The Bookshelf, The Parlor, The Young Texas Reader, and the Monthly

The Texas Bookshelf is different from the The Texas Parlor, . The Texas Parlor carries "general" bookish information and non-book information and even different Texana news and notes of use to the bibliographically challenged and other nosey folks intersted in historical, literary, and cultural observations. Will's Texana Monthly may carry material from either blog, but extends itself beyond those, especially for longer compilations or treatments. The Monthly, the Bookshelf and the Parlor are all companions. So, is the Young Texas Reader which specialized on books and such things for the youngest to the teenagers.

Friday, May 30, 2008

New Horizon - Lawrence J. Clark

New Horizon: Lawrence J. Clark

[musical CD]. Lyrics and lead vocals by Clark and music by Clark and “The Players.” Cypress, Texas: American Mutt Records (POB 273, zip 77410), 2004.

The songs track Clark’s life from his 1960’s childhood onward. Figuring out life, leaving this crazy world behind, reminiscing mother love, cold cities, sunsets, the Blues, things “Gone with the Wind,” and new horizons are among the dozen offerings. Softly sung lyrics and melodious sounds drift above the more vivid emotions, some joy, some sorrow, some loves, and some losses. This Doctor of English from TAMU strikes a different chord from the usual expectations of Aggieland. He’ll read his poetry, fiction, and songs – and motivate you. He also enjoys workshops for students, young or old. He may be preparing a 4th CD, one of gospel roots where he’ll continue “laying the hard things aside.”

Susan Pena's Favorities

Susan Peña’s Favorites:
Songs in Spanish and English,

[musical CD].
Lyrics and Letra by the Peña-Govea family and guests. San Francisco: , 2005. $14.00.
As a child in Marshall, I learned to sing “Un elefante,” go with my father to the “Tamale Man’s Stand” to get supper, and go with my mother to visit the Tejana who had the most wonderful garden. While teaching school in Raymondville, Texas in the 1970’s I was deeply immersed in Tejano culture, the folks, the food, the language, and the music.

This music brings back those days. Susan Peña has family strung from California to the Texas Valley.

The dozen bilingual songs and music are a comfortable mix and your body moves easily in rhythm. You’ll hear guitar, trumpet, accordion, mandolin, and other instruments. We have folk classics and original work, e.g., “Elena la ballena,” “Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain,” “The Green Grass Grows All Around,” and “De Colores.” Dancing instructions come in the lyrics booklet with “La Raspa.” Dancing instructions are part of the song in “Las Chiapanecas.” It is an interesting mixture of works for children and adults.

The Peña-Goveas perform in public venues of California, and now they perform in my own living room.

The Magic of Mechanics.

By Lawrence J. Clark.

Cypress, Texas: American Mutt Press (POB 273, zip 77410), 2006. soft cover, 62 pages ISBN 0-9764591-0-8

Lawrence originally hails from Maine, but he’s made his way on down. Here in his poems, songs, and short narrative, you’ll explore his doings – his admiration of his home life, his teenage awe, his loves, his shock over injustice, his quandaries over the poetical experience. He overcomes his education and writes in accessible lines of common human events. Some is raw and naked, others laden beneath sweet nostalgia.

In his prose he notes his reason for writing and that is to reach people’s hearts and souls. He certainly finds mine as he writes about his first newspaper route.

News about People You Know - Robert Phillips

News About People You Know.

By Robert Phillips. Huntsville: Texas Review Press (dist by TAMU), 2002. 1-881515-45-1 paperback $18.95 5 ½ x 8 ½ . 200 pp.

Folks like William Goyen and Joyce Carol Oates like Robert Phillips’ writing, and so do I. Although originally a Delawarian, you may have noticed his occasional poetry reviews in the Houston Chronicle, and he’s served some time at the Texas Review literary journal up in Huntsville. For a while he directed UH Creative Writing Program where he now teaches as a Moores Scholar, and now well honored and awarded.

Most of his short works feature a Yankee fellow named Fallick, as is the case in News About, but some feature Texas venues. “May Day” features a Houston ham delivery man who meets up with a long lost attraction in a ritzy neighborhood, and they teeter on the edge of exposure. In a short, short scene of Laredo, “Jackhammer,” a youngster flitters on the edge of sexual awareness. In “Outsider” an Easterner in Texas struggles with his role as the newly comfortable facing the others’ struggle for survival amidst Halloween trivialities.

Finally, in “Rapture” a southwestern Texan and law enforcement officers sort out his wife’s sudden “ascension” and death on the highway in view of inflatable women drifting skyward, hilarious.

Book of Texas Bayy - Jim Blackburn

The Book of Texas Bays.

By Jim Blackburn and photos by Jim Olive. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004. ISBN 1-58544-339-5 cloth $40.00 8 1/2x10. 304 pp. 116 color photos. 32 figs. 26 maps. Index.

Jim Blackburn and John Graves could have comfortably ridden canoes or kayaks together. Blackburn is an environmental lawyer, scholar, and expert, close to the coast. Graves was a literary man close to the earth and the Brazos River. They’d’ve mixed in the flat potholes, marshes, estuaries, and gulf waters of the Matagorda Bay, fed by the Brazos. Blackburn has lived most of his life along the coast, and that place is home in his heart, mind, and work. After years of legal wrangling, he and his “Team 11” crew recently boated along the coast and listened to folks. He heard a lot from regular folks,and he shares a lot here in his Book of Texas Bays. His 26 chapters, lushly illustrated with Olive’s photos and clearly documented with charts, pretty much cover the water front.

We have seven major bay complexes – the Sabine Lake, Galveston Bay, Matagorda Bay, San Antonio Bay, Aransas/Copano Bays, Corpus Christi/Nueces Bays, and the long, long Laguna Madre. Each is driven by a fresh water river on one side and the salty Gulf on the other.
It is so simple from one view. The fresh waters fed the bays, and Texas economic life is very heavily dependent on the future natural success of our coastal heritage. What was once viewed simply as an economic engine that needed no tending is undergoing rapid change. Our economy, politics, and our philosophic heritage and integrity will determine whether our grandchildren will enjoy their lives. Jim’s general natural philosophy come from Odom, Leopold, and Carson who realized that things need to work together to continue functioning.

Jim can write clearly and the reader can be pulled smoothly as if by the tide from page 1 to subsequent chapters. Although he pulls up a net-full of facts, events, farming, fishing, development, and government actions, he seasons them with convincing and contradicting human emotions and motivations, his own and the folks he met while with “Team 11.” Overall, Blackburn is cautiously optimistic, trusting people will do the right thing, with a little pushing.
The book is a pleasure to read and is likely being used in classrooms as well. I’ll leave my copy on the coffee table, next to Sand County Almanac.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Jane Gilmore Rushing - Lou Halsell Rodenberger

Jane Gilmore Rushing: A West Texas Writer and Her Work

By Lou Halsell Rodenberger. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2006. xiii, 175 pages, classified bibliography, index. 7 b/w photos ISBN 0896725936. Hardback, wheat colored cloth with elegant blank lettering on the spine. $29.95

The jacket carries a Rushing quotation, “The land of West Texas encompasses more than climate and landscape; it’s a breed of people, a style of life, a way of freeing and extending the mind and imagination.”

