Oxford, Mississippi

RowanOak-Approach

A week ago Wednesday was Carol’s and my anniversary, so we decided to take a day trip up to Oxford, MS, primarily to take a couple more things off my bucket list—visit Square Books in downtown Oxford and, what the heck, make a pilgrimage to William Faulkner’s beloved home, Rowan Oak. Two more things off our list of things to do before/if we leave the state.

Square Books is one of those places that people tend to moan the disappearance of, except so far I can tell, local independent bookstores are doing just fine. The ones I know have been around for decades and show every sign of being around for decades more. The only picture of the actual store I have has Carol in it, and I’ve been threatened with bodily harm if I post it, so I won’t. I’ll just say that the place is a bibliophile’s dream, and it left me a bit depressed. I’m still working out why.

After that it was off to Rowan Oak. I do see why he loved the place—the grounds are lovely, the house was at once grand and still homey. I know you’ve all heard the story of the time Faulkner was in Hollywood and finally told his bosses he needed to work from home, he couldn’t concentrate in his studio office. So they said fine, assuming he meant his rented digs in Hollywood, but of course he meant Rowan Oak, and he was on the next train out of there.

Faulkner-BedroomFaulkner-Office-MantelFaulkner-Wall-Notes

I haven’t taken too many pictures, because all I had was a camera phone with really crappy battery life, the light was poor, and the battery was dying even as I got these few. Most won’t need explanation, but I did get one shot of the walls of Faulkner’s home office. Apparently he had the habit of writing blocks of continuity/daily notes on the walls. The shot was hard to get, but you might be able to see a little bit.

The last shot is just of a really old and mystical osage orange growing in front of (and I feel weird even saying it) the servants’ quarters. In some ways Faulkner’s world seems hundreds of years in the past, but it wasn’t that long ago. What’s the adage? “The past isn’t gone. It isn’t even the past.”

Note: My apologies to anyone who gets this twice. I was having problems with the pictures and had to redo the whole thing to get them to display properly.

Faulkner-Osage-Orange

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14 thoughts on “Oxford, Mississippi

  1. Oddly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a photo of Faulkner’s Rowan Oak. Thank you.

    I just finished a re-read of William Alexander Percy’s Lanterns on the Levee. What different ways of thinking about the same matters they had. Is it because Faulkner seems less self-identified with an “aristocratic” English family ancestory than the Percys were? Great-grandfather, William Clark Falkner seems to have come from Tennessee, whereas the Percy hailed from Virginia.

    So different.

    Love, C.

    • For example, the Sutpen progenitor, “Born of poor white stock in what later became West Virginia, as an adolescent he moved with his family to the Tidewater region of Virginia and for the first time saw wealthy planters.” Not like the Percys, o no.

      Love, C.

  2. I don’t claim to be an expert on Faulkner, but I think it’s fair to say his perspective was a little closer to the earth. Rowan Oak and all that came with it was further down the road for him.

  3. Just a tad, though we do it all the time. I look at it more like a crucible–abundant raw materials combined under extreme conditions. Produced a lot of good things (music especially), but was tough on the ingredients (people, that is).

    Though, technically, Oxford isn’t in the Delta. Too far east of the Yazoo River.

  4. When I lived in Oxford, Square Books was my sanctuary. Miss that place. It’s been too long.

    (And yeah, the Delta starts a county or two over.)

      • In Mississippi, you mean?

        Geeky note — while I found out about (and read) the fantasy novel Welty wrote many moons ago, I was recently informed that Faulkner, like, cosplayed. :O

      • I live near Jackson, MS. A lot of people here still remember her. She was a fixture in the Belhaven neighborhood. My wife once shared a plane ride with her, though they never actually met.

        Faulkner was an interesting guy, by many accounts.

  5. Oh, I’m a Jackson-area native! Yeah, I remember hearing stories about people running into her at the Jitney on Fortification. Heh, probably not a cue for the Twilight Zone music because Welty had to travel a lot for her career, but my grandmother once shared a plane ride with her too. 😀

    I’m also confident she was much better behaved than Faulkner, who, eh — well. You know.

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