North Toward Home, by Willie Morris (New York: Vintage, 2000; and previous editions)
In his 1967 memoir, North Toward Home, Willie Morris recalls his Yazoo City, Mississippi, childhood; college days at the University of Texas in Austin; and his rise to editor-in-chief of Harper’s in New York City. It’s Yazoo City, though, that is at the center of his thoughts, whether returning to childhood memories or comparing life in small town Mississippi with New York City. Born on November 29, 1934, Morris captures time as well as place, skillfully describing how regional and national forces from the 1940s into the 1960s helped shape his identity.
The main street, stretching its several blocks from the Dixie Theater at Broadway down to the cabin that housed Western Union at the bend of the river, was always narrow and dingy, so that the gaudy colored postcard of the ‘business district’ on display in the drugstore seemed more like another place altogether; and out along the highways where the town began there was that raw, desperate, unsettled look, much like towns I later would know in West Texas and the red-clay parts of Louisiana. But down in the settled places, along the quiet, shady streets with their pecan and elm and magnolia and locust trees were the stately old houses, slightly dark and decaying before the descendants became prosperous enough to have them ‘restored,’ which usually meant one coat of white enamel. Even the names of the streets suggested that they might have been there for a while: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Calhoun, and, of course, College, which ran by the high school. – from North Toward Home, by Willie Morris