HOUSTON In Dallas, there are Lon Tinkle and A. C. Greene, but after one drops below the 32nd latitude, there is no other book page editor in Texas but Diana Poteat Hobby. True, some other harried newsmen do their regular jobs and then, on the side, throw together book pages, but the results of that fling simply cannot be fairly compared to the handiwork of young Mrs. Hobby, who has the leisure and uses it properly in assemblying a Sunday book page Houston Post, of which her husband, W. P. Hobby Jr., is now managing editor and which he undoubtedly will some day be running altogether. Of book page editing Mrs. Hobbynative of North Carolina, graduate of Radcliffe and Georgetwo speaks with longsuffering objectivity. Two of her primary problems, she says, are enlisting qualified book reviewers and goading pubthem in time to be read and reviewed by the normal publication date. The source of her reviewers is “usually under the last stone I kicked,” she said, but with enough of a laugh to indicate she doesn’t really think they are scorpions. “On non-fiction,” she said, “I try to get experts, or at least people highly qualified in the field written about. Mostly I use Houstonians. But sometimes I go pretty far afield. A friend of mine, an expert on Napoleon, travels all over the world, but anytime I get a book on Napoleon I send it to her to review.” She says that college professors do not make especially good book reviewers because usually they have a long preamble and a long conclusion, with very little in the middle. “I certainly don’t feel any qualms about editing them,” she added. AS FOR FICTION reviewing, much of this is done by women, because most of the men reviewers in her stable back away from fiction, and, as a sampling, she thinks this may suggest one cause for the poor fiction market at present. “Very few people here read fiction,” she said, “and of those who do, I have the impression they are mostly women. Very rarely SECURITY Now and For Your Later Years For Non-Cancellable HOSPITALIZATION INSURANCE Guaranteed Renewable for Life . . . Call GR 8-6312 JACK BROWN except for mysterieswill a man fiction. It’s interesting that this is where women also have some of their best chances as artists. There are very few well-known women composers or women painters. But women do rather well as fiction writers.” And when fiction does get a good play in this country, it usually is fiction from an alien source. Weople like Durrell have had a greater vogue in this country than any American. Pasternak was a case to himself; you haven’t seen that much carrying on over an American author since Faulkner.” Publishers frequently fail to send important books to be reviewed, she said, mentioning off hand Lederer’s A Nation of Sheep. “I’ve yet to see the review copy of that. However, they have been by-passing me less and less since I’ve been writing furiously in protest.” Delay in sending the books is just about as irritating. “Most publishers don’t get the book in the mail until two weeks before it is put on the market. It takes two weeks for the U.S. mail to get a book down here from New York. Our reviewers are all volunteersthere are no paid reviewers outside New York, Chicago, and maybe San Franciscoand we can’t push them. So on the average our reviews are about two weeks late, and four weeks is not unusual. This is a generic problem, not just mine.” AND SHE SAYS that, although she would especially like to review books by Texans on time, the University of Texas Press “is as bad as any” about sending their books late. Sending books late apparently is, if not a conscious lewd gesture toward the provinces, at least typical of New York’s indifference to the provincial market. “Publishers tell me quite frankly they don’t advertise anywhere but in New York, Chicago, Boston, or San Francisco,” Mrs. Hobby said, and the fact that the Houston Post has Texas’ largest newspaper readership makes no difference to the Eastern publishers. Consequently, the Post’s two tabloid book pages are almost completely devoid of publishing house ads. “If the Post threw out the book pages tomorrow, I wouldn’t blame them,” she said. “But they won’t. In fact, if I asked for more than two pages, as a temporary need, I would probably get it. They’re generous. But I can’t think. of any marketable item in America that gets as much free publicity as books, or any industry that spends as little in the hinterlands as the book industry.” This niggardliness, coupled with the fact that “we don’t have the world’s best bookstores or the world’s best book pages in Texas,” makes it only natural “that we Subscribe to The Texas Observer Name Address City State Send $5 to The Texas Observer, 504 W. 24, Austin, Texas. Diana Hobby’s Reviews: ‘Clean Washed by Thought’ Title Is ‘Books’ and It Goes with Her Style