It’s AUGUST, which means we are officially in count down mode as we prepare for the 2018 Mississippi Book Festival. Like last year, we asked our authors to answer a few questions about our state’s literary and cultural legacy. This is the first of three blogs posts in which we share their responses. Read below to find out their book recommendations, organizational tips, and which books they think should be required by every citizen in the state. For a full list of panelists attending the Festival and the schedule of events, click here.
are you reading right now?
Pearl Amelia McHaney, editor of Occasions: Selected Writings, Eudora Welty as Photographer, and A Writer's Eye: Collected Book Reviews, and author of A Tyrannous Eye: Eudora Welty's Nonfiction and Photographs: “I’m reading Ernest Hemingway’s letters (volumes 1–4 of a projected 17!), Baracoon: The Story of the Last ‘Black Cargo’ by Zora Neale Hurston and Lamb in His Bosom by Caroline Pafford Miller. The Darkest Child by Delores Phillips, The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson, and American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes are waiting impatiently on the table to be read next. (It’s summer when I try to read three books a week! I have grandchildren and teach Children’s and Young Adult Literature, so I can sneak in a YA or picture book to meet my quota—Reminds me, I am eager to meet Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright—Lola Dutch is a HUGE favorite of my grands!)”
William Dunlap, author of Dunlap: “On my nightstand are an amalgam of things—High Cotton: Four Seasons in the Mississippi Delta by Gerard Helferich, a University Press of Mississippi publication; a first-edition Random house copy of William Faulkner‘s The Reivers; Just Kids by Patti Smith; and a gift from the late Ron Bourn, Harry G. Frankfurt’s slim little volume called On Bullshit.
And in the studio I am listening to Neil Sheehan’s A Bright and Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam.”
Malcolm White, author of The Artful Evolution of Hal & Mal’s: “Country Dark and The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma's Table.”
Ginger Williams Cook, illustrator of The Artful Evolution of Hal & Mal’s: “I have really been delving into the Graphic Novel section of the Mississippi Library Commission. Particularly Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography, A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and A Year Without Mom by Dasha Tolstikova.”
Lisa Corrigan, author of Prison Power: How Prison Influenced the Movement for Black Liberation: “Right now I'm reading Calvin L. Warren's book, Ontological Terror: Blackness, Nihilism and Emancipation. It's WONDERFUL for those who like to read philosophy. He examines the paradoxical notion of the ‘free Negro’ after emancipation to understand how public culture is organized around white Being.”
Timothy T. Isbell, author of The Mississippi Gulf Coast, Gettysburg: Sentinels of Stone, Shiloh and Corinth: Sentinels of Stone, and Vicksburg: Sentinels of Stone: “I’m usually a multi-book reader. I am currently reading Delta Epiphany: Robert F. Kennedy in Mississippi by Ellen Meacham and Medgar Evers: Mississippi Martyr by Michael Vinson Williams. My wife and son gave me a first edition of All the President’s Men for Father’s Day. That is next on my need to read list.”
Richard D. deShazo, MD, MACP, editor of The Racial Divide in American Medicine: Black Physicians and the Struggle for Justice in Health Care: “The Pope Who Would Be King: The Exile of Pius IX and the Emergence of Modern Europe.”
Ellen B. Meacham, author of Delta Epiphany: Robert F. Kennedy in Mississippi: “Anna Karenina. It’s interesting how one’s perspective changes at different times of life. When I first read it in my early twenties, my heart practically throbbed in sympathy with poor Anna. Now I just want to tell her to snap out of it. Levin’s story interests me much more now. Still an amazing piece of literature, though.”
David G. Sansing, author of A History of the Mississippi Governor's Mansion, Making Haste Slowly: The Troubled History of Higher Education in Mississippi, and The University of Mississippi: A Sesquicentennial History: “When William Faulkner was asked what he was reading, he answered by saying, ‘I don’t have time to read books, I’m too busy writing books.’ My answer is that I am taking it easy and waiting for Ole Miss football season to start.”
Anne Farris Rosen, editor of Deep South Dispatch: Memoir of a Civil Rights Journalist: “Beneath a Ruthless Sun: A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found by Gilbert King and Terrains of the Heart and Other Essays on Home by Willie Morris, which I can't believe I have not read until now.”
Susan Cushman, editor of Southern Writers on Writing: “A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. (I often read more than one book at a time.)”
John Floyd, contributor to Southern Writers on Writing: “The Outsider by Stephen King.”
Catherine Egley Waggoner, coauthor of Realizing Our Place: Real Southern Women in a Mythologized Land: “Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, now, and then her Sing, Unburied, Sing before arriving in Mississippi. I'm hoping to get both signed.”
How do you organize your bookshelf?
Pearl Amelia McHaney: “Alphabetically in the study and in unfortunately random stacks and on shelves throughout the house. My son-in-law once blew a horn to announce that he had found an empty shelf in one of the dozens of bookcases.”
Malcolm White: “Fiction and non-, alphabetically, mostly. Then I have a special area for signed first and signed friends.”
Ginger Williams Cook: “My collection of art books and graphic novels are visual inspiration for me and my bookshelves are the first thing I see when I walk into my studio. The books are aesthetically arranged in smaller stacks on two shelves with my larger art history books on the bottom shelves. I spend a lot of time looking through my books so it changes up monthly.”
Timothy T. Isbell: “I probably have more than 350 books in my house. They are usually organized by subject such as photography, civil rights, Civil War, past presidents, history and historic novels. When I need a break from all my history reading, I usually read the novels of Dan Brown, Jeff Shaara, John Grisham, Tom Clancy and others.”
Richard D. deShazo: “By topic. For instance, biographies, novels, etc., and then alphabetical by author or subject.”
Ellen B. Meacham: “Sigh. I am perpetually book-rich and bookshelf-poor, so I just add them carefully while hoping they won’t be the tome that finally breaks the shelf’s back.”
David G. Sansing: “I organize my book shelf the best I can, which is not very good.”
Susan Cushman: “I have 7 bookcases, with 4 – 8 shelves on each. Some of them are organized by genre (poetry, memoir, fiction, etc.). Others are organized by ‘to be read’ and ‘recently read.’”
What book should be required reading for everyone in the state of Mississippi?
Pearl Amelia McHaney: “Can I name two? White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson (non-fiction) and The Vain Conversation by Anthony Grooms (fiction). Neither is specifically Mississippi, but I believe both are essential for learning to ask questions that can help us to accept the past as we endeavor to be better human beings.”
William Dunlap: “It’s hard to imagine anyone in Mississippi not reading Malcolm Cowley’s Portable Faulkner and Willie Morris’s North Toward Home, but that’s just me. I don’t care what they read just so they read something.”
Timothy T. Isbell: “I could suggest so many. If I could only have one, it would probably be Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James McPherson.”
Richard D. deShazo: “Mine. (HA!)”
Ellen B. Meacham: “I can’t choose one, but Coming of Age in Mississippi, North Toward Home, and Men We Reaped, would be a great trilogy of books that would go a long way toward better understanding.”
David G. Sansing: “I wish every Mississippian would read Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! at least two or three times, in no more than one of two sittings. Faulkner can’t be read in spurts.”
Susan Cushman: “I can't choose just one! A few ideas: Southern Writers on Writing, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Time to Kill.”
John Floyd: “To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (and yes, I realize it’s not set in Mississippi).”
Catherine Egley Waggoner: “Oh, there are so many to be named, but one has really stood out in terms of shaping my thinking about women in the South: Killers of the Dream by Lillian Smith (1949).”