It's Winter: Read Something


Seldom are we presented an opportunity to add a dash of bestiality to the tales of power, greed, corruption, and folly that typically fill these pages. That’s just one of the diversions this week as we take a step back from the usual fare to publish our winter books issue.

The range is wide. From contributing writer Dagoberto Gilb comes the introduction to a forthcoming book, Hecho en Tejas, artfully exploring the Mexican ghosts that haunt Anglo Texas culture.

Robert Bryce unmasks the duplicity underlying two recent works by James A. Baker III as the “ultimate crony” finds himself back on the nation’s political stage with the release of both his biography and The Iraq Study Group Report.

Recent works by three wise men of poetry—”men with a long memory, to whom history is not so trivial as a few heroes and some dates picked up from a cursory high school education”—are reviewed by Paul Christensen. Taken together, they illustrate the power of the form in experienced hands.

Lou Dubose looks at men not quite so wise in his review of Tempting Faith, an insider’s tale of a young, devout evangelical Christian who left the CIA, fell in love with George W. Bush, and had his heart broken when he realized that good Christian Bush wasn’t completely truthful in his efforts to curry favor with the religious right.

There’s also original fiction with an excerpt from Yellowcake, a book in progress by Observer staffer Eileen Welsome. And Austin troubadour Joe Ely weighs in with some road poetry from his soon-to-be-published book Bonfire of Roadmaps.

You’re wondering what became of the bestiality. (Did we mention impotence? That too.) It’s part of the journey James E. McWilliams takes us on in his review of Sex and the Eighteenth-Century Man, a look at sexual dynamics of the past in which we learn that in Massachusetts at that time … well, it’s in the review.

The habit of reading, regardless of subject or form, is clearly something we have a self-interest in encouraging. The nature of reading is changing—more digital delivery, less ink on paper—but the need to practice it never will.

People who read widely tend, by nature, to be thinkers, debaters, agitators, the kind of people we enjoy sharing the planet with. It’s an individual undertaking that ultimately builds community.

Since Observer readers are, by definition, particularly engaging (or agitated, as the case may be), with the new year we are launching two efforts to foster more thinking and debating among you—two new efforts, in other words, to build the Observer community.

In a nod to the virtual, we now have a staff blogger—a pleasant young fellow named Matt Wright. He and other staffers are feeding a daily stream of reporting, insight, and illumination to our Web site (texasobserver.org) that we encourage you to check regularly, particularly to keep up with the legislative session that begins this month.

And with respect for the more old-fashioned notion that conversations should, at least some of the time, take place face to face, we are attempting to launch discussion groups in various Texas cities. Think of them as book clubs, with the most recent issue of the Observer as the featured work.

There are already stirrings of groups in San Antonio and Houston, and we hope to get more under way. If you’re interested in starting/finding/joining such a thing, you can get more information by e-mailing bookclubs [at] texasobserver.org.

Power. Corruption. Duplicity. Farm animals. Talk amongst yourselves.