Texas -- not just the place, but the idea -- is always being celebrated in some way, it seems. But Texas writers are often behind the scenes, which is why last week's spate of events celebrating Texas writers has seemed so odd, and compelling.
Texas Writers: Front and Center
Texas -- not just the place, but the idea -- is always being celebrated in some way, it seems. But Texas writers who write about Texas, people who make the myths and destroy them, are often in the background, fêted privately in the communion between writer and reader (or not fêted, if everything doesn't work out right). This past week has seemed odd, then, and compelling: Texas writers honored at the annual Texas Institute of Letters awards banquet, Texas writers honored at UT Press' 50th anniversary party, and Texas writers honored at a recent planning session for Texas Writers Month (which is May). Last Saturday, at the TIL banquet in San Antonio at the Menger Hotel, across the street from the Alamo, outgoing TIL president Don Graham (Carolyn Osborn is incoming) shared the limelight with a big baked Alaska that was wheeled out and put on display before being set on fire. Inducted into TIL (new members are actually dipped in hot wax then bronzed during the ceremony) were: novelist and poet Carol Dawson; Dave Hamrick, regional manager, Barnes & Noble, and champion of Texas writers; Dick Holland, critic and editor of Larry L. King: A Writer's Life in Letters, or, Reflections in a Bloodshot Eye; author Joe Lansdale (Bad Chili, The Drive-In); folklorist and critic José Lim#243;n; historian Jesús de la Teja; and novelist Bill Crider, whose new mystery A Ghost of a Chance: A Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mystery, will be out in July. Also inducted, but missing, were James Carlos Blake, Ewing Campbell, and John Rechy. Rick DeMarinis won the award for best work of fiction in the past year, Borrowed Hearts: New and Selected Stories, Robert Draper's Hadrian's Walls: A Novel was named best first work of fiction, and the best short story, "Comfort Me With Apples," was written by Tracy Daugherty (the story appeared in Southern Review). Neal Barrett Jr.'s Interstate Dreams won The Joe Bob Briggs Prize for the Goldang Funniest Texas Book. The next day, at UT Press' 50th anniversary party at the Alumni Center on the UT campus, in addition to readings from writers Stephen Harrigan, John Graves, and William Hauptman, Suzanne Winckler, who edited UT Press' Great Texas Birds, read Harrigan's contribution to the book, a meditation on the mating practices of Roseate Spoonbills, which was much more exciting than it sounds. On Tuesday, screenwriter Cary Roberts and graphic designer Marc English unveiled the ever-important poster for this year's Texas Writers Month. The posterfigure this year is Cormac McCarthy, but don't look for the famously publicity-shy author's visage anywhere on the poster. The tentative schedule of Texas Writers Month in Austin lists a mind-boggling 31 events.
Michener Center visiting writers Denis Johnson and William Hauptman will give a joint reading on Tuesday, April 25, at 7:30pm, in the fourth floor auditorium of the HRC on the UT campus. Open and free to the public... On Friday, April 28, from 7-8:30pm, SWT's Southwestern Writers Collection presents "An Evening With Bud Shrake" to celebrate the publication of The Borderland: A Novel of Texas. Actor G.W. Bailey will read from the book and after that, Shrake will answer questions. The Southwestern Writers Collection is in the Alkek Library on the SWT campus; park at the LBJ Student Center. Call 512/245-2313 for more information. Open and free to the public.