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Explore a Piece of Literary History in Oxford

2024 marks several milestones for William Faulkner, just one of the famous authors with a footprint in Mississippi’s literary city.

As the summer rolls around, reading a good book by the pool or on the beach comes to mind (perhaps one from our Summer Reading List?). The season also presents the ideal time for a trip. There’s no better way for a book lover to kick off the warmer months than with a vacation to Oxford, Mississippi.

A number of famous authors had a large presence in Oxford, though none so grand as William Faulkner. What’s more, 2024 marks a series of milestones for Faulkner including the 100th anniversary of The Marble Faun, the 17th anniversary of Knight’s Gambit, the 50th anniversary of Faulkner: A Biography by Joseph Blotner and the 50th anniversary of the Faulkner and Yoknaptawpha Conference. With that being said, now is the time to explore the city that Faulkner immortalized in his works.

Known otherwise as a small college town in Northern Mississippi, Oxford contains a multitude of hidden gems and history that makes it a must-visit literary destination. Not to mention the great restaurants, historical sites and overall charm of Oxford that is worth exploring on its own. If you’re looking for the ultimate literary adventure this summer, we’ve got just the list for you.

WHERE TO STAY

The Oliver Hotel

This 40-room, red brick boutique hotel is located just a few blocks from The Square and draws from Oxford’s vibrant energy, neighborly spirit and historic charm. Book lovers will want to check out The Library, featuring book-lined and art-filled walls, large windows, patio access and a fireplace—plus a rare photography collection featuring Faulkner himself.

Graduate Oxford

This whimsical boutique hotel is prominently perched on The Square and captures the spirit of Oxford in every corner from the moment you’re greeted by floor tiles cleverly arranged in HT (“Hot Toddy”) patterns. For larger groups, Graduate Oxford offers Faulkner’s Haven, a three-bed/three-bath short-term home rental featuring a comfy sitting room and a scenic back porch that overlooks Oxford Memorial Cemetery, the famed resting place of Faulkner.

WHERE TO EAT

Bar Muse

Speaking of The Lyric Theatre, this intimate craft cocktail and wine bar is located inside the Lyric. The cocktail menu is curated by James Beard nominee Joseph Stinchcomb and re-innovated each season, emphasizing locally sourced ingredients and premium spirits.

City Grocery

John Currence’s signature restaurant was once a favorite haunt of acclaimed writers, and the bar upstairs is still the gathering place for writers today. This establishment put Oxford on the culinary map and is a landmark in the city’s dining scene.

Big Bad Breakfast

Big Bad Breakfast

Another restaurant from Currence’s culinary prowess is a quiet reference to Big Bad Love, a short story collection by Larry Brown. Known as BBB, Big Bad Breakfast takes the most important meal of the day seriously with house-cured Tabasco Brown Sugar Bacon, its Original Grit Girl grits and—another small nod to Southern literature—The Secret History Omelette, a reference to a novel by Donna Tartt, who studied at Ole Miss.

What to Do

Rowan Oak

Rowan Oak, University of Mississippi

A literature-inspired trip to Oxford isn’t complete without a visit to Faulkner’s Rowan Oak at the University of Mississippi. The modified Greek Revival home sits on 29 heavily wooded acres just South of The Square and served as an inspiration for much of Faulkner’s work for over 40 years. After peeking into Faulkner’s former home (including the writing room where the plot outline of A Fable is written on the walls in his hand), visitors can take the Bailey Woods Trail, a 20-minute walk that leads to the University Museum.

Square Books

The center of Oxford’s literature scene has hosted more than 2,000 writers for readings and book signings since it opened in 1979. The beloved bookshop spans genres and offers a cafe on the second floor, along with a balcony overlooking The Square. In addition to the original location, bibliophiles have even more to browse with three more stores on the same block: Square Books Jr., Off Square Books and Rare Square Books.

Neilson’s Department Store

The South’s oldest department store might not seem like an obvious spot for avid readers, and even Faulkner fans might be surprised to know that Neilson’s has archived a letter from the writer, who refused to pay his tab over a decades-long feud with the store.

The Lyric Theatre

Today this historical theater is one of North Mississippi’s premiere live music venues, but in the early part of the 20th century, The Lyric Theater was a livery stable owned by Faulkner’s family. The Lyric Theatre has lived many lives: it originally held the horses that pulled buggies around The Square before being converted to a theater for silent films and live performances during the 1920s, became Oxford’s first movie theater once motion pictures were invented, served as a health center and office space, then returned to the theater it is today.

The Faulkner and Yoknaptawpha Conference

The Faulkner Yoknaptawpha Conference will take place from July 21-25, 2024, at the University of Mississippi. In celebration of the many anniversaries of Faulkner’s work, this year’s conference will feature an open theme and embrace any study of Faulkner’s rich life. Keynote speakers include Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman, Catherine Gunther Kodat, Trudier Harris, Claude Romano and Koichi Suwabe. Optional tours of Oxford County, the Mississippi Delta and Lafayette County will also be featured. These events are sure to make any Faulkner enthusiast rearing to go.

No matter where in Oxford you chose to explore, you’re guaranteed to find a piece of literary history to enjoy.

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