Thursday, November 8, 2012

UPM Remembers Ellen Douglas

UPM author Ellen Douglas died yesterday at her home in Jackson. She was 91.

Douglas was of course the pen name of Josephine Ayres Haxton. Her novel Apostles of Light was a 1973 National Book Award nominee. 

Douglas is the author of several other books including A Family's Affairs, Where the Dreams Cross, Apostles of Light, A Lifetime Burning, The Rock Cried Out, and two collections of essays. Many of her novels have been listed as New York Times Best of the Year. She is also the recipient of the 2000 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. 

Recently, UPM brought back into print three Douglas novels: A Lifetime Burning, Where the Dreams Cross, and The Rock Cried Out (a book Walker Percy called her best to date at the time of its publication). Not only are these titles back in print, but for the first time electronic editions are available. 

In 2004, UPM published a collection of Douglas essays – Witnessing. Before publication, UPM acquisitions editor Walter Biggins, a former writing student of Ellen Douglas, was tasked with sorting out which pieces to include in the collection. As he recalls: 

"All the essays for Witnessing were written, but Ellen needed help collating, selecting, and organizing. Seetha Srinivasan [UPM Director Emeritus] handed me some loose leafs of paper: 'Read this. Tell me what you think.'

"Somehow, she, Seetha, and I whittled her essays down to a manageable collection. At a signing/reading for the book a year later, she remembered me well enough to inscribe the following on my copy of Witnessing: “To Walter with thanks. All good wishes, Jo, a.k.a. Ellen Douglas.” 

"By example and in her teaching, she taught me the courage needed to make art of my own experience, to face the fears I have about our society and my uneasy place in it, and to be willing to write material that doesn’t neatly resolve and that has tensions don’t just dissolve into emotionally appropriate order."

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