Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Momentous Writer's Event

Dispatches from Pluto author Richard Grant...

Before I even moved to Columbus, Mississippi, I had the distinct impression that it was a place where people loved writers and turned out for book-signings and other author events. Since I've lived here, I've attended two events sponsored by the Columbus Arts Council where well-known writers spoke about themselves and their writing. One was by a local writer, Michael Farris Smith, who is gaining a good reputation as a writer. I believe he teaches at the "W" here in Columbus. The other such event was for Richard Grant.

Both writers' events were well attended, but Richard Grant's event had to be held in a larger venue, which took place at Mississippi University for Women in Parkinson Hall. 

The MSMS high school is housed on the MUW college

An Aside

Now, the thing I was delighted to see about this venue had nothing to do with the room where the event took place, but rather that it was held in the science building for the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science—which is the two-year high school for Mississippi's excellent students—one of the top high schools in the US. That's right a Mississippi school with an impeccable reputation.

Bright Students of any Ethnic minority are welcomed
into MSMS
Another important point about MSMS is the fact that it is a functionally integrated high school, which again just might detract from the notion that Mississippi schools suffer from a lack of integration. Well, there are schools here that are vast-majority white or vast-majority black, just as you might find in other schools in the US (not limited to the South) that really have nothing to do with a hold-over policy of segregation but has more to do with demographics and where people choose to live.

But I digress...

Author Richard Grant ended up moving to Mississippi a few years ago by what he described as a circuitous route. He went to high school in London, wandered the world, and by chance ended up in Oxford, Mississippi, during that time when he was working as a writer and ended up doing a few pieces on the music of Mississippi. He lived in New York City for a time when he was working on his writing career, but on one of his trips to Mississippi a friend of his gave him a tour of her hometown of Pluto, Mississippi—or rather the Mississippi Delta region. Long story short, Richard Grant chose to move to Pluto and convinced his wife that they should leave New York. It was while living there that Grant wrote Dispatches from Pluto. It is a New York Times bestseller.

The other thing about Columbus, Mississippi, that was evident when Grant spoke was that while Mississippi has a reputation as being deeply religious and some would assume almost puritanical as a result, the audience thoroughly enjoyed his sometimes graphic and earthy talk. Of course Dispatches from Pluto is also about Mississippi and the Delta region, so the audience was also delighted to have an outsider be able to capture the essence of that region, as some people in the audience attested having read the book beforehand. Here he is in a video interview about Mississippi and specifically about the Mississippi Delta region. The video is over eleven minutes, but readers might be interested by its range of coverage about Mississippi and its culture. Richard Grant narrates.

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