The title to chapter 2, “A Regionalist Without Apology,” tells much to the reader, and Lou Halsell Rodenberger, professor emerita at McMurray University in Abilene is the one to tell this story well. Rodenberger’s purpose “in this work is to convince readers that an unbiased study of Jane Gilmore Rushing’s fiction leads to the discovery of a courageous writer, whose angle of vision on West Texas’ past is consistently from the point of view of women.” From the now vanished Texas hamlet of Pyron, Rodenberger traces Rushing’s life with particular literary criticism on her writings (six novels between 1963 and 1984, non-fiction books, and other). Rushing often wrote of the reality of people, often good people, caught in the contradictions of life, the hypocrisy, out of step with the norm or the often unacknowledged norms of women’s lives. Throughout, the Rolling Plains under-gird the stories where friends, neighbors, and strangers express their religion and work, courage and cowardice, romance and cruelty and murder, and hopes and fears in a dynamic relationship with the codes of conduct. Rushing may bring to mind Dorothy Scarborough and Katherine Ann Porter. This reviewer may add this West Texas writer to his list of “Revolting Texas Women Novelists.”

Wouldn’t you, as did Rushing, love to see Halle Berry and a red-headed cowboy in a movie adaptation of Mary Dove?

Lone Stars of David: The Jews of Texas.

Compiled and edited by Hollace Ava Weiner and Kenneth D. Roseman, foreword by Robert S. Strauss. Waltham, Mass.: Brandeis University Press / University Press of New England in association with the Texas Jewish Historical Society , 2007 • 332 pp. 184 figs, 18 color plates, index 8 1/2 x 11" $34.95 Cloth, 1-58465-622-0 ( Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture and Life). Toll-Free: 800-421-1561

A wonderful collection, richly illustrated, these 21 chapters by three dozen knowledgeable authors are charmingly readable. The lively chapters, each with a separate bibliography, are in a chronological order, colonial period onward, and written on particular locales, families, and individuals, but some are topical, e.g., on clubwomen in the state, Zionism, and little synagogues across Texas.

Picking a favorite chapter is just hard to do. In some I visit topics I’ve known elsewhere like Ray K. Daily on the Houston School Board, the merchant families Sanger and Neiman and Marcus, the be-diamonded Zale clan, and the venerable Rabbi Henry Cohen. Others are fresh to me, Mayer Halff’s cattle empire, Max Stool setting up shop in Laredo, and El Paso’s open door to Holocaust survivors. And there’s the evolving story about what the Dell they are doing in Austin.

For my favorite, I’ll point you to the photograph on page 202 of my hometown Marshall’s Temple Moses Montefiore, tucked as I remember into the trees before it was razed for the new police station. Not since Deep in the Heart of Texas: The lives and legends of Texas Jews and Jewish Stars in Texas: Rabbis and Their Work have we been so blessed.

For special arrangements contact in Austin the Texas Jewish Historical Society for a synagogue near you. And thanks to Marvin Rich, bookman & past president TJHS, for the volume!

From Syria to Seminole - Ed Aryain

From Syria to Seminole: Memoir of a High Plains Merchant,

By Ed Aryain, Edited by J'Nell Pate, Foreword by John R. Wunder, Afterword by Edward Aryain and Jameil Aryain. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2006. xxxvii, 260 pages. 27 photos, 2 maps, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 0896725863 $29.95 cloth (Plains Histories Series)

When cowboys ride horseback to town to your funeral, you’ll know you were respected and loved. They did so for Ed Aryain. The narrative traces his life from birth in 1897 in Henna, Syria among blue-eyed Christian Druze, onward to his adolescent departure for America, his traveling salesman days on the plains, and his settlement, marriage, and life as a successful Texas merchant, Seminole being is final hometown.

It’s a warming and inspiring life, as American and Texan as one can get. Possibly most novel to readers are his descriptions of his peddling days, now almost a vanishing trade. Carrying suitcases from town to town, house to house, partnering, strategizing, ordering merchandise, he and often his Syrian compatriots lived in boarding houses and customers’ spare rooms, rode horses and wagons through small towns and to distant farms. He began setting up storefronts in Oklahoma with the oil boom and then Texas. In 1925 his store in Navarro burned, but soon he met Miss Etta E. Stone, so smitten, so married. As expected the Depression days were challenging. Finally, in 1939 he followed the oil boom to Seminole where his family took root and remained. While not the subject of heavy discrimination, Aryain found immediate friendship and encouraging business to support his growing family.

They throve. And so will your delight reading the book, first dictated in Ed’s Texan-Mid Eastern accent to Etta who typed it.

Blood and Memory - Robert Benson

Blood and Memory.

By Robert Benson. Huntsville: Texas Review Press, 2006 ISBN 978-1-881515-90-6 in black cloth $24.95 and 1-881515-91-5 paper $18.95 5 1/2x8 1/2. 168 pp. Distributed by the TAMU Consortium.

This memoir of the author and his father sets in a Louisiana that is easily replicable in Deep East Texas. If you’ve played barefooted in the yard as a child, reacted to snakes, tromped the woods, saw your brother decapitated, been sent away, or lived within a flow of family secrets and love, you’ll find Benson’s recollections a rewarding, redemptive read. It moves quickly. Benson, a successful English professor and writer, taught for a while at the University of Dallas but has spent most of his time elsewhere. Some of these stories first appeared in literary journals, including Sewanee Review.

Benson has closely inspected Cormac McCarthy’s work, and there is an interesting affinity between McCarthy and Benson. The honesty and plain style of Benson feel like an intimate conversation over a gingham covered kitchen table. The anecdotal telling with salient details takes you to places of mystery, childish delight and pride, horror, superstition, mortality, and meditation.

Blood and Memory has a better bite than the Willie Morris (another fine Southern interloper) volume Good Old Boy.

Ars Poetica - Clay Reynolds

Ars Poetica: A Postmodern Parable.

By Clay Reynolds. Huntsville: Texas Review Press, dist. by TAMU Consortium, 2003. ISBN: 1881515486 pbk. Winner of the 2002 Texas Review Fiction Prize.

Well, Clay went and added a new element to his mix. He’s prolific and here he’s delightful. This novel features an aging English professor – poet and the hilarious and deadpan life within which the poetry of life occurs. The novel’s geographic locale is attributed to West Texas, but “place” elements are secondary. Clay’s a native, studied here, taught here, and written here. When he writes fictionally about the academic writers’ world, he takes off and the story tumbles onward.

This volume is for adults; yes, you know what that means; poets do more than count syllables; apparently poets go to bed, drink, curse, and carouse, and this can affect domestic equanimity and prompt social promotion of community mores. The plot centers on an academic poet caught in the spiral of success, or failure as the case may be.

The structure is as interesting as the plot; the chapter-head quotations allude to the content and each chapter begins with retrospective perambulations before the active plot proceeds. Sensuous and sinewy.

Border - Cleatus Rattan

The Border.

By Cleatus Rattan. Huntsville: Texas Review Press, dist. By TAMU Consortium, 2006. ISBN 1-881515-47-8 paper $12.00, 5 1/2x8 1/2. 80 pages. Poetry.

Rattan, a former marine, taught at Cisco Community College and ranched nearby while these poems were collected. He won awards for his previous work, including being Texas’ Poet Laureate, and this volume won the 2002 Texas Review Poetry Prize. Rattan writes of what is important – family life, the teaching life, and the hardscrabble life west of Fort Worth.

When folks visited him there “their hands reach for the dog’s head. / They see sheep, / mesquite, scrub oak, the smile / on my face, and the stars meandering to nowhere.” When Aunt Mary came she told “about how young Jeffrey took / her for rides on these same ranch roads / in his 1937 Ford every Sunday / and how he had wanted her to marry him, but he was killed / in the war.” And Rattan has had his incalculable quandaries, “Is virtue your faith? And me, is love my sin? / Because I love and cannot help myself, / Must I conclude the fault is deep within / My genes? Or can I blame some capricious elf?” But he clarifies entrancedly to the winsome woman wearing his ring “Your lulling music, dance / give me power / to fend off dragon fire, / protect our poem bower.”

