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Welcome to the Mississippi Writers Page Newsletter for Feb. 22-28, 2002.

In this issue:


THIS WEEK in MISSISSIPPI LITERARY HISTORY

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

Year:

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: Katherine 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. 25)

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

1937: Eudora Welty’s 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.”

For more information, call (601) 432-6205 or visit the University Press web site, www.upress.state.ms.us.


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 Sherwood Bonner Sampler, 1869-1884A 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.

Editor’s note: This review by Kathryn McKee originally appeared in the Winter 2001 issue of The Southern Register, a newsletter published by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.

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 dialect fiction.”

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.

Pompeii ManPompeii Man
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, and Appearances

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 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 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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