This is the time of year when we briefly close up shop. We skip an issue, which means that your next Observer will be dated September 10. We promise that it will be a full roster of politics, political satire, and other good stuff. Meanwhile, we leave you with an abundance of reading that’s particularly appropriate for the dog days of summer, when life here in Texas is deceptively quiet.

We begin with reminiscence of small-town Texas journalism and a Progressive history lesson from Bill Moyers, an excerpt from Bill Moyers on America: A Journalist and His Time. Moyers’ piece is followed by a review essay from former editor and contributing writer Dave Denison. As Denison notes in his opening paragraph, this has been an especially good year for political books—an abominably bad president from Texas translates into a bumper crop of books about thieves in high places “and all the other lying liars, including especially the present liar-in-chief.†But among the most intriguing is Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. What the Baffler editor and cultural historian does better than most is ask the big questions, the ones that provide context to so many stories that appear in this publication, stories about mean-spirited legislators and the communities they represent. Why do so many people vote against their fundamental economic interests? Why have they been co-opted by the right? To Frank this is “the preeminent question of our times.†“This is not just the mystery of Kansas,†he writes. “This is the mystery of America.†And it’s one that we’re likely to be grappling with for a long, long time—whatever happens on November 2.

Still another take on the mystery of America is that of Jeremiah Brown, the protagonist of James Kelman’s You Have to Be Careful in the Land of the Free, reviewed in this issue by Jeff Severs. Or that of the 1999 Seattle protestors who provide the backdrop for Robert Newman’s The Fountain at the Center of the World (“Global Victorians,†by Karen Olssonâ€). Or that of Denise Chavez, whose recently re-released collection of coming-of-age stories is reviewed here by Carrie Fountain (“Portrait of Artist as a Young Chulaâ€. Or that of Laredo poet Randy Koch’s precise evocation of “No-Man’s Land,†or the early-morning regimen of coffee, clarity, and intellectual nirvana described by contributing writer James E. McWilliams in the Afterword of this issue (“The View at 4:57 a.m.) .

And that’s just a sample. Happy reading and see you in September. —BB