The successes of two Texas authors from the Panhandle; upcoming events at the Harry Ransom Center at UT; and information on how to attend the Tennessee Williams / New Orleans Literary Festival.
Success for Panhandle Authors
Occasionally, a book published by a small press arrives at the office, and its brilliance forces me to tell everyone I possibly can about it. Whompyjawed, a prescient, satirical, and outrageously funny novel about growing up in small-town Texas by Mitch Cullin, who grew up in Guthrie (in the Panhandle) but now lives in Tucson, is one of this year's best books set in Texas, and fortunately, Simon & Schuster likes it too. Whompyjawed was published in October by The Permanent Press, a small, literary publisher in Sag Harbor, New York, that only publishes 12 books a year. The paperback rights were sold to Simon & Schuster "out of the blue," Cullin says, when his publisher at The Permanent Press, Martin Shepard, called him in Santa Fe, where he was visiting a friend, and left a message on the friend's answering machine saying, "We just made a deal with Simon & Schuster for the paperback rights on Whompy." And that, as they say, was that. What is unusual about this sale is that Simon & Schuster bought the paperback rights apparently without knowledge or concern about how sales of the book were doing; they just liked it based on their own reading of the book and the prepublication and early reviews. Whompyjawed should be out in paper in fall 2000. For a review of the book, go to http://www.auschron.com/issues/dispatch/1999-10-29/books_feature2.html... Amarillo's Kimberly Willis Holt is the second Texan in a row to win the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. Her novel When Zachary Beaver Came to Town follows Austin author Louis Sachar's win for Holes last year.
Craig Arnold, Visiting Writer in UT's English department, who wrote about Robert Creeley several weeks ago for the Chronicle, is giving a reading next Tuesday, November 30, at 7:30pm at the HRC (21st & Guadalupe) in the fourth floor auditorium. Arnold's first collection of poems, Shells, was chosen by W.S. Merwin to win the 1998 Yale Series of Younger Poets and has most recently been awarded the Great Lakes New Writers Award. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, and The New Republic, and are forthcoming in the Bread Loaf Anthology of New American Poets... Cactus Pryor hasn't won any poetry awards, I don't think, but he and Teresa Sullivan, Dick Holland, Elspeth Rostow, Jake Pickle, Sheldon Ekland-Olson, and Karen Kuykendall have been asked by the HRC to pick two or three of their favorite poems from the past 1,000 years and read them on December 1 at noon on the plaza in front of the HRC. If the weather is bad, the HRC will move the event inside to the fourth floor auditorium.
A Weekend Named Desire
Tennessee Williams fans may want to plan now to attend A Weekend of Desire, the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, March 22-26, 2000. The festival is a long weekend of literary, theatrical, and musical events that include panels, performances from Williams' plays, poetry readings, an international scholars' conference about Williams, and a Stella and Stanley Shouting Contest. Confirmed participants include Alec Baldwin, Lynn Redgrave, playwright Robert Harling (Steel Magnolias), Andrei Codrescu, and John Gregory Dunne, among others. For more info, visit http://www.tennessewilliams.net.