Steve's Soapbox

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Brownwood Story is still being written !

Clay Smith: Map of Texas Letters
Where was 'The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas'?
06:55 AM CST on Sunday, October 30, 2005
Terry Southern, whose erotic novel Candy accrued a cultish following
despite the fact that it was notoriously difficult to find in the U.S. after it was published in 1958, wrote the screenplay for Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove.
Your Point: If a novelist tried to write the Great Texas Novel this year, what would it be about?
Texas writers: Faces, works, e-cards
He grew up in Alvarado; he got out
as quickly as he could.
Larry McMurtry has taken his revenge on a town he didn't much like growing up in. He's forced the town's economy to be centered on books, with his fascinating Booked Up bookstores on the town square here.
Sarah Bird, the most adept social novelist writing about Texas, lives here but grew up in Albuquerque.
Austin is home to many of the state's novelists and writers (Stephen Harrigan, Lawrence Wright, Carol Dawson and H.W. Brands, to name a few), but this month, Karen Olsson published a novel, Waterloo, about Austin. Larry McMurtry calls her "the most incisive and engaging writer to hit the Texas literary scene in a long time."
Austin is the former hometown of Shelby Hearon, who grew up in Kentucky and now lives in Vermont but is claimed wholeheartedly as a Texas writer. "Shelby Hearon is to marriage as Jane Austen is to courtship," one critic has said about her work.
The birthplace of Américo Paredes in 1915. Mr. Paredes, who died in 1999, was one of the seminal scholars behind the then-novel idea that the Texas-Mexico border was something worthy of scholarship and that its residents' folklife should be archived and treasured.
Robert E. Howard, the creator of the character who eventually became known as Conan the Barbarian, lived here. At the height of his success in 1936, he killed himself after he learned that his mother would never awake from her coma. She died 30 hours after he did.
Billie Lee Brammer grew up in South Oak Cliff. His novel The Gay Pl ace, one of the great novels about Texas, which Gore Vidal called "an American classic," immortalized a famously misbehaving Texas politician modeled on Lyndon B. Johnson as well as the precursors to Austin's slacker generation.
Local writer Cristina Henríquez had a story published in The New Yorker in July. Her debut short-story collection, Come Together, Fall Apart, will be published in 2006.
Dallas is the setting for local writer Will Clarke's Lord Vishnu's Love Handles, his gonzo satire of Dallas mores (in the first chapter, the protagonist explains that he and his wife "live in a big Mission-style house on Lakewood Boulevard. I've got a green Range Rover and a hyper border collie named Max.")
Home of The Dallas Morning News, where authors Christine Wicker, Wayne Slater, Doug Swanson, Carlton Stowers, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Horace McCoy, Lon Tinkle, Howard Swindle, Bryan Woolley and A.C. Greene, among others, have worked.
Literarily speaking, Denton was an exciting place to be in the '50s – Larry McMurtry and Grover Lewis, one of the most exciting talents of New Journalism, were both students at North Texas State.
The hometown of Austin writer Tom Doyal; Texas writers in the know have been waiting for some time for Mr. Doyal to finish his collection of outré, pitch-perfect stories about life in small-town South Texas (among his stories' titles are "Mambo Panties" and "Uncle Norvel Remembers Gandhi").
Robert Draper, now a writer for GQ but at the time a writer for Texas Monthly, once wrote about his attempt to track down reclusive writer Cormac McCarthy; from behind his door, Mr. McCarthy said, "Son, don't do this to yourself." Mr. Draper went home but wrote a great article about the experience.
Although Dagoberto Gilb now teaches creative writing at Texas State University in San Marcos, his sensibilities were forged here, where he used to be a carpenter. The Magic of Blood and The Last Known Residence of Mickey Acuña are classics of Chicano literature.
In 1984, Don Graham, the dean of Texas lit, fired off a testy salvo by calling the faculty of the esteemed writing program at the University of Houston a "fern-bar, émigré or expatriate literary mag crowd"; his depiction still reverberates today.
Seminal postmodern writer Donald Barthelme grew up here.
Thomas Pynchon called him "one of a handful of American authors, there to make the rest of us look bad, who know instinctively how to stash the merchandise, bamboozle the inspectors and smuggle their nocturnal contraband right on past the checkpoints of daylight 'reality.' "
Alicia Erian's Towelhead, an ambitious novel set in Houston that was published by Simon & Schuster this year, pushes boundaries on several fronts. Towelhead is set in Texas, but the novelist teaches at Wellesley – is she a Texas writer?
These are the questions of geography and belonging that recently bewitched the Texas Institute of Letters.
Ben K. Green, the author of the classic Horse Tradin', spent some time in the pokey here. His name on Horse Tradin' appeared as "Ben K. Green, D.V.M.," but as A.C. Greene explains in his roundup of The Fifty Best Texas Books, the D.V.M. initials didn't appear on any of his other books; he wasn't actually a veterinarian.
Katherine Anne Porter was born and buried here, though she grew up in a nondescript home in Kyle, a tiny town near Austin. Ms. Porter's imaginative life about herself sometimes rivaled the imaginative strength she displayed in her stories – she liked to pretend that she grew up on a Southern plantation.
Larry L. King's The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas began as an article in Playboy about the once-famous "chicken ranch" here.
Edna Ferber's novel Giant, which was published in 1952, is remembered more for the iconic film that was adapted from her novel and made here.
Elmer Kelton, the author of The Time
It Never Rained and one of the most respected and iconic Western writers, lives here.
Sandra Cisneros, who has won the MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship and is the author of The House on Mango Street and Caramelo, among other titles, generated a contentious tug of war in 1997 with the members of the San Antonio Historic Design and Review Board after she painted her house in the usually staid King William district a vibrant "periwinkle purple." "Please give me a broader palette than surrey beige, sevres blue, hawthorn green, frontier-days brown and Plymouth Rock grey," she argued. She won.
The residence of historian T.R. Fehrenbach, whose Lone Star is the principal work of Texas history.
In the 1970s, when a group of outlaw Texas writers who called themselves the Mad Dogs showed up here in a typically boozy escapade to "buy" the town for an advertised $60,000, a city official took one look at the Mad Dogs and told them the town actually cost $600,000. "Well, ol' Molly in the office never was good with them zeros," he told them; the sale never went through.
Edward Swift, one of the neglected treasures of Texas lit, set his first novel, Splendora, here. Its protagonist is a young man who returns to Splendora dressed as a woman, which puts Mr. Swift in a highly selective subset of Texas lit that features men who return to their small hometowns as women after years of self-imposed exile. (In fact, there are only two works meeting the requirements, and Ed Graczyk's play Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean is the other.)
Like Shafter, the Mad Dogs weren't allowed to buy this town either.
The setting for Nate Blakeslee's engrossing Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town, the recently published account by the former Texas Observer writer of the drug bust scandal that took place here.
Residence of playwright and screenwriter (To Kill a Mockingbird) Horton Foote, whose quiet, deceptively simple plays such as A Trip to Bountiful and The Young Man from Atlanta (which won the Pulitzer in 1995) have made him one of the country's beloved dramatists.
Clay Smith is the literary director of the Texas Book Festival. His e-mail address is