Summer Books


Kill every dog, every cat,” writes author George Saunders in a short story from his collection In Persuasion Nation. “Kill every mouse, every bird. Kill every fish. Anyone objects, kill them, too.”

Now that we have your attention, we’d like to point out, as writer Edward Nawotka does in his essay, “George Saunders’ Rebel Yell,” that Saunders might be the perfect writer for our era—the age of pre-emptive warfare, the age of George W. Bush. The Amarillo native is blessed with the gift of “making the strange make sense”—a noble goal for any era and one that describes what we try to do here at the Observer 24 times a year.

Twice a year we do that by dedicating an issue to “Books & the Culture” (and even “the kulchur”). In the 40 pages of this year’s Summer Books Issue, we go from George Saunders and Persuasion Nation to Héctor Tobar and Translation Nation, with a timely take on immigration by longtime contributing writer Debbie Nathan. Molly Ivins weighs in on media sinners and saints, with recommendations for superb summer reading (“Pick of the Litter”). Former Observer editor Dave Denison pulls together the long, strange saga of Mary Mapes and Dan Rather, and Ben Barnes and George W. Bush, in “Something About Mary (and Ben).” Former Observer intern—and soon-to-be published author—Emily Rapp describes the perils of writing memoir in the age of James Frey (“How James Frey Changed My Life”). In last year’s Summer Books Issue we profiled El Paso native Christine Granados [“Texas Writers Observed,” July 22, 2005]. This year we’re proud to present “The Bride,” from Brides and Sinners in El Chuco, Granados’ wonderful short story collection, published last February by the University of Arizona Press.

There’s much more to say about our writers, but a few words are needed about some of the artists whose work appears in this issue. Our cover art is by Anna Mayo. As a longtime Village Voice staff writer, Mayo reported on everything from Three Mile Island to Jesse Jackson to Jesse Helms. Her byline has also appeared in the Observer, and we’re delighted to have her magical painting on the front and back covers. The photographs that accompany Debbie Nathan’s review, “This American Life,” are by Dulce Pinzón. Born in Mexico City, Pinzón now lives in Brooklyn. The images are part of an ongoing project, “The real story of Superheroes,” which has been exhibited in Mexico as well as in the United States. Her portraits of immigrant workers dressed as comic book heroes may well be the perfect antidote for the Age of Anti-Immigrant hysteria. As Pinzón has written, her goal “is to pay homage to these brave and determined men and women that somehow manage, without the help of any supernatural power, to withstand extreme conditions of labor in order to help their families and communities survive and prosper.”

Finally, a big mil gracias, a note of thanks to our art director and webmaster extraordinaire Matt Omohundro, who has assembled an amazing amount of text and art with remarkably good humor. And thank you to summer intern Victoria Sanchez, who’s been diligently researching, fact-checking, and typing in manuscripts (yes, even in Wi-Fi City it’s sometimes necessary to do things the old-fashioned way).

With this issue we take a well-deserved break. Your next issue will be dated September 8—just in time for what promises to be one of the strangest political campaign seasons in the history of Texas and the nation. Better be prepared.

To borrow a phrase from George Saunders, watch out for “squat little men with detachable megaphones growing out of their clavicles.”