Eating Mississippi

Scott Ely


Two downriver journeys, disparate in time and intent, alarmingly similar in increasing violence: When Robert Day discovers a French diary written by Octavius, an ex-slave who fled to Haiti well over a century before, he impulsively decides to imitate Octavius’s journey down Mississippi’s Pearl River to the Gulf of Mexico. This, in hopes of overcoming his own grief over his anthropologist wife, recently murdered by poachers in Africa. But as Robert floats down the river and translates the diary, he learns just how terribly violent young Octavius’s escape was, starting with the Bowie-knife murder of his master—and lover—after Octavius learned that the man intended to take on a wife. The escalating violence of Octavius’s river journey becomes reflected not only in Robert’s life, but in the lives of the three friends he asks to accompany him down the Pearl River.

ISBN: 978-1-931982-63-4 library binding $26       Sale $13.00

ISBN: 978-1-931982-64-1 trade paper $14.95      Sale $7.50

206 Pages

About the Author: 

Scott Ely was born in Atlanta, GA, and he  moved to Jackson, MS when he was eight. He served in Vietnam (somewhere in the highlands near Pleiku). He graduated with an MFA from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. He teaches fiction writing at Winthrop University in South Carolina. His previous book publications include STARLIGHT (Weidenfeld & Nicolson); PITBULL (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Penguin); OVERGROWN WITH LOVE (University of Arkansas Press); THE ANGEL OF THE GARDEN (University of Missouri Press). His work has been translated in Italy, Germany, Israel, Poland, and Japan. There were also UK editions of the novels published.

 Excerpt from the Book:

 Robert Day stood in a cloud of dust and surveyed the empty attic. The dust smelled of cypress. Stands of cypress grew along the Pearl River whose banks bordered his front yard. He imagined their feathery tops, their branchless trunks rising smoothly out of the dark water, the polished knees ranged in circles about the parent trees.
     All morning he had carried pieces of broken furniture downstairs; he had opened trunks and boxes, throwing most of what he found into a dumpster. His most valuable discoveries had been a silver fork and three crystal wine glasses.
On leave from his job as a translator, he had recently taken up residence in the house on the Pearl River in Mississippi. Two years ago he had lost his wife Elaine, killed by poachers in Africa. An anthropologist who specialized in the study of chimpanzees, she had gone to Africa to continue her research. One day she did not return from the forest. She had been executed, a single shot in the head. So far the police had not found the people who killed her.
     After the funeral, after he had made the difficult trip to Africa to bring her body back, he found Elaine’s presence inescapable. It weighed him down. It was as if he and their house—a house they had built in the Midwestern town where the university was located—were being slowly ground under by a glacier sliding down from the pole and across the plains. He recalled how a month or so after he learned of her death he found himself reading the draft of a paper Elaine had been working on about aggression in chimpanzees. It was based on her research of several years before. He read only a few paragraphs, wondering as he read why he was reading. Did he think he would find in her paper some sort of explanation for why she was killed?