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.
Sherwood Bonner, author of the novel Like Unto Like
(1878), was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi. (Feb. 26)
1926: The novel Soldiers Pay, by William
Faulkner (his first), was published by Boni & Liveright. (Feb.
Faulkner published Lizard's in Jamshyds Courtyard
in the Saturday Evening Post. (Feb. 27)
story Old Mr. Grenada was accepted for publication by the
Southern Review, which appears as Old Mr. Marblehall
in A Curtain of Green. (Feb. 22)
1941: Mary J. Turner, who publishes horror fiction under the pen
name Shannon Riley,
was born near Ripley, Mississippi. (Feb. 27)
1943: Noel Polk
was born in Picayune, Mississippi. (Feb. 23)
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.
NEWS about MISSISSIPPI WRITERS
University Press and Bookfriends
transform booksale to create Bookfriends Super Sale
February 19, 2002
JACKSON, Miss. The traditional University
Press of Mississippi “Dirt Cheap Book Sale” will transform into the “Bookfriends
Super Sale” and add select new titles and limited editions to the sale tables.
“The Bookfriends Super Sale” will be held February
22-24 in Jackson at the Education & Research Center, 3825 Ridgewood Road, Universities
Center, Room 4-1. Friday hours will be from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. Saturday hours
will be 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. And Sunday hours will be from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.
A Bookfriends only “Preview Party” will be held
Thursday, February 21, from 5-7 p.m. For more information on the preview party
and how to join Bookfriends, the public support group for the University Press
of Mississippi, call (601) 432-6205.
The change from “Dirt Cheap” to “Super Sale”
is not in name only. This year the “Bookfriends Super Sale” gives the public
the chance to nab super discounts on new releases and limited and first editions
signed by Ellen Douglas, Birney
Imes, Beth Henley, Lynn Green
Root, Elizabeth Spencer,
Charlotte Capers, and Patti
Carr Black. Limited editions of Willie
Morris’s My Mississippi will be on sale as well as some signed first
editions of books by other authors. There will also be a “Buck a Book” grab
bag of hardcover classics on sale for one dollar per book.
“This is a chance to take a much anticipated
event and enhance it with superb deals on new releases,” said Steve Yates of
the University Press. “And it is a chance for people to meet with Bookfriends
and see the kind of company the literary-minded can keep in Mississippi.”
Sherwood Bonner Sampler, 1869-1884: What a Bright, Educated, Witty,
Lively, Snappy Young Woman Can Say on a Variety of Topics.
Edited by Anne Razey Gowdy.
University of Tennessee Press (Hardcover, $42.00, ISBN: 1572330678)
Publication date: June 2000.
Born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, in 1849, Katharine
Sherwood Bonner showed great promise as a Southern storyteller whose
ability to recount insightfully life in her section predates the contributions
of more celebrated Deep South writers, including Joel Chandler Harris
and George Washington Cable. If she is remembered at all in surveys
of Southern letters, it is in that vein as yet another female
local colorist whose light shown briefly bright in a collection such
as Dialect Tales (1883), but was appropriately doused by the
public’s improving literary taste. Or she is alluded to because of personal
decisions sensational to Victorian America; she left her husband, pursued
a writing career in Boston (depositing her young daughter in the care
of family), served as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s amanuensis, and,
the rumor mills have had it ever since, possibly something more.
Anne Gowdy’s masterfully edited volume, A Sherwood Bonner Sampler,
1869-1884, counteracts such hasty judgments and superficial controversies,
in part by suggesting that Bonner is one of a number of 19th-century
writers, particularly women, whose reliance on periodicals as the central
outlet for their work has meant that much of their uncollected material
has been unavailable to modern audiences. Consequently they have been
evaluated critically on a narrow range of their literary production,
the result being a limited understanding of their interests and skills.