If you’re looking for them moment when mortality and grace meet in the saddling of a horse, turn to page 63. Cleatus will give you a boost.

Teresa's Journey - Josephine Harper

Teresa's Journey.

By Josephine Harper and Jo Harper. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2006. viii, 162 pages. 28 illustrations, ISBN 089672591X $17.95 paper. Includes a “Pronunciation Guide to Nahuatl (Aztec) Words,” chapter notes to elucidate cultural points, and a bibliography. For young adults.

Maybe you met Delfino in the earlier novel, Delfino’s Journey. Teresa is Delfino’s sister, and she must reunite with the earlier immigrants to the U.S. Teresa is now a 19-year-old widowed mother on a journey from “a safe nest,” a mountain paradise outside Mexico City through Texas to Houston. Their journey is hard. First there’s the erupting volcano, then there’s the strange fortune teller who tells her when danger comes to “Follow the caged quetzal,” and then there’s a menacing, murdering gang. She makes friends along the way. Family reunion follows, but then little Antonio is kidnapped. Full of action and character development models.

Both Josephine and Jo have written good books before, Prairie Dog Pioneers by Josephine and Olly Jolly, Rodeo Clown by the duo.

Showtime! - Cynthia Farah Haines

Showtime! From Opera Houses to Picture Palaces in El Paso.

By Cynthia Farah Haines. El Paso: Texas Western Press, 2006. 190 pages, oblong hardback, many b&w photos, bibliography ISBN 0-87404-303-4 $45.00

Cynthia Haines was educated at Stanford and UTEP, has long lived on the border, photographed it, been a theater critic for decades, and professed Film Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso for 10 years before moving to Kansas where she is already organizing Kansas cinematic history. Her book production here shows her care for details, persistence, and an understanding, humorous mind.

Haines’ photographic interests led her to Mary Sarber at the El Paso Public library and the volume Literature and Landscape: Writers of the Southwest resulted. Her photographic contributions are seen in Country Music (1982) Los Murales (1992), Colors on Desert Walls (1997), and An Art of Conscience (1996).

El Paso’s modern incarnation was barely 150 years ago, and they had saloons, with dance hall girls. Harris happily explores venued entertainment early to late. She parades through vaudeville, opera houses, slide shows, the silent movies, the talkies, and the Golden period of movies in their grand houses, especially the Plaza Theater, and the drive-in screens.

The financiers, the conmen, the promoters, minstrels, actors, organists, ushers, projectionists, impresarios, moguls, critics, social mavens, and the viewing public play their roles amid dusty streets, store-front parlors, city hall, grand parties, road trips, bankruptcies, and fires. She considers about three dozen venues including several Spanish language houses. Haines’ Appendix B “El Paso’s Drive-In Movie Theaters” must trigger smiling, nostalgic recollections among the older adults, a cultural joy deprived modern teenagers.

And Haines exposes the cultural discriminations against the Chinese and African American communities. By telephone to WTM Haines relates that El Paso was often the nexus of Mexican performers and movies headed north across the border; major stars came North to open the shows. The Spanish theater Colon attracted wide audiences. Some folks learned their Spanish language there. Some Mexicans learned their English in the other theaters. The Cattlemen Steakhouse became a major restaurant based on its Texan myth and movie connections and German heritage. The vintage photographs, posters, advertisements, and show cards are delightful.

For only a $45 ticket, you too can experience the grand history of El Paso’s Showtime! with its cast of hundreds, directed and written by Cynthia Haines, produced and distributed by Texas Western, and showing at bookstores near you.

Wetback Nation - Peter Laufer

Wetback Nation:

The Case for Opening the Mexican-American Border.

By Peter Laufer. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, 2006. $14.95 Paper 304 pp ISBN: 978-1-56663-670-1

Well, here’s a solution to border concerns, not so simply stated since U.S. Senator Sam Houston recommended to the Senate that the U.S. establish a “protectorate” over Northern Mexico.

Peter Laufer, originally a New Yorker but reared, educated and now practicing in California as a journalist, suggests that we ignore the old restrictions implied by traditional definitions of border. Free movement, it’s called.

Among Laufer’s other books are Made in Mexico, A Question of Consent, and Iron Curtain Rising.

Even Robert E. Lee seemed to disapprove of Houston’s protectorate idea, preferring to praise the U.S. Constitution. And this similarly “outrageous” proposal can evoke quick denunciation. Laufer’s case is based on his description of America’s “desperation” in our need for the workers, and it is buttressed by the human rights of the immigrants to be un-subjected to abuses. Among his documentation of many attitudes on the matter, poor Mexican economic conditions, tragic personal events, border guard incidents, and characterization of the recent border “militias” as vigilantes and Nazis, are also accounts of older history of border affairs and a lingering consideration of the concept of borders, both the U.S-Mexican and others around the world. Most of the material may be California based, but some Texana is included, such as the Victoria truck smuggling deaths.

In his final “Epilogue: A Practical Blueprint for Normalizing the Border” Laufer declares that border enforcement is unworkable and that both an autonomous zone and border militarization are politically impossible. Besides, the immigrants will find a way to cross. He offers the option of legalizing crossing freely and thereby solving a myriad other problems. Laufer acknowledges that “I’m prejudiced to favor Mexico and Mexicans,” and he explains that by his rearing in California’s Mexican culture.

The book could be a good one to introduce into book discussion groups.

Madam Mayor:

How I Learned to Love Government and Hate Politics in Ten Intriguing Years.

By Marcy Meffert. Leon Valley: the author, PO Box 680262, Leon Valley, (printed by Watercress Press, 2006. 182 pages, paperback $15.00 (all costs included) ISBN 978-0-934955-68-3. Contact:

Men with low self-esteem should not read this review. Women, however, who’ve found their shoes, should read on. Meffert, now 72, wants you to consider public service, because she found it wonderful. Her book reflects on 50 years of community service and focuses on her time in elective politics on the Leon Valley city council and then her mayoralty. Her 12 chapters are informative and entertaining and insightful regarding matters in her near-San Antonio small town. But politics is politics wherever you are. After reading Meffert’s volume, you’ll be better equipped to stand up, speak, take stands, maneuver the snake pits, and pull yourself from quagmires. It is straight talk on how she did it and the kind folks and real jerks she met along the way. She wrestles with the Good Old Boys, the Citizens Against Virtually Everything, grateful citizens, keeping taxes low, improving the environment, and a few meetings from Hell. “How Not to Be a Sitcom” may be her best chapter. But “Quotes from Officials and 10 Basic Rules” is delightful for its human insight. Inspirational and down to earth, Madam Mayor should be read and on shelves where little girls grow and big women command. (Thanks to Joyce Miller Trent for the lead on this volume.)
Her Honor relates by email to WTM a special volunteering effort, “While every Christmas is special when we share it with loved ones, sharing Christmas with strangers can be a truly memorable experience. For me, Christmas, 1956, is forever in my heart as one of the most rewarding volunteer efforts I have ever experienced. We were stationed with the U.S. Air Force at Naha AFB, Okinawa, and I volunteered to chair the Naha AFB Catholic Women of the Chapel’s project to share the Christmas spirit with a local group. The event was “my choice,” and I chose to have a party for the island’s Airakuen leper colony.” The balloons, cookies, carols, and dancing girls must have brought joy and delight amid the celebrants; and certainly love was spread deeply. Leon Valley is a lucky place.

