I came to Oxford last spring with a bunch of book-loving friends and made a fool of myself. And no beer or bourbon was consumed . . . that time. My embarrassment was more of a literary nature, fully revealed there on the lawn of Faulkner’s beloved Rowan Oak.
It was a lovely spring evening — blue skies, moderate temperatures, still too early for swarming gnats and mosquitoes — and the first gathering of all Booktopians who had journeyed to Oxford for the weekend. Rest assured, Booktopians do not talk in some form of Klingon or greet one another with secret handshakes, although I think the latter has been discussed. And Booktopia does not exist in some parallel universe. Simply put, Booktopia is a trio of weekend retreats hosted by Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman of the Books on the Nightstand podcast. And if you love books and love to read, you’ll want to check this podcast out.
So it seemed only natural that a group such as this would journey to Faulkner’s home to pay homage. I was walking the property with a few friends, trying to fully absorb the moment, feel Faulkner’s greatness in the air, extract some inspiration or wisdom from the very ground he once walked. Instead, as I stepped backward down the herringbone-styled-brick path that leads to the front door, I tripped and fell on my a**. And that cute little outfit I had bought just for the occasion — the one with the full, pleated skirt — flipped over by head. Well, you can imagine the rest.
All I remember after that is finding the museum’s curator standing on the front porch, staring back at me, eyes wide open. Oh, everyone sweetly reassured me that no one else had seen my spill. But the mere fact that EVERYONE was reassuring me tells you something about the size of the audience that caught my fall.
I have not been back to Rowan Oak, but when I do come back to Oxford tomorrow to spend some time in one of the most writer-friendly, book-reading towns I know, I will make another visit. But I will be wearing pants.
**Susan Gregg Gilmore will be a guest on Thacker Mountain Radio Thursday November 14th at 6 p.m. at Square Books. She will sign copies of her latest novel, The Funeral Dress. Yes, she will be wearing pants.**
–SUSAN GREGG GILMORE is the author of the novels Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen and The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove. She has written for The Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Los Angeles Times and the Christian Science Monitor. Born in Nashville, she lives in Tennessee with her husband and three daughters.