Posts Tagged ‘Mississippi’
September 25, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
From December 1921 until October 1924, William Faulkner enjoyed a famously disastrous tenure as the University of Mississippi’s postmaster. He’d arrive late, leave early, play bridge, and work on his fiction—all while losing mail or simply throwing it away. (“I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp,” he wrote in his brief, pungent resignation letter.)
During these years Faulkner wrote regularly for The Mississippian, the school newspaper. Of his contributions, the strangest and most apocryphal is the mock-advertisement above, for the Bluebird Insurance Co., which offered to indemnify students “against professors and other failures.” It goes on to discuss feet, heartbreak, and hollow logs, none of them very coherently.
Faulkner, minus the u, is listed as one of the company’s three presidents, and apparently it’s never been clear whether he helped write the ad or was named without consent. Whatever the case, in the weeks and months to follow, more ads for Bluebird appeared in The Mississippian and the Ole Miss annual. One of them took a (self-deprecating?) jab at Faulkner’s job performance: “It is a gross injustice to say that President Falkner has permanently retired in the Post Office. He merely takes temporary naps—during business hours.”
March 21, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- It’s World Poetry Day. Take time to remember the dissident poets in your life.
- Today in simulacrum news: fictional places that attract real tourists. (The Most Photographed Barn in America is not here, alas, though arguably that’s a real place which was then fictionalized, thus becoming more real.)
- “The national discussion of grammar and language is stuck in half-remembered dictates and daft shibboleths.”
- “I was curious about changes in the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, which I hadn’t visited for two decades … the room was silent save for a single whispered comment I heard from one museumgoer to another, ‘I didn’t know he was so poor.’” Mark Twain’s deep, abiding history with the Mississippi River.
- International Corporate Translation Goof of the Day: “Of all the available Chinese translations for ‘oracle’ as the name of one of the world’s largest and most advanced computer technology corporations, jiǎgǔwén 甲骨文 (‘oracle bone script’) is probably the least appropriate.”
June 27, 2013 | by Rosecrans Baldwin
The boy and the girl were engaged, driving to California, where the girl wanted to make costumes for the movies. The boy planned to study Native American archaeology; he was just out of the Navy. They were the sort of young people I felt accurate calling beautiful—good-looking, around twenty years old, in love. But it was more than that. The fact is, it’s sustaining, getting older, to meet young adults who are hopeful and naïve, just enough.
They had a car, a dog, a vision. But they didn’t have a book. Leaving New England, they’d heard about a certain book on NPR, and the girl thought it sounded just right. The boy said they’d find a copy on the road somewhere. They drove for days, heading south from New Hampshire: Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee. No book. The girl pressed. The boy promised. Bookstores don’t exactly dot the American highway in the grand manner of Sbarros. Finally, driving through Mississippi, seeing a sign for Oxford, the boy suggested they stop, stretch their legs, find the damn book. Oxford was a university town, there had to be a bookstore somewhere.
They parked in the tiny main square. A bookstore stood on the corner under a sign for Fortune’s Famous Ice Cream. The girl walked the dog, the boy went inside. He asked, Do you have this book?
We do, the clerk said. And there it was, right next to the register, a stack of them. The clerk said, Do you want a signed copy?
I guess so, the boy said.
Wait, but you do know the author was here tonight, right? He just did a reading, the clerk said after a moment. It was about seven P.M., the verge of dusk. The boy was confused. Suddenly, the clerk was pointing out the window, saying, Wait, that’s him going by right there.
No one really knows the value of book tours. Whether or not they’re good ideas, or if they improve book sales. I happen to think the author is the last person you’d want to talk to about a book; they hate it by that point, they’ve already moved on to a new lover. Besides, the author never knows what the book is about anyway. Read More »
August 8, 2012 | by Clyde Edgerton
The other night, in order to feel close to my friend Lewis “Buddy” Nordan, who recently died, I started rereading his novel Wolf Whistle, a story inspired by the murder of Emmett Till in 1954. (Buddy grew up in the Mississippi Delta near the place of the murder. He knew the murderers. He became friends with Emmett Till’s mother.)
After reading the opening chapter, I took my dog outside under the moonlight. I felt wrapped in Buddy’s language. The night was cool. The half-moon was bright enough to throw shadows. When my dog disappeared in the shadow of a cedar tree, I started sketching in my mind a few paragraphs of fiction about a boy and his dog. Minutes later, back inside, I had five paragraphs on paper, a novel opening, something I’d been seeking for months. I read it over. There in my sentences, besides the dog and the bright half-moon and shadows, I found an improbable gathering of nouns: frogs, the Battle of Fort Fisher, a flood plane, Bela Fleck, the planet Venus, and a set of plans for a freelance funeral militia. I had opened up to something. Both my opening up and the something were gifts made possible in large part by Buddy’s odd vision—a vision that allowed him to juxtapose thunderbolts and whispers, a vision on display here in his opening to chapter nine of Wolf Whistle, occurring after the murder at the center of the book:
From the eye that Solon’s bullet had knocked from its socket and that hung now upon the child’s moon-dark cheek in the insistent rain, the dead boy saw the world as if his seeing were accompanied by an eternal music, as living boys, still sleeping, in their safe beds, might hear singing from unexpected throats one morning when they wake up, the wind in a willow shade, bream bedding in the shallows of a lake …
The chapter continues from the perspective of the murdered boy’s eye.
February 20, 2012 | by Margaret Eby
There are certain towns that are forever linked with the authors who lived there. Oxford, Mississippi, is Faulkner land, parts of New Orleans’s Toulouse Street belong irrevocably to Tennessee Williams, and Monroeville, Alabama, is Harper Lee’s territory as surely as if it had been marked on the state map. If Jackson, Mississippi, had a patron saint, it would be Eudora Welty.
Miss Eudora, as native Jacksonites affectionately call her, was a fixture in the capital city of Mississippi from her childhood until her death in 2001. Her presence is still inescapable. Visit the Mayflower Café, off Capitol Street, and you’ll hear about Miss Eudora’s fondness for plate lunches of fried catfish and butter beans. Dig through the waist-high volumes at Choctaw Books and, with luck, you can come across a volume signed in Welty’s bunched and looping hand. Ask an alumnus of Belhaven University about Welty, and they’ll tell you how she used to keep the window of her bedroom open to listen to the music department practice, her head just visible in the top floor window as she sat at her typewriter
Author’s homes on public display tend to have a stuffy quality, all velvet ropes and militantly made beds. The assiduousness of the preservation drains the life from them, makes them seem impossibly antique. Welty’s house, a Tudor-style revival tucked into a thicket of pines, is almost unbearably welcoming. Visiting feels like an intrusion on her privacy. Read More »