We are in Oxford, Mississippi, home to the University of Mississippi – Ole Miss – and a real center of the southern literary world. This town was home to William Faulkner, whose work tells the story of the south with a very special genius.
We visited his home, Rowan Oak, a lovely secluded home near the center of Oxford, but completely isolated. Faulkner came from a privileged family, and made his real money in Hollywood as a writer, but his literary work earned him the Nobel Prize and worldwide acclaim. One funny piece in the displays is the envelope from the Famous Writers School (remember that?) in which his wife enrolled him as a joke. Also notice the outline written on his office walls for his novel, A Fable.
And then there is Oxford itself, a wonderful town, but far from the neglected Holly Springs we just left. This is a town quite enriched by the students of Ole Miss, described as a cross between a college and a debutante ball. The restaurants are definitely upscale. (We dined on trout beignets and grilled pimento cheese with apple salad.) There is also the obligatory Confederate memorial, and a statue of Mr. Faulkner, who chatted briefly with Don.
The University of Mississippi was the scene of a huge public disgrace in 1962 when black student James Meredith attempted to register. After the governor took the school over in the name of state “sovereignty,” the board of the school changed their minds and rescinded his invitation to keep order. Meredith entered the school and actually graduated, but it’s hard to imagine how hard that time must have been for him. He is memorialized outside the very building where all the hysteria took place, just 50 years ago.
The school is now thoroughly integrated, and football fever is raging for this weekend’s battle with LSU. Time to move on.
Here’s a sad footnote from today’s New York Times (February 19, 2014): http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/19/us/fbi-joins-ole-miss-inquiry-after-noose-is-left-on-statue.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0
How silly to think it is all over.
3 thoughts on “Two Men of Mississippi”
I heard this story about William Faulkner from John many years ago so I cannot vouch personally for its authenticity or accuracy. I hope that it will not gain or lose too much in the retelling. (By the way, John does not want me to tell you this story because it is not sufficiently uplifting)
Reputedly, Faulkner worked for a time as a postal clerk in the on campus post office at Ole Miss. After he won the Pulitzer Prize (or was it the Nobel?) for writing the Sound and the Fury, a reporter asked him “Mr. Faulkner, what does it mean to you that you have won the Pulitzer Prize?” He replied, “It means that now I won’t be at the beck and call of every sonofabitch who wants a postage stamp.”
That’s absolutely true – at least according to the museum! The story they tell is that when he got fired for being a bad inattentive and unavailable postmaster he said, “At least now I won’t be at the beck and call of any s.o.b. with 2 cents for a stamp!” They do point out that he was the only former postmaster to win a Nobel Prize for literature…
P.S. Tell John that we don’t avoid the gritty truth in this blog. Oh no. I just sometimes get tired before I get it all in! Thanks for following. Your memory is outstanding and John knows a good line when he hears it.