Back in September, my friend, Neil White, gave me an advance reader copy of a wonderful little book his publishing company (Nautilus) was putting out. It’s called Beginnings & Ends: A selection of favorite first and last lines in stories by contemporary Oxford writers. Beginnings & Ends is edited by Ron Borne, whom I enjoyed meeting upstairs at the bar at City Grocery in September, the same night that Neil gave me the book. I hated to miss the launch party at Square Books last week. After the launch, my friend (and a wonderful freelance editor) Mary Ann Bowen, who lives in Oxford, sent me a copy of Beginnings & Ends, saying this about it:
“You would have loved the launch what with Oxford writers reading theirs and their dead friends’ words. Plus what we really got was a brief survey of modern writers’ voices—made me want to go back and revise every bit of prose I’ve ever written!”
Looking for a great Christmas gift for anyone who loves to read? Not to give too much away, here are a few of my favorites. (There are 30 authors featured in the book.)
Beginnings: (From five authors who have been my teachers at workshops over the years, and have become my friends.)
“The Rutherford girl had been missing for eight days when Larry Orr returned home and found a monster waiting in his house.”—Tom Franklin, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
“The relationship I was in lapsed, which wouldn’t have been awful except this was with Harlotta who smelled like sandalwood and who introduced me to color and truth.”—Jere Hoar (author of Body Parts and The Hit), “The Last Feminine Woman in the World,” a short story.
“Daddy is going to camp. That’s what I told my children. A child psychologist suggested it. ‘Words like prison and jail conjure up dangerous images for children,’ she explained. But it wasn’t camp. It was prison.”—Neil White, In the Sanctuary of Outcasts: A Memoir.
“I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t help myself. I was curious: too curious. Finally, late one night, I returned to a website I’d bookmarked, one which promised ‘Discrete shipping on all orders.’ I placed the illicit item in my shopping cart. Confirm purchase? You betcha. And so I took one small step closer to full membership in my adopted home, my quest to be a Southerner. I would eat dirt.”—Beth Ann Fennelly, “Taking Terroir on Faith,” a personal essay (from the anthology, Circling Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality) NOTE: Beth Ann read from this essay the same night I met Ron Borne, after our Circling Faith reading and signing in Oxford.
“My father first appeared in Citrus on Christmas Eve of 1965. He arrived on foot, wearing tailored wool trousers, a black mohair jacket, an Egyptian-cotton button-down, with French cuffs, a charcoal-gray-ankle-length cashmere coat and wing tips said to resemble the hue of some poor animal’s blood.”–Scott Morris, Waiting For April: A Novel.
Endings: (These are abbreviated… the endings in the anthology are a bit longer.)
“In a rush in that moment I knew, too, that all these ghosts, conjured up in the preternatural desolation of the Square, were all for me, just because I had come home. It was not too late.”—Willie Morris, “The Ghosts of Ole Miss,” a personal essay.
“From the damp earth, you could smell the last bits of the fire, dying and smoldering, and leaving the smell of fall on the wind.”—Ace Atkins, Wicked City: A Novel.
“I’m thinking that your first love is your best love, that you’ll never find any better. The way she did it was like she was saying, here I am, I’m all yours, all of me, forever. Nothing’s changed. She turns the light off, and we reach to find each other in the darkness like people who are blind.”—Larry Brown, “Facing the Music,” a short story.
The introductions to each author are also very insightful.
Just a wonderful, inspirational little anthology, that any aspiring writer or lover of books would be thrilled to receive for Christmas.