Keeping Hearth & Home in Old Texas - Carol Padgett

Keeping Hearth & Home in Old Texas:

A Practical Primer for Daily Living.

Edited by Carol Padgett (in hat). Birmingham, Ala.: Menaha Ridge Press, dist by Globe Pequot, 2001. 240 pages, 5 x 7, hard cover, illustrations, bibliography, index ISBN 0-89732-409-9 $13.95

The gracious Dr. Padgett adds Texas to her short list of the “Hearth & Home Series,” others including Alabama, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Colorado. The volume informs you as to what American ladies of the 19th and early 20th centuries may have considered proper etiquette and practical application to conduct themselves and their households. The good doctor’s lengthy bibliography includes a number of Texas sources tucked into her wide-ranging list. Texas ladies of the time would have sought national sources as well as local.

Matters of grooming, social comportment, courtship, domestic relations, motherhood, health care, interior and grounds maintenance, cooking, dancing, bicycling, special affairs, mourning and points between are considered. Begin with bits from a diverse collection American sources (Fanny Farmer, Godey’s, Ladies Repository, Harper’s etc.), sift that large collection for what is appropriate for early Texas life, and sprinkle in over three dozen pieces of Texana.

By email to WTM Padgett relates ““Since all the material was originally published during the relatively brief span of history between the end of the Civil War and around the beginning of the 20th century, the daily advice pertinent for the featured states (MA, OH, AL, TX, CO) essentially offers a snapshot of America's ‘Westward Movement.’ Life in Massachusetts during that sliver of time was very different from life in Texas or Colorado! Thus, the Massachusetts book offers advice for dealing with one's servants, setting the table for formal dinners, and the intricacies of navigating sophisticated society; while the Texas and Colorado books include advice on selecting the most effective treatment for snake bites and gunpowder burns, dealing with one's farm animals, and locating the sites for the ‘geographical cures’ afforded by the western climate.”

The volume consists of quotations, extracts, advertisements, advice via correspondence, travelogues, and medical instructions. Padgett’s favorite Texan source is The Capitol Cookbook (1899). But she also plays to the popular crowd with Amelia Barr and O. Henry. Proper deference is paid by including items from the First Baptist Church Cookbook (Amarillo, 1909) and the First Texas Cookbook (Houston, Ladies, First Presbyterian, 1883). Padgett presents it all in the air of quaint nostalgia – from beef jerky to jerky guests. It being unseemly to become too publicly enthused, this reviewer simply records many pleasant visits there within the pages. You’re invited to the hearth for inspiration, edification, diversion, amusement, and tea.

Houston Streets - Marks Hinton

Historic Houston Streets: The Stories Behind the Names.

By Marks Hinton.

Houston: Archival Press of Texas(49 Briar Hollow Lane, Suite 1705, zip 77027), 2006. 231 pages, many b & w photos, maps, portraits, facsimiles, etc., footnotes. Paperback. $19.95 + $1.65 sales tax + $4.95 S&H Total= $26.55 ISBN 0-97406-039-9

Marks Hinton has wonderfully performed a major compilation. This “retired” investment consultant is a continuing contributor to Houston’s cultural/historical milieu and free-lance writer, when not touring far away places. His alphabetical compendium contains about a thousand street names with brief stories about their origins. The many illustrations (many of the photos by Marks and his wife Barbara) frequently break the block of text that works of this nature can visually present. The added sidebars that tie themes (English heritage, Germanic heritage, children, cemeteries, aggression, automobiles, “Let the Good Times Roll,” etc.) draw the reader to reflect and occasionally laugh. Hinton adds special information for varying, former names or transitional names, e.g., Bissonnet has also been called the County Poor Farm Road, Richmond Road, and 11th Street. His alphabet also exhibits cross references, e.g. “Stone’s Throw see Maple Valley,” and “Hawkins, John R. – See sidebar: Houston Streets Named for Men Killed During World War I, p. 10.”

Hinton is generous with his research; he provides a source for almost every entry. Sometimes, he offers his first hand knowledge, e.g., for “Nibleck,” he explains, “Old time golfers know this golf club. Before irons were numbered they all had names …. The niblick equates to a nine iron today.” And Hinton’s volume ranks high amid new Houstoniana, a nine iron there as well. Hinton does hope folks will let him know of new or varying information; he’s been closely engaged on the matter for some years, and he maintain a database on his website, . “Houston is just so interesting,” he says. Historic Houston Streets will be used often and well. Get a copy. Be in the know.

Antique Maps of Texas & Indian Territory,

(CD of digitized maps), volume 1, 3rd edition. Fort Worth: Electric Books, Box 79260, zip 76179, Phone: 817.238.9579, 2006. $19.99

AMoT (Pete Charlton, Publisher) is a wonderful digital collection with good images at an excellent price. There are about 200 maps from 1780 to 1930, Included are early state maps, cattle trail maps, early mining and topographic maps, Texas cities and historic Texas places, and a few United States and continental maps. The maps are grouped by period or place. Also included are a number of pre-1907 maps of Indian Territory (Oklahoma).

Map fans will recognize familiar cartographers such as Bonne, Arrowsmith, Tanner, Lincoln, Cram, Mitchell, Goldsmith, Huntington, Morse, Burgess, McNally, Marcy, Disturnell, and Bartholomew, just to name a few. AMoT is a good gift for aficionados, students, and researchers. Get two so you can give one away.

The collection is augmented with many online topical links to the Handbook of Texas Online®. Students may benefit from the two slide show options, Texan and American.
Zoom capacity enables you to go from 25% to 200%, and panning is enabled. AMoT is for use through Windows 98 and above, but not Macs. No installation is required. Electric Books web site also lists many of their retail outlets. Hard copy reproductions are available through the publisher, (17.5" x 23" and 23" x 35").

Cotton Candy Catastrophe by Dotti Enderle

The Cotton Candy Catastrophe at the Texas State Fair.

By Dotti Enderle. Illustrated by Chuck Galey. 32 pp. 8 ½ x 11 31 color illus. Ages 5-8 ISBN 9781589801899 $15.95

Dotti Enderle, Houston children’s author found print first in Babybug, Ladybug, Turtle, etc. Now she’s under hard cover with large, colorful pages. It’s about Jake. We’re all just lucky Jake was there to correct the problem! You see Jake loves cotton candy. He got some there at Dallas’ Texas State Fair, but as he turned away with his pink fluff, the cotton candy machine would not turn off so his pink pile had a tail that he pulled (unknowingly, of course) all over place. Problems of major proportions ensued. But he solved it in the Cotton Bowl with water hoses. Big Tex, the longhorns, chickens, pigs, sheep all survive.

Enderle’s may be the pinkest and sweetest book of the season.

Journey to the Alamo - Melodie Cuate

Journey to the Alamo.

By Melodie A. Cuate. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2007. 144 pages, 5 x 7, 18 illustrations, ISBN 0896725928 $17.95 cloth. First in the new “Mr. Barrington's Mysterious Trunk Series.”

