Dang, this was one of the best things I’ve read all year (“How’d You Turn a Billion Steers Into Buildings Made of Mirrors?” July 10). It was great to read about the wonderful Paisano tradition and also to get such insight into my home state’s literary history. I grew up in the same town and attended the same school system as writer Mary Specht and, indeed, apart from Hank the Cowdog in elementary school, Texas lit was completely and criminally neglected by the curriculum. I can’t say I’ve made up for that in intervening years, but now that I live in Kansas City, Missouri, and feel nostalgic for Texas practically all the time, this essay has given me a needed push. Thanks, Mary. Thanks, Observer.
J. Frank HarperPosted at www.texasobserver.org
This speaks to Mary Helen Specht’s comment on my anthology Lone Star Literature as “biased and idiosyncratic and wonderful.” I’ve no idea what she means but just wanted to say that I love it when women talk that way!
NO PLACE LIKE WHARTON
I enjoyed Robert Leleux’s thoughtful article about playwright Horton Foote (“The Man From Bountiful,” July 10) but I must disagree with his characterization of Foote’s hometown of Wharton as “a perfectly unexceptional South Texas town.” My grandmother’s family was from Wharton, and I can assure you that it is a very atypical Texas town, a projection of the Old South onto the Texas Gulf Coast. In 1860 enslaved African-Americans made up 80 percent of the population of Wharton County, making it as densely black as any county in the Mississippi Delta. The characters that peopled Foote’s plays, and his childhood, were the products of the same anachronistic culture that inspired William Faulkner. Who was kin to whom, how much land they owned, and what their ancestors had done in the Civil War still mattered even when I visited relatives there in the 1950s. Shortly after Foote died I received a letter from a cousin of mine there, who was also a cousin of Foote. One sentence read, “Horton Foote has died at 93. His death was due to the fact that he belonged to a cult called Christian Science and refused to seek medical help.” That is pure Wharton, and it is a line worthy of one of Foote’s own plays.
Lonn TaylorFort Davis
A correction on the chronology of Horton Foote’s films: Horton’s next movie after Tender Mercies was 1918, directed by me in Waxahachie in 1984. We shot Horton’s On Valentine’s Day the following year at the same time Trip to Bountiful was shot.
Ken HarrisonPosted at www.texasobserver.org
Great story (“Dodging the Ditches at GM,” June 26). It gave me a feel for how extensive this GM situation is for Arlington. I appreciate this excellent in-depth approach and learning more about the history of the company and the town.
D. GardnerPosted at www.texasobserver.org
BETTER BOB THAN DEAD
Steve Earle’s Dylan-bashing quote (“Being Townes,” June 12) would resonate more deeply—or be smarter—if Townes were still alive and working. As it is, it’s just a dumb epitaph for a wasted career and a pissed-away life. Meanwhile, Dylan at 67 is back on tour and has just released his 33rd album, Together Through Life. It’s his third album since the 1997 multi-Grammy-winning Time Out of Mind, and shows Mr. Bob is still ready to challenge all comers. Van Zandt spent 1997 … oh yeah, dead.