ERROL CASTENS: Quaint, quirky Oxford

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

Here are some favorite quirks about Oxford:
– One of the most Faulknerian elements of the town is that some people still manage to grow up here without knowing who William Faulkner is.
n The placement of Faulkner’s bronze statue at City Hall raised ire both within and without his family: It required the removal of a magnolia tree, which, in Mississippi, is the next thing to shooting mockingbirds and eagles.
n An out-of-town TV reporter once stood by Faulkner’s statue, live and on-camera, and said, in words close to these, “I’m not sure who this gentleman is, but everybody seems to want to have their picture taken with him.”

The Square
– To drive in downtown, one circles the Square …
– … with those already on the inside having the right-of-way, which means that once you learn to drive a traffic circle, you know how to drive the Square, and vice versa.
– The inside portion of the Square – the courthouse site – has seven sides.
– Off-Square Books is actually on the Square. (Its name combines its original location and its Square Books parentage.)
– One town father, asked why Oxford’s downtown is vibrant when so many small city centers are dying, gave a one-word reply: “Alcohol.”
– Some of that alcohol is fine wine served with fine meals. Around 9 p.m., the demographics get younger and, as midnight approaches, increasingly impaired.

– Some folks will risk a ticket to park their cars near the Turner Center gymnasium so they can get in their walking.
– Pretty women and handsome men share sidewalks and hallways all over campus, and three-quarters of them are on their phones instead of talking to each other.
– Students are just so darn cute when they write editorials declaring “there are no clear boundaries of right and wrong” to try to say their position is right, and the other is wrong.
– Too many residents like to complain about the store lines, traffic congestion and parking shortages that students engender, forgetting that Oxford without Ole Miss would be a lot less interesting place to live.

Who you callin’ sophisticated?
– To some neighbors, Oxford is the too-sophisticated-for-its-own-good little sister of New York, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Sodom and Gomorrah.
– To some big-city folks, Oxford is Podunk incarnate. At least one new resident from New York lamented aloud in a crowd that “the only thing you can find here is Southern culture.”
– In reality, it’s a little of both. Folks here like hot wings and haute cuisine, B.B. and Beethoven, Shakespeare tackle and Shakespeare tragedies.

Contact Oxford Bureau reporter Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or

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