From Oxford with Love

In this week’s New York Times Travel Section (Front Page), there is a great story by Dwight Garner about Mississippi’s own Oxford, named after the original, medieval university town in England. The American city, of course, is known for a few things — one of them being Ole Miss, the great university for which graduates hold a passionate loyalty. (Anyone seen Kathy Bates and Sandra Bullock emoting in “The Blind Side”?)

Dwight Garner is a book critic for the Times, however, and quickly moves on to the more literary charms of Oxford, MI. Not every town can boast a heritage that includes Faulkner, Grisham, Barry Hannah, Larry Brown and — currently — Pulitzer Prize-winning Richard Ford, who recently joined the university’s Creative Writing department. In fact, says Garner, “Oxford has become one of the South’s artiest and most literate college towns, a pint-size and much more navigable Austin, Texas.”

At the center of this literary center is a store called SQUARE BOOKS. (I put it in caps because I have grown quite fond of this Oxonian wonder.) And at the center of the center of the SQUARE is former Mayor Richard Howorth and his wife Lisa, who run this special place. They have made their bricks and mortar into the mint in the julep of Southern independent bookstores. They even hold weekend salons in their home.

And what is this to me, besides a fascination with all things Oxford (as you know if you read my new novel)? Well, it turns out that Square Books’s sagacious reviewer has written a rave about IN THE KING’S ARMS, saying that the book “swept me off my feet.” There’s more. Southerners are not known for their terseness (see Faulkner, above). Maybe I’ll post more of the review when I get back on my own feet.

A rave from SQUARE BOOKS in Oxford, Miss? And then a synchronicitous story in the Times? This Old Miss is more than delighted, and reciprocates (and seconds) all the love.