Before she left to visit her family in Oxford, Mississippi, IT asked Katie Howell to apply the Traveler eye to her own hometown and write a blog entry for us about literary Mississippi (try saying that five times fast):
Oxford has always been rich in literary tradition and the adopted home to aspiring writers, so I decided to forgo the Civil War and Civil Rights attractions around town and limit my sightseeing to literary landmarks. Our most famous son, William Faulkner, was born about 35 miles (56 kilometers) away in New Albany, MississippiNew Albany, Mississippi, but spent the majority of his adult life in Oxford. So I began my literary tour at his home, Rowan Oak, located just off the University of MississippiUniversity of Mississippi‘s campus and the town’s square.
There, I wandered the grounds and walked up the cedar-lined front pathway, remembering a ghost story I’d been told as a child about a girl who’d flung herself from the second-story balcony because of an ill-fated love affair with a Union soldier. Her ghost is said to roam the estate. Inside the recently restored house, which the Unvanquished author bought in 1930 and lived in off and on until his death in 1962, I saw Faulkner’s boots, his typewriter and, most unusual, the outline of his Pulitzer Prize-winning A Fable penciled on the wall of the study in the back corner of the house.
After that, I walked through Bailey Woods along a trail that leads from Rowan Oak to the Ole Miss campus, where I stopped by the J.D. Williams Library to view Faulkner’s 1949 Nobel Prize. I headed up toward the square in hopes of catching the latest live broadcast of the Thacker Mountain Radio show, a Prairie Home Companion-esque music and literature hour with a Southern twist. Unfortunately, the show was on hiatus, and not scheduled to start up again until February.
After a quick drive past John Grisham‘s farmhouse on the outskirts of town, I headed out to the community of Taylor for dinner at Taylor Grocery (4 County Rd 338; +1 662 236 1716), home of quite possibly the best catfish in the world, lively musical entertainment, and walls plastered with signatures of locals, celebrities, and (surprise!) writers. I think I spotted Barry Hannah‘s John Hancock on a wall near the front. I made one final stop on my tour before heading home: William Faulkner’s grave to swig bourbon in his honor, a local tradition. Of course, I left the bottle for Mr. Bill.
- Nat Geo Expeditions