A College Town Where the Streets Are Paved in Magnolia

IT has been nearly 50 years since William Faulkner walked the streets of Oxford, Miss., a gentrified college town that he would hardly recognize today. But he remains so strong a presence that his weighty prose still informs daily life. The slamming of screen doors in summer, the crowd around a traffic accident in Courthouse Square and the smell of burning leaves in the fall can all seem terribly Faulknerian. Not surprisingly, anything associated with Faulkner is especially prized.

“I love the lawn at Rowan Oak,” Shepard Smith said of Faulkner’s house, now owned by the University of Mississippi. “I like to take a blanket and a book there. It’s so peaceful.” Also peaceful is Faulkner’s grave, where Mr. Smith, the Manhattan-based Fox News Channel anchor, and his friends sometimes walk to “have a shot of Jim Beam with Faulkner the night before games.”

Mr. Smith, who attended Ole Miss, is typical of people who are buying second homes there. “It’s my favorite place in the world,” he said. He first bought a condo there in 2003 and moved up to his current three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom town house in 2006 (near the top of the local condo market, at $850,000). “I make it to six or seven home football games a year,” he said.

nytimes.com
7/4/08