This special 48-page edition of the Observer is devoted to books—and libraries.
First the libraries. Not long ago Charlotte McCann discovered that her branch library did not subscribe to the Observer. That’s bad enough, but what we found particularly distressing was the fact that her local branch of the Austin Public Library system is named after the late Senator Ralph Yarborough, whose career was based on the same kind of progressive politics that this publication has advocated since its founding in 1954. That got us to thinking that as we approach our 50th anniversary it was time to revive an old and honored TO tradition and urge our loyal friends and subscribers to donate a subscription of the Observer to the library of their choice. On pages 22-23 you will find a partial listing of public libraries in this state that do NOT carry the Observer. We’ll publish the rest of the listing in our next issue, and will post the entire list on our Internet site. Unfortunately, we can’t publish the names of all the branch libraries, so even if you don’t see a particular city on this list, don’t assume that every branch in its system offers the Observer. Call and find out.
Okay, enough of the pitch. Now it’s back to what we like to refer around here as “Books and the Culture.” Among the contributors we’ve lined up for the issue are five former TO editors and several James A. Michener Fellows from the University of Texas at UT-Austin. Simply keeping track of such a distinguished and highly mobile group is clearly no easy feat. We are enormously grateful to our small, but infinitely wonderful, crew of interns and volunteers who have helped make the Books Issue possible. We also want to recognize not only the talent, but also the great patience of artist Doug Potter, who created the cover caricatures of (left to right—but not really) Geoff Rips, Jim Hightower, Dave Denison, Lou Dubose, and Molly Ivins. Special thanks also goes El Paso photographer Richard Baron. Several months ago Richard sent us a series of profiles—portraits and oral histories of El Paso writers, artists, musicians, and others connected in some way to the arts in El Paso—with a note, wondering if we might be interested in them. Like the stories of Brownsville’s Oscar Casares, whose work is also reviewed in this issue, Richard Baron’s photographs and the longer oral histories that we’ve excerpted for his Photo Essay reflect still another aspect of life on the border, one so often missed in the media. They also remind us of something that the late Maury Maverick Jr. wrote on the occasion of the Observer’s 25th anniversary: “Besides politics, don’t we also have music, art, and literature in Texas? You won’t be sent to hell if you become more entertaining.” With a nod to Maury, we hope that’s the spirit behind not only the Books Issue, but behind every issue of the Observer. —BB