Seventh-grader Hannah, her pesky brother Nick, and her best friend Jackie Montalvo are mysteriously transported from modern Austin, Texas to the Battle of the Alamo in 1836 for an “excellent adventure,” something Hannah needs. Melodie A. Cuate, a McAllen teacher of several years, tinkers with the tale telling device of Texas history teacher Mr. Barrington’s mysterious teaching trunk of artifacts and a clapping thunder storm to trip the trio through time to San Antonio. Hannah quickly finds herself under Susannah Dickinson’s care and fixing a ham sandwich for Colonel Travis, consoling the ailing Jim Bowie, and finding fascination with David Crockett (who looks like Mr. Barrington).

Hannah almost jumps the gun after she hears Travis famous speech before the legendary line in the dirt. The threesome do their part in maintaining the Defenders’ siege posture, dodging cannonballs, bickering a little among themselves, protecting one another, worrying about getting home, and finding their way back with Esparza’s and Bowie’s assistance. The kids’ souvenirs include a wooden cross for Hannah and a light bayonet scar for Nick. The youngsters are engaging, and the history is blessedly light but balanced and worthwhile. The brief Spanish glossary is a nice touch. Melodie Cuate’s story is readable and suspenseful.

The next in the series will be “Journey to San Jacinto.”

El Mosquite in My Kitchen - Don Sanders

El Mosquito in My Kitchen.

[musical CD]. Music and lyrics mostly by Don Sanders.

Produced by Robbie Parrish & Andy Bradley, recorded at Sugar Hill Studios (Houston). $15.00. order through Don or through

Don Sanders first got my attention before he started hanging around with a pretty librarian. There he was - performing at a book store, at a festival, and library functions. This was after he had been on the Texas music circuit for quite a while; running with the likes of Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, and Lyle Lovett and serving on the Kerrville Folk Festival Board. In the 1980’s he turned toward more theatrical venues – schools, theaters, festivals, etc. He emerged as a combined storyteller and folksinger. He was easy and pleasant to enjoy then live, and Sanders’ new mixed lingual CD for children, families, and educators is a toe-tapper and shoulder-roller.

He has others mixing in with guitar, harmonica, drum and block percussion, banjo, jaw harp, and trumpet, with some synthesizing. I may have heard xylophonic sounds.
Of the 14 songs, some are fun (El Mosquito) and others express consolation and support in the parent child relationship. Some are Sanders’ adaptations to older Mexican folk melodies with verses of his own composition. Several songs celebrate the simpler building blocks of childhood – a rainbow, the kitchen, planting a seed, cooperation, ponies, puppies, new shoes, and an adult favorite, naptime. Others allude to cultural heritage – Los Padres de San Francisco and Cowboy Bob.

The CD’s accompanying booklet enables parents to learn the words better to sing along. The six Spanish lyrics are there interpreted. The disk carries an added bonus as a pdf file – tips for children’s activities for each song. Can you make the cow sound “nyo,” buzz like a mosquito, simulate pulling weeds, and count your fingers? Evidently by my experience, Cowboy Don’s work also is excellent song and music to listen to while preparing supper.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Amarillo - Paul H. Carlson

Amarillo: The Story of a Western Town.

By Paul H. Carlson. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2006. xv, 283 pages. 53 photos, 3 maps, ISBN 0896725871, $28.95 red and tan cloth.

Paul Carlson (
professes history at Texas Tech and has authored several books, some being Deep Time and the Texas High Plains, The Cowboy Way, and The Plains Indians which was translated into French. He’s credentialed and applauded. You’ll enjoy his Amarillo. It’s the first full history of the town. It should be widely purchased. It’s a good book filling a clear gap.

Early Native Americans found it important that the city rests between two rivers (the Red and the Canadian) and is near natural resources (the Alibates flint quarry). The surrounding ranchland gave it a reason for its original being, where the buffalo had previously been nourished for millennia. The influence of the JA, LIT, XIT, LS, LX, LE, Frying Pan, and T-Anchor ranches push the story as interplanetary space guilds glide in science fiction novels. But these prairie spacemen are real. The ranchers transported countless cattle along trails headed for the liquid life at Wild Horse Lake. The lake rests in a central location which was affirmed by the railroads. The city’s history is strongly influenced by Mid-westerners who acclimated.

Amarillo, the Queen City of the Texas Panhandle, reigns over “The Golden Spread,” encompassing the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, and portions of other nearby states. To current residents at times the rest of Texas is an afterthought. In a sense Amarillo is the newest traditional city in the state, population almost 200,000.

But the story is more than trail dust, barbed wire, merchants, churches, movies, and grain silos. In 1900 the “Just Us Girls” started a library which acquired William H. Bush’s collection of books; see Bibliography of the Bush/ FitzSimon/ McCarty Southwestern Collections by William Neal Howard (APL, 1979). Carlson brings a little known event to life as Georgia O’Keefe arrived to paint and the teach high school students. Then there was oil and gas, a world-class helium deposit, and the controversial Pantex Army Ordnance Plant. Interspersed therein, Carlson notes the nearby Panhandle Plains Historical Museum and the West Texas State Normal College (now Aggieland on the Plains). Carlson does not neglect local color; Buffalo Bill, J. Evetts Haley, Route 66, T. Boone Pickens and Stanley Marsh 3’s buried Cadillacs have their place.

In summary, Carlson provides Amarillo at its morning, noon, and ascendancy to “Queen” of the Panhandle. Good reading.

El Paso - W.H. Timmons

El Paso: A Borderlands History.

By W. H. Timmons. El Paso: Texas Western Press, 2005. ISBN 0-87404-246-1 Paper $40.00, 6 x 9, 473 pp., photos, illustrations, bibliography, index, a re-issue of 1990.;

W.H. Timmons, born 1915, studied at the University of Chicago and the University of Texas at Austin. After teaching at the University of Texas at El Paso for 30 years, he became a professor emeritus of history. He knew El Paso. Timmons’ volume stretches from antiquity to the 1980s and includes many illustrations by Jose Cisneros. The 40-page bibliography is itself a starting point for historians of the El Paso region. You should have this volume and C. L. Sonnichsen’s Pass of the North as bookends. See Timmons’ archives at UTEP described at

Often referred to as the “oldest town in Texas with some justification, Timmons treats in detail the pre-American period before 1848 in the first third of the history. El Paso, like Amarillo, is stuck way out there on the map, and its connection to broader Texas is often overlooked, but without El Paso as an immigrant and transportation nexus the westering would have blunted and splayed elsewhere. The stagecoach and railroads passage were literal bloodlines in economic development. Fort Bliss became a major economic engine. Folks in El Paso have a blurry Rio Grande line with Mexico’s Juarez with which their history is critically entwined.

Timmons brings unexpected facts to life. A Chinese community developed in wake of their laborers in laying the 1870s railroads. Folks took tourist trips to the actual border line to witness the “Battle of Juarez” during the Mexican Revolution. The cultural life was enlivened by the novelist and artist Tom Lea, artist Jose Cisneros, and printer Carl Hertzog, a trio rivaling Austin’s Dobie, Bedichek and Webb writing triumvirate and Amarillo’s writer J. Evetts Haley and artist Harold Bugbee twosome.

Overall, Timmons is an excellent selection for reading and edification.

Getting Away With Murder - Bill Neal

Getting Away with Murder on the Texas Frontier:

Notorious Killings and Celebrated Trials.

By Bill Neal, Introduction by Gordon Morris Bakken. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2006. xix, 308 pages. 49 b/w photos, 3 illustrations, 1 map. ISBN 0896725790 $27.95 cloth

Bill Neal tells us how they did it. Neal has been a prosecuting and defense attorney for decades in West Texas, out where the lawless Wild West is still warm. He’s not the Bill O’Neal of a similar topic.

