Going to See the Elephant: Pieces of a Writing Life.
Edited by Jeb Livingood. Huntsville: Texas Review Press, 2002. 195 pp. Paper: $18.95. ISBN 1-881515-42-7 http://www.shsu.edu/~www_trp/
George Garrett, retired from the University of Virginia, earned status as a Practicing Prince of Southern Letters, crowned by awards for novels, stories, poems, and essays, and has influenced American Letters now for decades. While not a Texan, his second book The Sleeping Gypsy and Other Poems was published in 1958 by the University of Texas Press, before his 30th birthday. He continued his Texas associations. These essays on his life and other writers range from Caedmon to Fitzgerald, Welty, Dickey, Chappell, Capote and their ilk, and on to modern academic cowboy and Indian shoot-outs over the role of college writing programs. Readers will find compassion and a sharp tongue. Texans may first pause on his short memorial of William Goyen, “Brother to Anyone with Ears to Hear.”
Garrett warmly acknowledges Goyen’s influence and personal graciousness. Prince Garrett describes that Goyen had “an honest and honorable East Texas face.” Katherine Ann Porter once responded to R.H.W. Dillard’s query “who was the best young American writer for me to read, the one writer whose work was of the highest quality and would teach me the most. She didn't even hesitate before giving her answer. ‘Read George Garrett,’ she said ….” (Virginia Quarterly Review, Summer 1999). Garrett mentions to young writers that earlier writers, long dead ones even, live in the present. Did he mean like winged creatures reaching for the sky or fools sitting atop flagpoles?