From Publishers Weekly
On May 2, 2002, editor Smirnoff sent a letter to Oxford American advertisers announcing the impending closing of the magazine due to a lack of funds to print the spring issue. On May 10, the New York Times picked up on the news with an essay entitled "A Mississippi Upstart, As It Lay Loudly Dying." The fate of the magazine is still unclear, but this collection should tide readers over for the present with its eclectic array of fiction, essays and poetry. In his introduction, Smirnoff explains the difficulty of choosing the best from a roster of writers that reads like a Who's Who of Southern Lit. After an eloquent foreword by Rick Bragg, these luminaries include William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, Walker Percy, Barry Hannah, Steve Martin, John Updike, Larry Brown, Rosanne Cash, John T. Edge, Steve Yarbrough, Roy Blount Jr. and John Grisham. Of course, there are many excellent pieces: Sister Helen Prejean's "Memories of a Dead Man Walking" is as powerful as it is plainspoken; Rick Bass enchants with "Turtlemania," in which he recalls a childhood encounter with a huge snapping turtle; Donna Tartt weighs in with a moving remembrance of Willie Morris. Despite the heavyweight lineup, or perhaps because of it, the arc of the collection is predictable, but those who like their writing home style will find much to savor here.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Smirnoff introduced the Oxford American in spring 1992, arguing that it was "time for a good general magazine to originate from the South." His goals included publishing various forms of excellent writing for the intelligent, nonacademic general reader. One of the magazine's great strengths has been Smirnoff's willingness to publish largely unknown regional writers, many of whom have gone on to substantial careers. As this "best of" anthology shows, Smirnoff has successfully balanced an intriguing blend of commercial fiction (e.g., John Grisham, who underwrote the project for many years), unpublished manuscripts by Southern stalwarts (e.g., William Faulkner, Zora Neal Hurston, and Walker Percy), and commentary on Southern culture (John T. Edge, Roy Blount Jr., and Hal Crowther). Many of the selections are by noteworthy authors among them Grisham, Cythnia Shearer, Larry Brown, John Updike, John Grisham, Donna Tart, Barry Hannah, and Steve Yarbrough who have lived or set their work in Oxford, MS, the home of the Oxford American. The magazine has been both passionately praised and roundly criticized for its quirky approach to literature, and readers will probably have the same response to this well-crafted collection. Recommended for libraries with large collections of Southern literature and as demand warrants. Pam Kingsbury, Florence, AL
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.