, where everything was natural and clean and pristine, you saw it.”

Even in the beautifully written “Dominion,” what passes for optimism in a Ford short story is the realization by a woman on the brink of divorce that “life shouldn’t be always trying, trying, trying. You should live most of it without trying so hard.” This is grim, unsettling fiction that radiates emotional pain from every precisely written line.

—Joanne Wilkinson. Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.

Conversations with Richard Ford
Edited by Huey Guagliardo
University Press of Mississippi (Hardcover, $46.00, ISBN: 1578064058; Paperback, $18.00, ISBN: 1578064066)
Publication date: November 2001

Description from the publisher:

“If loneliness is the disease, the story is the cure.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Ford is a leading figure among American writers of the post-World War II generation. His novel The Sportswriter (1986), along with its sequel Independence Day (1995) — the first novel to win both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award in the same year — made Frank Bascombe, Ford’s suburban Everyman, as much a part of the American literary landscape as John Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom. With three other novels, a critically acclaimed volume of short stories, and a trilogy of novellas to his credit, Ford’s reputation and his place in the canon is certainly secure.

In Conversations with Richard Ford, the first collection of this author’s interviews and profiles, editor Huey Guagliardo has gathered together twenty-eight revealing conversations spanning a quarter of a century.

These show that Ford is a writer of paradoxes. He was born in the South, but unlike many southern-born writers of his generation he eschews writing set in just one region. When his first novel, A Piece of My Heart (1976), was so often compared to William Faulkner’s work, Ford disdained setting another novel in his native South.

A recurring question that Ford addresses in these interviews is his view of the role of place in both his fiction and his life. “I need to be certain that I have a new stimulus,” he says, explaining his traveling lifestyle. Not wishing to be confined by place in his writing any more than in his own life, Ford rejects the narrow concerns of regionalism, serving notice in several interviews that he is interested in exploring the entire country, that his goal is “to write a literature that is good enough for America.”

Ford also discusses the broader themes of his work, such as the struggle to overcome loneliness, the consoling potential of language, and the redeeming quality of human affection. This American writer talks extensively about his abiding devotion to language and of his profound belief in the power of narrative to forge human connections. Words, Ford says, can “narrow that space Emerson calls the infinite remoteness that separates people.”

The interviews also provide rare glimpses into the personal life of this intriguing and complex man. Ford discusses his fondness for motorcycles, Brittany spaniels, bird hunting, fishing, and Bruce Springsteen. He also talks about his reputation as a “tough guy,” shares his political views, and admits to being “drawn to places where life is a little near the edge.”

Huey Guagliardo is a professor and coordinator of English at Louisiana State University at Eunice. He edited Perspectives on Richard Ford (University Press of Mississippi).


AUTHOR EVENTS: Book Signings, Readings, and Appearances

Feb. 15: Lemuria, 202 Banner Hall, Jackson, Mississippi, 5:30 p.m.
James McBride will sign Miracle at St. Anne. www.lemuriabooks.com

Feb. 18: Lemuria, 202 Banner Hall, Jackson, Mississippi, 5:30 p.m.
Nevada Barr will sign her new book, Hunting Season. For more information, call (601) 366-7619 or visit their web site, www.lemuriabooks.com.

Feb. 19: Lemuria, 202 Banner Hall, Jackson, Mississippi
John Grisham will sign copies of his novel The Summons. Visit the Lemuria web site for details on this event, www.lemuriabooks.com

Feb. 20: Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi, 5:00 p.m.
Philip Dray, a professor of African-American History at the New School,will sign and speak about his new book At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, in which he traces the history of this practice — its sources, methods, judicial response — and examines the social environment which allowed this behavior to flourish.

Feb. 20: Lemuria, 202 Banner Hall, Jackson, Mississippi
Robert Olen Butler will sign and read from his new novel, Fair Warning; signing at 5:30, reading at 7 p.m. For more information, visit the Lemuria web site, www.lemuriabooks.com.

Feb. 21: Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi
Thacker Mountain Radio welcomes Robert Olen Butler, who will read from his new novel, Fair Warning. For more information, visit the Thacker Mountain web site, www.thackermountain.com.

Feb. 23: Lemuria, 202 Banner Hall, Jackson, Mississippi, 1:00 p.m.
Philip Dray will sign his new book At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America. www.lemuriabooks.com.

If you know of upcoming readings and appearances by Mississippi writers, please let us know by writing us at mwp@olemiss.edu.


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. It’s 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.
www.ThackerMountain.com

March 27, 2002
Edward Cohen returns to Square Books in Oxford to read from his book The Peddler’s 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

Complete details are now available at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture web site, www.olemiss.edu/depts/south/obc/.

Interhostel: “Views from the South: Literature, History, and Art”
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: cstudies@olemiss.edu

April 27, 2002
Children’s book writer Laurie Parker will give a reading at Square Books in Oxford from her new book, The Turtle Saver. It’s 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 mwp@olemiss.edu.

For more information about events in the Oxford and University, Mississippi Community, see the Ole Miss Community Calendar:
www.olemiss.edu/calendar/

The Mississippi Writers Page is online at
www.olemiss.edu/mwp/


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