Willie: The Life of Willie Morris Info

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In 2000, readers voted Willie Morris (1934-1999)
Mississippi's favorite nonfiction author of the millennium. After
conducting over fifty interviews and combing through over eighty boxes
of papers in the archives at the University of Mississippi, many of
which had never been seen before by researchers, Teresa Nicholas
provides new perspectives on a Mississippi writer and editor who changed
journalism and redefined what being southern could mean. More than
fifty photographs--some published here for the first time, including
several by renowned photographer David Rae Morris, Willie's son--enhance
the exploration.

From an early age, Willie demonstrated a talent for
words. At the University of Texas at Austin, he became a controversial
editor of the Daily Texan. He later studied history as a Rhodes
Scholar in Oxford, England, but by 1960 he was back in Austin, working
as editor for the highly regarded Texas Observer. In 1967 Willie
became the youngest editor of the nation's oldest magazine,
Harper's. His autobiography, North Toward Home, achieved
critical as well as artistic success, and it would continue to inspire
legions of readers for decades to come.

In the final tally, he
published hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles, along with
twenty-three books. His work covered the gamut from fiction to
nonfiction, for both adults and children, often touching on the personal
as well as the historical and the topical, and always presented in his
lyrical prose. In 1980, he returned to his home state as
writer-in-residence at the University of Mississippi. In 1990, he
married his editor at the University Press of Mississippi, JoAnne
Prichard, and they made a home in Jackson. With his broad knowledge of
history, his sensitivity, and his bone-deep understanding of the South,
he became a celebrated spokesman for and interpreter of the place he
loved.


Average Ratings and Reviews
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4.25

33 Ratings

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Reviews for Willie: The Life of Willie Morris:

4

Jun 28, 2016

I had read one of Morris' books, The Courting of Marcus Dupree, and after reading this story of his life, I want to read more of them.
2

Jul 21, 2016

Willie Morris, 1934-1999, was a Southern man of letters who edited Harper's magazine during the 1960s and wrote a slew of memoirs, picture books, journalistic pieces, children's books and so on with a Southerner's romantic, lyrical, nostalgic tenderness and a liberal's concern for civil rights.

He was a terrific editor, great friend to writers, and gifted writer himself. Once upon a time, especially after he was fired from Harper's for not making it profitable, he had the ennobling stature of a Willie Morris, 1934-1999, was a Southern man of letters who edited Harper's magazine during the 1960s and wrote a slew of memoirs, picture books, journalistic pieces, children's books and so on with a Southerner's romantic, lyrical, nostalgic tenderness and a liberal's concern for civil rights.

He was a terrific editor, great friend to writers, and gifted writer himself. Once upon a time, especially after he was fired from Harper's for not making it profitable, he had the ennobling stature of a good man bearing the burdens of a troubled region and nation, always willing to take a close look at follies and tragedies that, in the 1960s, really did seem earthshaking. Morris did the world of journalism a great service in publishing the "new journalism" best exemplified by Norman Mailer and the investigative journalism best exemplified by Sy Hersh.

I would suppose much of this is forgotten. The 60s are pretty threadbare by now even though Dylan still tours and Tom Wolfe publishes now and then.

This biography is a litany of events that makes for skimpy satisfaction. After a few pages, I began skimming it and finished it in an hour. I'm not sorry I spent a little time on it, but I wouldn't recommend it. Morris the writer and man clearly was a charismatic individual, but this isn't the best way to approach him. A better place to go would be his memoir, North Toward Home. ...more
4

