This week marks the 24th Oxford Conference for the Book, an event that gathers writers, readers, storytellers and book enthusiasts in our little town steeped with literature.
Beginning today, the city of Oxford will be teeming with award-winning authors, professionally catered receptions and a variety of talks, panel discussions and readings for the conference, which is free and open to the public.
Conference organizer James G. Thomas Jr. has attended since the conference’s beginning in 1993.
“Oxford has been known as a literary town for decades now. The university students and community members are all good readers, as well as great writers,” he said.
The event was originally created in order to congregate book lovers, and it featured readings from Barry Hannah and Kaye Gibbons, area tours and even a “Paris Review” birthday party at Square Books in its opening year. This year, the conference, which is presented by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and Square Books, offers an exciting lineup of poets, memoirists, biographers, documentary filmmakers, professors, historians, journalists and comedy writers.
“The Oxford Conference for the Book was the brainchild of Ann Abadie from the Center for the Study of Southern Culture,” Square Books general manager Lyn Roberts said. “She involved Richard Howorth, the owner of Square Books, in developing and hosting the first conference.”
“[Since] he and the store had so many contacts in the literary community and with publishers, he was able to bring authors here,” Roberts said.
While in previous years the conference has covered certain literary themes, the conference has no particular theme this year.
“In the past we’ve covered people like Tennessee Williams, Barry Hannah and even Walter Anderson, who was really a painter,” Thomas said. “But this year, it’s not one genre that we’re looking at.”
With the conference covering such a wide variety of literary topics, it always draws a multitude of people from across the country for events that range across literature, art, film and food.
The historic Barksdale-Isom House will host the Big Bad Book Conference Authors Party at 6:30 p.m. today. Proceeds benefit the Oxford Conference for the Book. According to Thomas, this event “is the most formal event of the conference.” Attendees can expect delicious shrimp and grits, hors d’oeuvres, drinks and dinner provided by John Currence’s catering company, Main Event. Currence is author of “Pickles, Pigs, & Whiskey: Recipes from My Three Favorite Food Groups and Then Some” and “Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day.” Tickets are required for this event.
The University Museum will host Thomas, Kate Freeman Clark, Carolyn Brown, Annette Trifler and Beth Batton beginning at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. A free reception and book signing will follow. For a poetry reading on Oxford’s Square, visit Southside Gallery at 4 p.m. Thursday. Beth Ann Fennelly, Carolyn Hembree, Alison Pelegrin and Rodney Jones will share their award-winning work. On Thursday evening, Tom Thurman’s documentary “Harry Crews: Guilty as Charged” will show in Lamar Hall on the University of Mississippi campus, Room 129.
A new comedy event featuring Trae “The Liberal Redneck” Crowder, Corey Forrester and Drew Morgan will be held Friday evening at The Lyric Oxford. This event is part of the WellRED Comedy Tour, which features stories laden with observations on culture, religion and identity. Tickets are sold out for this event.
Oxford Conference for the Book offers a yearly opportunity to celebrate the town’s rich literary culture. For a comprehensive list of events, dates and times, visit www.oxfordconferenceforthebook.com/schedule.
This article was contributed to The Daily Mississippian by a student from an advanced reporting class.