Laws are one thing, but the rules of popular justice, vigilantism, absconding witnesses, a quick getaway, fear of retribution, financial interests of the jury, race, the statute of limitations, personal friendship, the Victorian code, inexperienced prosecutors, lynching before justice ran its course, and, well, “didn’t the victim deserve it anyway” all played their roles. Neal focuses on legal matters, especially in the courtroom, generally cases you’ve not heard of before – they’re outrageous.

Neal populates his book with bank robbers, sheriff murderers, knife-wielders, gamblers, poison artists, angry mothers, and mail-order brides. In amongst them are lawyers, judges, and sheriffs trying to bring community stability.

Friendship goes a long way. Bill Richards in 1891 aided the legal “organization” of Cottle County, so his friend could get a friendlier trial environment in the new county.

Imagine in 1916, the guy who entered a crowded courtroom, shot and killed another guy on trial for murder, and wounded a witness and defense attorney for good measure. After four trails, he was scot-free. Neal brings us forward. Even in 1940, after a car thief- murderer confessed and was convicted, an appellate judge reversed the matter because he was not so sure that kicking and stomping somebody (namely Mrs. McHenry) to death was not based on too much inference.
You shake you head today over some outrageous dismissal, but that’s along tradition.
Neal’s examples are fresh and well written.

Dishes From the Wild Horse Desert - Melissa Guerra

Dishes from the Wild Horse Desert:

Norteño Cooking of South Texas.

By Melissa Guerra. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2006. ISBN: 0-7645-5892-7 Hardcover 288 pages colored and rose & white photos, map, bibliography, index. US $29.95

Melissa Guerra ( is deep in family culinary traditions of the Wild Horse Desert of South Texas and Northern Mexico. Her PBS series and book “The Texas Provincial Kitchen” has attested to her reliability and popularity.

This beautifully designed and lovingly written volume mixes history, cultural anecdotes with a hundred recipes fit for the common Wild Horse Desert kitchen, a part of Tex-Mex in general. The food originates from the ranch tradition rather than the city, but some springs from coastal restaurant inspirations, geographically outside the Desert but nearby. Most Tex-Mex, as well as most American Mexican cooking, first came up through this region that was a lush area until only a few centuries ago, and this book takes cook and diner home again. Local tea brews are included without particular reference to the curanderas. The chapter introductions and topical notes throughout are graceful and filled with accessible, detailed information. Guerra has been touring at the October Texas Book Festival, Common Market grocery outlets, and elsewhere.

The background for masa, tortillas, and tamales provides a basic lectionary for the northern corn and flour kitchen. The section on “Beverages” is just inspirational; get your blender and head for the fruit market. The “Enchilada Norteñas” are straightforward: ancho chiles, beef, onion, flour, and spiced with garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin, wrapped in corn tortillas, and topped with Cheddar. I’ve never tried cactus in my cornbread, but now adventures await me. The “Tortilla Soup” recipe is refreshing just to read and set my jowls watering. Pork is the proper flavoring for the frijoles. The section on “Game and Goat” will be attractive for those wishing to re-capture the days of the Wild Horse Desert range life.

Although she uses some lard, Guerra introduces the increasing use of corn oil. Beyond the expected fare, one finds recipes for “Whole Wheat Pancakes with Fresh Peach Syrup,” “Chile Con Carne,” “Traditional Bacalao (prepared salted cod),” “Speckled Trout Ceviche,” and “Chicken-fried Steak with Cream Gravy.”

Whether as cook or guide or conversationalist, Melissa Guerra is one to treat you well.

One Christmas in Old Tascosa - Casandra Firman

One Christmas in Old Tascosa.

By Casandra Firman as told by Quintille Speck-Firman Garmany. Foreword by Red Steagall and illustrated by Judy Wise. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2006. xi, 90 pages. 2 photos, 12 illustrations ISBN 089672588X $21.95 cloth

Tascosa now includes Cal Farley’s Boy’s Town. Before that it was the wild and wooly West with Indians, buffaloes, gunfights, cowboys, and dancehalls. Between the two, the town virtually went to the ghosts. But here is a sweet story from the interregnum.

Garmany was a seven-year-old in 1931. The Depression Dust Bowl was on, but few would have realized it given how simple life was in Tascosa. Having more than one pencil was a student’s wealth.

At the time Tascosa’s lone resident was Frenchie McCormick, an elderly woman with a dancing history and an honored wedding vow to remain in Tascosa. Nearby in a one-room school house Christmas was approaching and the children’s Pageant was finally ready. And it was nearly, completely, absolutely wrecked. It wasn’t the children, the building, the costumes, or even a too-playful dog. It snowed on the day before the evening’s performance, so heavily that the audience could not come. Parents knew their children were okay with the teacher in the schoolhouse, but they could not get through the snow. And without an audience to love and smile over the Pageant’s young performers, it would be a failure. Then through the blizzard, Frenchie McCormick was spotted coming through the deep snow. The children warmed Mrs. McCormick. She took her place among the chairs out front. And she loved the youngsters’ presentation. And the children loved her for being there – just to see them.

Red Steagall, a Texas poet laureate, and Richard O’Brien append a song “Frenchie McCormick.” Merry Christmas!

Pitching Tents - Gail Mount

Pitching Tents.

By Gail Mount. Huntsville: Texas Review Press, 2005. ISBN 1-881515-76-1, paper $16.95 5 ½ x 8 ½ . 176 pp., dist by TAMU
Winner of the 2004 George Garrett Fiction Prize: Novel

Where is Aaron Spelling when you need him? This rollicking novel needs a sitcom venue. Gail Mount, a Fort Worth native, Rice graduate, UT teaching fellow, and experienced short story writer and playwright, tosses sedate novel-writing aside, and gives us Ezekiel and Vida, two seniors with a love of life and devil-may-care schemes. To the small town of Burro, Texas, Vida returns and immediately Ezekiel falls in love with her a second time. Mount’s fast-paced plot and the characters fast-paced plotting make the story fast reading, delightful reading. Ezekiel is a painterly artist who even derives an income there from; Vida is a burning individualist, now 80-years-old.

The town’s citizens have long categorized both as trouble makers. They start off caring for Mad Betty’s dead, naked body, he prepares an art show, she organizes a school for rebels, he deals with his mother, she deals with philosophy, and they touch each other gently. It is one rollicking scene after another. They wander apart and re-unite. Finally, after a year or so, they decide to really get wild. They marry and drive off into the sunset. If the concept of two creative oldsters making love and being in love with raucous language and civilly unacceptable behavior offends you, die young or sad. This couple does neither.

Where Skulls Speak Wind, Poems - Larry Thomas

Where Skulls Speak Wind, Poems.

By Larry D. Thomas. Huntsville: Texas Review Press, 2004. 80 pages, 5 ½ x 8 paperback, $12.95 ISBN 1-881515-64-8, dist by TAMU
Winner of the 2004 Texas Review Poetry Prize and 2004 Violet Crown Book Award for Prose & Poetry.

Larry Thomas was born and reared in West Texan, was educated at University of Houston, began writing poems in the navy, and retired from the Harris County Adult Probation Department in 1998. He now lives in Houston and Galveston. As with this volume, he has won prizes and recognition, and his poems have appeared widely in literary and popular journals and anthologies. His web site is

As you leaf through Larry Thomas’ volume, he gently takes you back the hand to a private, quiet slow dance. The dance begins in stark, western Texas where the wind will “never, never stop,” where the rivers when they sluice attract “frozen bodies, / … to the river’s edge, / and launched their secret, ghostly boats / creaking with the cargo of desire,” and where crosses, cyclones, and O’Keefe skulls convince the human populace of their sins so worthy of God’s punishment. There bull riders, antique cowmen, and grandmothers rock in the two-step with death.