The availability in this volume of much of Bonner’s previously uncollected
work means that Gowdy can authoritatively claim that “it is clearly
an oversimplification, in fact, a misrepresentation, to continue to
identify [Bonner] solely or even primarily as a writer of local color
Immediately obvious, from even a quick perusal of A Sherwood Bonner
Sampler, is the lively variety of Bonner’s writings; a more careful
examination suggests their genuine literary significance. Now we can
read not only her periodically anthologized “Gran’mammy Tales,” but
also some of her nonfiction pieces: lyrical verse, short fiction for
children, experimental romances, and wickedly satirical poetry, most
particularly her lampoon of Boston’s elite “Radical Club,” a publication
for which the city’s leading intellectual figures subsequently ostracized
her. In whatever mode she wrote, we come to see Bonner through this
volume as an author who produced fiction often influenced by her own
struggles as woman, wife, and female artist. Gowdy thoughtfully considers
Bonner as a Southern woman in transition, one loyal to the images of
womanhood her Southern upbringing had inculcated, but one shaped as
well by her exposure to the expanded opportunities for women her cosmopolitan
rovings beyond the physical and mental boundaries of Holly Springs,
Mississippi, had given her. As such, Bonner provides in her life and
in the subtext of her fiction an early example of the redefinitions
Southern women worked to their roles in the postbellum era, as male
writers were simultaneously enshrining Southern white womanhood as the
eternal flame of the Lost Cause.
Perhaps most significant to understanding and appreciating Bonner’s
literary range are her travel letters (1874-1876), written first from
New England back to the Memphis Avalanche and later from Europe
to readers of both the Avalanche and the Boston Times.
Here the persona “Sherwood Bonner” takes shape; the result is a wit
every bit as caustic as Mark Twain’s, but a wit who looks at the world
through distinctly female and Southern eyes. No person
or event is too highly esteemed for Bonner’s quick and comic assessment.
She recounts an interview with Ralph Waldo Emerson (“Mr. Emerson’s direct
influence then, while . . . extraordinary, is a limited one”) and an
audience with the Pope (“We got up early in the morning, and practiced
for the coming performance”). Her retellings of both are laced with
an offhand irreverence that will lead readers to appreciate her as what
has traditionally, but mistakenly, been thought that rarest of finds
in 19th-century literature a funny woman.
But although Sherwood Bonner is clearly the focus of this volume, she
is not the only writer whose skill makes it a valuable book. Anne Gowdy’s
lengthy introduction to the selections usefully supplements Hubert H.
McAlexander’s recently reissued biography of Bonner, The Prodigal
Daughter, by surveying the range of Bonner’s work (beyond just the
stories she actually reprints and including references to the two works
of long fiction not excerpted here) and locating it within the context
of postbellum American and Southern literature. The volume’s bibliography
is surely the most complete listing available of works by and about
Bonner and of secondary material related to literary study of the period.
But most invaluable are Gowdy’s meticulous footnotes that identify-particularly
in Bonner’s journalistic pieces-contextual and literary references otherwise
lost to modern readers. Gowdy’s notes are a treasure trove of hard-to-pin-down
identifications and links to secondary material that a scholar of the
19th century might read merely for her own edification. Gowdy is to
be congratulated on a job impeccably done.
By Paul Ruffin
Louisiana Literature Press (Hardcover, $26.95, ISBN: 0945083033)
Publication date: January 2002
Set on the Mississippi Coast and New Orleans, Pompeii Man is
the story of the descent of an innocent couple into a hell of fear and
violence, a world that neither of them could have imagined in the Big
Easy. The reader watches in horror as Stafford loses his wife to a terrifying
night of assault and rape in the dark heart of New Orleans, manages
to get her back home, then loses her again, perhaps forever, except
for the emergence of a detective who takes a personal interest in the
case and driven by imagination and determination sets off to free her
and bring down the drug lord who holds her captive.
AUTHOR EVENTS: Book Signings, Readings,
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.
March 1: Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi, 5 p.m. David Galef, University
of Mississippi professor of English and creative writing, signs and
reads from his new story collection, Laugh Track.
If you know of upcoming readings and appearances by Mississippi
writers, please let us know by writing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 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
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: email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about events in the Oxford and University, Mississippi
Community, see the Ole Miss Community Calendar: www.olemiss.edu/calendar/