By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal Oxford Bureau
OXFORD – Authors, agents, publishers, professors, retailers and readers will convene in Oxford on Thursday and stay through Saturday for the 18th Oxford Conference for the Book.
Sponsored by several University of Mississippi academic units and such entities as the Mississippi Hills Heritage Area Alliance and the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, the annual gathering draws such folks to talk about the printed word’s past, present and future.
“The Oxford Conference for the Book and the books we examine are not ‘for information only’ but, without being elitist, focus on books that enrich human life by entertaining and enlightening,” said Ann Abadie, associate director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and one of the conference founders.
“The mission of the conference is to promote reading, literacy and literature and to broaden knowledge about contemporary writing and publishing as well as the history and role of books in American culture, particularly but not exclusively in the South,” she added.
Two of this year’s highlights will be the 100th anniversary of Tennessee Williams’ birth in Columbus and the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible’s first publication. The King James Bible’s influence on western culture in general and the American South in particular is so profound that even the Conference’s official poster bears an engraving depicting Adam and Eve by the Belgian portraitist Cornelius Boel that was included in the KJV’s first printing.
The book conference will dedicate a panel discussion to the KJV titled “The King James Bible at 400.” Charles Reagan Wilson, who has written extensively on religion in the South, and Norman W. Jones, who, with Hannibal Hamlin, coedited the book “The King James Bible after 400 Years,” will talk about the bible’s significance and cultural influence over the last four centuries.
One recurring focus will be the future of reading. “The Endangered Species: Readers Today and Tomorrow” and “Reading in the Post-Gutenbergian Age” may allow a little collective nail biting, but such unease also prompts the action of two “Literature for Young Readers” sessions and a Young Readers’ Fair to groom an appreciative audience for tomorrow’s books.
In addition, two of the nation’s bookstore icons will share the stage when Paul Yamazaki, head buyer for San Francisco’s City Lights Bookstore and Richard Howorth, owner of Oxford-based Square Books, sit down for a public dialogue.
Poets get several nods of approval, with a celebration of National Poetry Month, a poetry craft talk and an open-mic night at Off Square Books for poetry and fiction.
Lyn Roberts, manager of Square Books, said the conference is fresh each year.
“Panels and readers change yearly based on what is going on in the publishing industry and book world,” she said. “Readers of all stripes will enjoy hearing some of the most exciting writers of this generation read and discuss their work, and there are panels on different genres … something for every reader to enjoy – no Ph.D. in literary theory required.”
The eclectic nature of the Conference for the Book shows up in such offerings as “Southern Women Making Up Themselves,” “Texts and Technologies,” “Comic Book Auteurs,” “Writing about Sports” and a special performance of Oxford’s down-home music-and-literature show, “Thacker Mountain Radio.”
Two meals during the three-day event require preregistration and payment, but most events in the Oxford Conference for the Book are free and open to the public. For more information, call (662) 915-5993 or log on to www.oxfordconferenceforthebook.com.