Mar 10, 2016

Reading the description of Willie Morris' life on Amazon's book page, left the impression that this was going to be an epic biography by Teresa Nicholas. Surprisingly, it's not. It's actually less than 200 pages, and is an excellent introduction to Mr. Morris and a succulent summary of his life. Who was Willie Morris? A Southern writer of fiction and nonfiction, an editor and a teacher of writing. Who is familiar with his work? Not me. Or at least I wasn't until I read this book. I had never Reading the description of Willie Morris' life on Amazon's book page, left the impression that this was going to be an epic biography by Teresa Nicholas. Surprisingly, it's not. It's actually less than 200 pages, and is an excellent introduction to Mr. Morris and a succulent summary of his life. Who was Willie Morris? A Southern writer of fiction and nonfiction, an editor and a teacher of writing. Who is familiar with his work? Not me. Or at least I wasn't until I read this book. I had never heard of him, or maybe I simply never paid much attention when his name was mentioned anywhere else. His life started off in Mississippi in 1934, he went to college in Texas and then England, came back to Texas, moved to New York and became the editor of Harper's Magazine, and eventually returned home to Mississippi in the 1980s, dying there in 1999. After reading this short biography, there is really nothing left to do but get some of Mr. Morris' books, and see if I've been missing out on another great writer from the South.

(Note: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.) ...more
5

Apr 21, 2016

I've not read any other biography of Willie Morris, but I have read books by him and also a book by Nicholas. It's certainly not what I would consider an in-depth book about his life but rather one which gives a nice overview. It did not disappoint at all.
4

Jun 25, 2017

While not an exhaustive biography of Willie Morris, this book is a great introduction to his life. The author does a good job hitting the highlights of that life: growing up in Yazoo City; college in Texas; as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford; working and writing in New York; and finally back to Mississippi (Oxford and Jackson). I appreciate that Ms. Nicholas doesn't simply rehash at needless length the available information from Morris' own major autobiographical works, North Toward Home and New York While not an exhaustive biography of Willie Morris, this book is a great introduction to his life. The author does a good job hitting the highlights of that life: growing up in Yazoo City; college in Texas; as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford; working and writing in New York; and finally back to Mississippi (Oxford and Jackson). I appreciate that Ms. Nicholas doesn't simply rehash at needless length the available information from Morris' own major autobiographical works, North Toward Home and New York Days, and her prose moves along at a comfortable pace.

From reading North Toward Home, I am aware that Morris had an impressive run as the youngest editor in the history of Harper's Magazine, but I had no idea the true extent of the impact on the 1960s national literary scene he had from that rarefied position. While Morris does, of course, refer to his time at Harper's in North Toward Home and New York Days in great detail, I, personally, liked the manner in which Nicholas handled this part of Morris' life for this kind of book.

A complex, brilliant man who had his own issues to face, Morris comes across as a good man. I especially appreciate the manner in which he mentored and inspired young writers. Morris, along with Barry Hannah, is said to have had a hand in convincing Donna Tartt to transfer from Ole Miss to Bennington College, where her literary career really began to take shape and focus. A former high school teacher of mine in the Mississippi Delta told me years ago that when her 9th grade students wrote to Morris about his book My Dog Skip, he would personally reply to them all. I really respect that.

He was good to children and the elderly, and I think he tried to do the right thing as he saw it. I have a good friend who knew Morris well while she worked with the writers program at Ole Miss in the 1980s, and she agrees with my assessment of his character (and has some wonderful stories about Morris of her own to tell). Willie Morris seemed like a man I would have liked to have known.

This book probably won't satisfy academicians and Morris scholars, but as a fan of the late author's work, I especially enjoyed the information about his later life that I didn't know. He seemed to have a really good marriage with his 2nd wife JoAnne Prichard-Morris, and I am glad he found some happiness and peace in his later years. Willie Morris died far too soon, and I grieve the literature he never had time to produce.

This is a slim volume of only 159 pages, and it is easy to read. I have no real objections to the author's writing style or the manner in which she approached this project, and her research is well documented. Given Morris' stature in American and Southern letters, I imagine that there will be other biographies about him written in the future.

In the past two years, I have read North Toward Home, the Courting of Marcus Dupree, and Good Old Boy. My next Morris book most likely will be New York Days sometime this summer as I continue my Mississippi Writers Challenge. ...more

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