In the wind sparrows feed and fight, ravens caw in the snow, and vultures in torn black fabric shine their beaks on bleached bones. Moving across the land, a brown pinto strikes a dazzling image in the snow, a black stallion thunders in the night, and longhorns “flaunt their sun struck hides.”

In Midland, youngsters remember their dry afternoons after church, rose colored Fords, dewberries, oh, the dewberries, first communions, mothers’ feather dusters.
In regret, there is long kept secret unknowingly shared by a father and son – acknowledged upon a death too late.

In West Texas not all gods are football players, some are awed by the red hummingbirds and spread their galactic “crushed light” as blessings on “everything we touched.”
Take a little light from Thomas, and you’ll dance a little longer.

Routine Heaven - Jack Myers

Routine Heaven.

By Jack Myers.

Huntsville: Texas Review Press, 2005. ISBN 1-881515-78-8 paper $14.95 51/2x 81/2. 96 pp., dist by TAMU
Winner of the 2005 Texas Review Poetry Prize

Jack Myers ( lives in Mesquite, teaches at Southern Methodist University since 1975, and wins awards for his poetry. He was the 2003-2004 Texas Poet Laureate, gained entry to the Texas Institute of Letters, and took Austin’s Violet Crown.

Myers poetry is accessible and warmly playful and surprisingly cold at times. Myers refers to his dog so often that some readers may imagine that his dog may rival his wife as his most insightful medium, but folks at Dallas’ Writer’s Garret may differ. He may call himself a “failed calligrapher” but he is a successful poet. Reading his work is akin to your following him down some vernacular hallway only to find at his modest gesture the two of you watching yourselves watching yourselves in a mirror.

He informs on us all as in “Trying to find the origins of anger / by looking into my heart / is like a dead leaf feeling for its roots.” What husband has not had the delight of stumbling in on his wife’s hair washing, rinsing, and drying ritual? If you were Myers, you could catch a ghostly epiphany there in the hair. In “An Old Dog’s Tale” the commonplace hound shakes Baghdad missiles from his fur. Myers does not worry so much about Buddha “finding his way back” through a line of incarnations, but rather accepting his own humanity in “pouring water downhill.” Finally, readers will find practical life advice; for instance, what is the best quit smoking regimen, play “Strip Polka.”

Myers’ plain words and behind the scenes rhythm make for a comfortable reading companion.

Red River [movie soundtrack] Dimitri Tiomkin

Red River.

[a musical CD] Film score by Dimitri Tiomkin. Performed by Moscow Symphony Choir and Orchestra, conducted by William Stromberg. Naxos, 2005. 1 hour, 4 minutes.

Yes, John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, John Ford, and Howard Hawks take the usual credit for this classic 1948 Western movie depicting a cattle drive going north across the Red River up the Chisholm Trail. But earlier decades before, the Russians had their October Revolution, and creative talent crossed the Danube for freedom, as did Ukrainian Dimitri Tiomkin (born 1894). He found himself composing in Europe and America. The movies were attractive to the brash showman, and he became one of the greats of Hollywood’s Golden Age lush musical backgrounds.

Other works included Resurrection (1931), Lost Horizon (1937), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Duel in the Sun (1946), The Big Sky (1952), High Noon (1952), Giant (1956), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), and Rio Bravo (1959). By the 1950’s Tiomkin was the highest paid composed in Hollywood. After the Iron Curtain fell, the Moscow Symphony Choir and Orchestra early chose Tiomkin’s Red River worthy of revival for Russian audiences. This American release is a lesser version, compared to the European, but the Russians must have enjoyed the dynamic sweeps, the cattle runs, and weaving in American folk music. And they must have listened for the echoes of their homeland’s sounds.

Beaumont Boy (CD music) - Ezra Charles

Beaumont Boy. [musical CD]

By Ezra Charles and His Band. Sycamore Records. 2001, 2005. 10 tracks. $15.00

Maybe Van Cliburn stole the Tchaikovsky, but Ezra Charles must have stolen the piano because it’s smoking hot, and this Beaumont Boy tours Greater Texas in piano boogie-woogie blues in another of his string of CDs. It’s snappy, got the heart and beat, and nine of the ten cuts (all but “House of Blue Lights”) are original lyrics and musical arrangements by Ezra.

He started at age 14 with Johnny Winter and has been hunting elephants ever since. His awards began decades ago and continue. His life musical range covers country, rockabilly, jazz, pop, rock and roll, gospel and certainly more. But Beaumont Boy delightfully celebrates Texas. You’ll hear of his adolescent naiveté, prides of Texas and fatherhood, romantic adventures, memorializing Stevie Ray Vaughn, and working Sixth Street. For a pick of the litter take either “Beaumont Boys” or “You Are the Music.” In the “Boys” it must be hard at the same time to run the keyboard and to wave a baton for a band including Harry James, the Big Bopper, Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter, Clay Walker, Tracy Byrd, and Mark Chesnutt all at the same time.

When the smoke clears, you’ll find Mike Seybold, Nancy Dalbey, Damon Sonnier, Derek Sonnier, and James Morado with the instruments, and Erza inhaling, ready to go again. If you’re in Houston, beside his regular gigs, find him in his hometown Bellaire, down at the Triangle in Mojo Mama’s on Casual Tuesdays for a while. The piano’s in the window.

Brush Country.

By Lionel Garcia. Huntsville: Texas Review Press, 2004. ISBN 1-881515-62-1 paper $12.95 5 1/2x8. 88 pages. Winner of the 2003 Texas Review Poetry Prize.

The widely acclaimed and successful writer, Lionel Garcia reflects on his rearing and heritage of his homeland, the brush country of Southwest Texas. Garcia’s poems begin with notices of the countryside – the dry, nearly barren land, with the cenizo and frijollo in bloom, a rabbit licking moisture from the leaves, and a red-tail hawk, a green jay, and a feeding deer. “The brush speaks to me / The voice is hard and strong, like the people.” The infrequent rain is almost mythological for the condemned. But there’s dancing on Saturday night at the ranch. The boys go off to war. His horse, Rocinante, dies and his grandfather works away from home. He struggles between sport and food with the killing of a deer. A dove, the wind, and a pelican lift him and leave him to be “I am the door at a Brush Country house.”

For a riding accident, the horse is killed to regain control of life forces, else what stability is there in life. A child dies, and the death is ascribed to God’s will, and the child is better dead than in this hard life, else what stability is there in life. A cowbell rings as if announcing the birds’ flight of fate. The priest reprimands the poor parishioners for risqué clothing, but even “God cannot change the fates of life.” Pacho intimates with Maria. The oilmen come, the hunter goes, and Garcia wonders about yesterday. A crazy woman cries for her children. A father denies his hunger.

Throughout a dry, persistent love lingers in the shadows. The cenizo and frijollo scent the air. Garcia concludes “How beautiful to live without / Remorse of what could have been.” Else, the reader may wonder what stability is there in life. Would you love the caliche upon which you were born?

Texas Heat - William Harrison

Texas Heat

by William Harrison. Huntsville, Texas Review Press, 2005. ISBN 1-881515-84-2, paperback. $18.95.

