From North Carolina to South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi: 10 hours.
Sodas consumed: 5. Almonds consumed: 63. Small McDonald's fries (with ketchup): 1.
Now I'm in Oxford. Things I've missed: walking around the Square, Snack Bar oysters, drinking Red Stripe in a scenic backyard. New things: the Motel Art Show, and making friends with writers even newer to the Ole Miss community. How funny that on the day I arrive in town an interview should be published in which I talk about....no longer being in town. Nonetheless, thanks to Julie Ann and Danielle Sellers over at the Country Dog Review for the feature, which just went live as part of the Fall 2010 issue. The opening questions:
Julie Ann: As the 4th Summer Poet-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi, you passed the sultry months of June and July in the former home of Faulkner’s mistress. How did that context, historical or otherwise, influence or inspire you?
Sandra Beasley: Having spent my undergraduate years at the University of Virginia, this wasn't the first time I had lived in William Faulkner's shadow. Luckily it's a big, deep shadow with intriguing depths: no one understood the need for solitude even among a crowd--especially among a crowd--better than Faulkner. I loved seeing the town through the prism of his experience (hard to believe he used to work nights at that old power plant in the middle of Ole Miss's campus) and I so enjoyed getting to know Dean Faulkner, Elizabeth Shiver, and others who had known him in life.
It's true that Joan Williams was Faulkner's mistress. But she was also a writer, a Memphis novelist, who found a whole other identity in a companionship with Seymour Lawrence that lasted until his death. Lawrence was the distinguished independent book publisher who bought the house across the street from Rowan Oak that is today known as Grisham House. So I'd like to think of the house as a home to second chances. That's what it was for me.
JA: Your popularity in Oxford was undeniable. Cool local characters extended countless invitations to happenings – from Sunday blues at Foxfire and the Rhythm Festival to coffees and whiskeys at all the best haunts in town. How has your social life been different since leaving town?
SB: That's too generous to call my popularity "undeniable"; it may just be that I knew to have good beer and bocce available at all hours. Still, I'll take it, just as I tried to take every invitation that came my way as the summer-poet-in-residence. Oxford's local unofficial ambassadors--Ron Shapiro, Richard Howorth, and Chico Harris all leap to mind--are rightfully proud of your town and the neighboring Delta culture, so I always had something to do on my radar. I was very lucky to find so many friends so quickly.
Since returning to DC, what I've missed is the organic texture of that social scene. It's not that Washington doesn't have its own great oysters or live music, but it doesn't have them on the simple scale of knowing where to walk and find folks on any given night. In DC it takes umpteen emails to arrange to hang out with someone--and you know you probably won't manage to get together again for another month. I treasure the critical mass of the crowd at Square Books, City Grocery, and the Blind Pig, and I miss the ease of spending an evening wandering from place to place.
...all true. Which is why I came back to Mississippi. Read the full interview here.