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TurnRow Book Company
The Open Bar prides itself on being able to party with the best of them. We have been known to put Bourbon on our cereal and Lillet in our salad, all in the name of keeping up with literary indulgences. It has been said that Malcom Lowry got inspired to write Under The Volcano after a particular long fiesta at Tin House, a rumor which we will neither confirm or deny. However, even The Open Bar has off evenings, which was sadly the case during the last night of the AWP Conference, where collectively, we sank into the throws of a Nyquil induced coma before happy hour was called. What saddened us most about this unprecedented lack of party stamina was that we missed out on having one last drink with our good friend Skip Horrack. Skip had promised us a round of Abita and a yarn about his favorite Mississippi bookstore, TurnRow Book Company. And while we are grateful to him for introducing us to such a beautiful book emporium, we still want that drink! We’ll even provide the cereal.
Full disclosure: First and foremost I’m writing about TurnRow Book Company because a few years back I had perhaps my single coolest book-tour experience there—a late-night visit to Robert Johnson’s “probably” grave with flashlight-wielding TurnRow owner Jamie Kornegay. Highly recommended.
The Mississippi Delta has much to offer—friendly people, haunting scenery, authentic blues music, fantastic food—but a great independent bookstore might come as a surprise. Well, the Delta has that too now—or at least since 2006, when Jamie and his wife Kelly opened TurnRow in downtown Greenwood, Mississippi.
TurnRow is located more or less equidistant from Square Books in Oxford and Lemuria Books in Jackson (two deservedly legendary Magnolia State independents that don’t need any cheerleading), and TurnRow has benefited greatly from its close-but-not-too-close proximity to those literary meccas. Among book-touring writers, hitting all three stores has come to be known as the “Mississippi jaunt,” and as a result TurnRow has hosted many authors that any Manhattan bookstore would kill for.
And yet, at the same time, TurnRow has cultivated an identity all its own. I could talk about how aesthetically beautiful the store itself is, or about how TurnRow has come to serve as a repository of sorts for Delta culture—but instead I’ll just say that it’s the type of bookstore where the owner will delay heading home for the night so that he can take a visiting writer to go see Robert Johnson’s grave. That should tell you all you need to know about the heart of the place. Greenwood isn’t a town that you’re likely to pass through by accident, but if you ever find yourself on Interstate 55 in Mississippi, do yourself a favor and break west for thirty miles when you get level with the town. Even better, act now and make a lost weekend of it. Fly into Memphis and rent a car. Drive south and go do the Mississippi jaunt for yourself. Hear some good music. Eat some good food. Buy some good books. You’ll be surprised what you find down there.
Skip Horack is the author of the story collection The Southern Cross (Mariner Books 2009) and the novel The Eden Hunter (Counterpoint 2010).