The review of this love and loving short story collection is in the Texas Parlor blog ( for October 4th). It’s an audio. I was a bit timid about writing about, well, you know. But apparently, people do these sorts of things in Texas. As I posted this entry there, my service provider notified that it would not longer be available to post audio postings. So, what you get is the unedited, hurried, first recording, maybe not unlike, well, you know. I speak nervously from a script for about 5 minutes.

Gone to Texas Heritage Recipes

Gone to Texas: Heritage Recipes, volume II.

Victoria: The Texas Settlement Region (PO Box 1132, 77902), 2004. three-ring binder under hard cover. 379 pages. $17.00

The Texas Settlement Region is an organization of counties “Dedicated to protecting our region's history, culture, and natural attractions while promoting our region as a heritage tourism destination.” The 18 counties compose the area of early American and European colonization, including, Aransas, Austin, Brazoria, Calhoun, Colorado, DeWitt, Fayette, Fort Bend, Goliad, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Jackson, Karnes, Lavaca, Matagorda, Refugio, Victoria, and Wharton Counties.

The webpage is a tidy, useful one. It has a hot directory of museums, historical markers (with narrative), Chambers of Commerce, and a lengthy “Visitors Guide” for history, culture, and natural attractions, with many color maps and photographs, arranged by county. Added to that is a portion of the “Indianola Trail Visitors Guide: From Indianola to New Braunfels” provided by the Texas Historical Commission.

The cookbook must have over 500 recipes of old and modern origins, interspersed with old sayings, historical notes, vintage photographs, and helpful hints. Most recipes are signed, with notes on family origin and some admission of out-right theft. There are 60 cookie and 50 cake recipes, but also find seven cobblers. Aside from sweets, there is a wide diversity of dishes. Expect strong representation of the German and Mexican food, but you will also find Polish, Alsatian, French, Czech, Danish, and if potatoes indict anything, Irish. When you visit the region, find a settler, you will not go hungry.

Fighting Padre - Edward Bastien

The Fighting Padre of Zapata :

Father Edward Bastien and the Falcon Dam Project.

By Edward Bastien; edited by María F Rollin. El Paso: Texas Western Press, 2003. Southwestern Studies Series No. 110. ISBN 0-87404-285-2 Paper $18.00. 6 x 9, 265 pp., b&w photos, appendices, notes, biblio.

Father Bastien was a good priest. When he arrived in Zapata on the Rio Grande, poor folks were being rather cavalierly, if properly according to the bureaucrats, displaced and poorly compensated by a giant engineering project to create the Falcon Dam Reservoir. He took pen in hand and began mailing or nailing letters and newspaper articles in protest and supplication. From President Eisenhower and Senator Johnson on down, he wrote. He invented a pen name “I. Poz” (that is, Irate People of Zapata) to use in his writings to the Laredo Times.

With wit and persistence, Father Bastien respected the community’s needs and brought some needed change to the affair. Father Bastien eventually grew ill and was transferred to another charge from where he covertly continued his efforts. He eventually created an additional manuscript, a portion of this volume, and left it in the care of the editor’s family. The letters and articles are remarkable to read. The book is more than just its own story. If you or others wish to learn how to write letters in support for a cause, it is an excellent laboratory and inspiration. Maybe the folks trying to save Caddo Lake could use the good Father’s model.

In that case the Eagle would follow the Dove. The reviewer would have liked to see some photographic reproductions of the letters in the Father’s own hand and typescript. Editor Maria Rollin earned degrees in Spain and Texas and has taught in both. He current teaches ESL in the Laredo Community College. She is congratulated for her insight and loyalty. The Flores Magon brothers would be proud.

George Garrett - Jeb Livingood

George Garrett:

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

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?

Cormac McCarthy's West - James Bell

Cormac McCarthy’s West: The Border Annotations.

By James Bell, Introduction by Patrick Shaw. El Paso: Texas Western Press, 2002. xxii, 154 pages. Maps, illus. notes, bibliog.

If Larry McMurtry is the Gray Eminence of Texas Letters, Cormac McCarthy is the Red Eminence. As an established writer of Kentucky, he moved to El Paso, and his scenes shifted from wet cave lands to dry plains. The old saints Porter and Goyen might pause before the Gray and Red bookshelves, admiring McMurtry’s canon, movies, and lifestyle and maybe pausing pensively to reach for McCarthy’s trail of allusive density.

“Allusive density,” such is Patrick Shaw’s term to describe an element of the El Paso cardinal’s holy work. James Bell’s work is a spiffed up doctoral dissertation, compiling these allusions into simple systems with commentary to ease the reader into the text. It reminds this reader of the creative readership of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ring trilogy – the maps, the directories, the countless accessories “needed” to understand or expand the great written image. If creative literature is judged by the amount and texture of its commentary, Bell shows the texture is palpable.

In a way it’s rather simple. For each of the trilogy titles (All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain), Bell indexes and annotates the chronological references and then does the same for the characters and then does the same for the place names. Following those 9 indexes, he provides two others, cultural allusions and historical allusions in the Trilogy. Flipping through the pages, the reviewer finds words that attract as labeled photos in a family scrapbook. With the garden hoed so well by Bell, others can now come and pick further fruits. But will it all lead to desolation on down The Road.

Child of Many Rivers - Lucy Fischer-West

Child of Many Rivers: Journeys to and from the Rio Grande.

By Lucy Fischer-West, Foreword by Denise Chavez . Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2005. xvi, 190 pages. 32 b/w photos, index. ISBN 0896725561. $21.95 cloth

This Child won the 2005 Southwest Book Award and was a 2006 WILLA Literary Award Finalist. Lucy Fischer-West teaches English at El Paso’s Cathedral High School, and her students are lucky that she does. You are lucky if you read the volume.

It started with contributions on her father and mother to the Texas Folklore Society. In the “Epilogue” she summarizes that “Rivers for me are a continuum, linking not only each other but also past and present and most importantly all the people who belong to them and have touched my life.”

Her father was a German sailor, her mother was the “youngest and most beautiful girl in a family of twelve” in Camargo, Chihuahua. As young girl, Lucy patted tortilla balls beside the Conchos River, and as a mature woman she washed her hands in the Ganges and received a blessing from Sister Teresa. Her autobiographical essays lure the reader through the gifts of cultures.

Whether she’s sharing the aroma of the El Paso market, the horrible auto accident near the River Clyde, French rocks with Paulette, touring India and Nepal on the Rotary trip “to improve international understanding,” Lucy’s waters mingle in a beautiful human stream. Un millon de gracias, Lucy.

Twilight Innings - Robert A. Fink

Twilight Innings: A West Texan on Grace and Survival.

By Robert A. Fink

Foreword by R. S. Gwynn. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2006. xvi, 152 pages. ISBN 0896725847 $24.95 cloth

Robert A. Fink is W. D. and Hollis R. Bond Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. He is known as the author of several books of poetry, but Twlight Innings collects essays from eleven diverse sources. He takes readers from his childhood and rearing in East Texas, to college, to Vietnam, and finally to Abilene where the sparseness of topography, sound, and people permit healing of wartime assaults, assuaged by academic acceptance of his poetic and Christian sensibilities. The Abilene sparseness is enriched by the common wealth shared by many places. He records “Accepting the call to Abilene means you’re among people who love a lot more than poetry.”

Old friends and ghosts sway amid students, family, and school counselors. They populate home, school, Sunday school, the rangeland, and the Guadalupe Mountains. Prairie Dog baseball enlivens metaphor, stabilizes reality and rescues the perishing.

Fink would offer you a hard rubber sphere wrapped in strings, covered by soft leather and ask you to feel the stitches. Take it.