Books by Mississippi Writers 1996-2010



Willie Morris


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Nonfiction by Willie Morris Random House (Paperback, $23.00, ISBN: 0679459561, 2/1998) Everyone is a critic, except the occasional saint. The professional or citizen critic whose opinions are well publicized wields power that can be capricious, even deadly. Morris, former editor in chief of Harper's, has written a multilayered study of the critical reception of the film Ghosts of Mississippi. Rob Reiner's film, based on fact, is about Mississippi assistant D.A. Bobby DeLaughter (Alec Baldwin) reopening the case against Byron de la Beckwith (James Woods) for the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers and, with the aid of the widow Evers (Whoopi Goldberg), bringing the murderer to justice. The book reads like a series of long magazine articles. The first is a paean to a place that lives in other people's infamy, and here Mississippian Morris introduces the idea of the subjective nature of opinion, carried through in the other "articles" about the actual filming in Mississippi and the special previews around the U.S. Finally, enter the critics. Apparently, the Variety critic was appalled at the filmmakers for making a film based on an actual event: "When future generations turn to this era's movies for an account of the struggles for racial justice in America, they'll learn the surprising lesson that such battles were fought and won by square-jawed white boys." Morris writes, "Soon Rob Reiner would be like Brer Rabbit getting stuck in the Tar Baby." Spike Lee went to the mat in protest of the "white heroes." Roger Ebert couldn't believe that Myrlie Evers wasn't the star. In the end, the film failed at the box office, and Morris haunts the film's Mississippi locations, pondering the ghosts of racial healing and progress. ―Copyright © 1998, American Library Association. All rights reserved

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