have to use volunteer reviewers on cramped pages.” AND ONE OF the reasons Texas has neither outstanding book stores nor outstanding book pages is, Mrs. Hobby implies, that both are intimidated by the spiritually deformed but highly vocal reader. She gave an example. “Have you read Larry McMurtry’s Horseman, Pass By? Oh, you should. It’s one of the best Texas books written recently, though that’s not saying a great deal. Lon Tinkle stood on his head and whistled Dixie about it. Diana Poteat Hobby … South of Latitude 32 “Well, a woman who belonged to a book club and who had been assigned to read it, called me the other day and asked if I knew where Mr. McMurtry is now, and I said I understood he was teaching at TCU. ‘I’m glad to know that,’ she said, ‘because I’ll warn those whose children are attending Tell what to look out for. I have been married 30 years, and my husband was as shocked as I by this book. We have run a few cattle in our day, and I know that men tip their hats to a wornan and don’t use that kind of language to a lady.’ “And the discouraging thing is, this woman wasn’t uneducated. Far from it. She had degrees from Goucher and Columbia. Horseman, Pass By is not a shocking book, not by modern standards. It isn’t tied together with a string of four-letter words.” Mrs. Hobby seldom does more than write her column, leaving the other reviews to enlistees, a system she follows not out of sloth but because “it is a temptation to grab off the best books for oneself.” She prefers to review books she enjoys rather than knock books she finds offensive, although when it comes to that, she is a master of critical karate. In fact, she feels that some book editors go out of their way to find books that can be cut to pieces, the New Yorker magazine being among these sinners. While the results are sometimes brutal, they are also sometimes hilarious, as when a friend of hers, who regularly turns out potboilers that he makes no pretence of being other than potboilers, was singled out by the New Yorker for a devastating three-page critical attack. “My friend was delirious with joy,” she said. “Imagine, the great New Yorker giving three pages to li’l ol’ him. Needless to say, the New Yorker left not a shred of type on his pagesbut he couldn’t have been happier!” MRS. HOBBY HERSELF operated, without anesthesia, on a Texas potboiler recently. The operation was justified. Of The Sons and the Daughters, an overpoweringly dull novel by Patricia Gallagher of San Antonio, Mrs. Hobby wrote: “Out on the highway is a truck stop called Mabel’s Diner, and over this neon-lit establishment lives Jill Turner, poor but virtuous, with her mother Mabel, not so virtuous but salt-of-the-earth honest. In a crate shack in shantytown lives Bimbo Brown, philosopher, chief patron of Shady Bend’s library; and in the filthy Mexican quarter lives Father Ryan. In between these community boundaries walk a good doctor, an evil lawyer, a Tulkinghorn character named Roscoe Gimble who dresses in black and runs the drug store and the Sweet Dreams Funeral Parlor, and his persecuted assistant, Daisy, a fallen woman. . . . “Jill is young, pure, and mildly rebellious. Tommy Evans is a nogood with a generous streak. Celeste Worth is a nymphomaniac with no outside interests, and Harry Morgan, who inherits his father’s limp excuse for a newspaper, is a real good guy. “It is possible to make a novel out of this shopworn merchandise, but that would require an ear for dialogue, an eye for detail, a nose for atmosphere, a taste for irony, and a touch of mastery. This book lacks them all.” Mrs. Hobby’s father, Laurance Stallings \(co-author of What Price Glory with Maxwell Anderson and now a script-writer in of the old New York World. Her sister was once assistant book editor of the New York HeraldTribune. But in the four years Mrs. Hobby has run her book pages, she has given less evidence of trying to perpetuate an artistic family tradition than of wanting to exert her own kind of pressure for an atmosphere in which Texas book critics can have complete freedom of interpretation. DALLAS HAS BEEN having a hissy about Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, succeeding in chasing it out of the book stalls and trying to chase it out of circulation. In self-righteousness Houston will not give an inch to Dallas, yet with complete indifference to local pressures Mrs. Hobby met the return of Miller’s Keith Botsford of San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, editor of the internationally-circulated journal KOLOKOL \(printed by our friends in an editor’s note to his recent issue: SAN LORENZO “Naturally KOLOKOL and its editor have been accused of being anti-American. Naturally enough, I resent this. If only because of the people that lumps me with: the know-nothings and the oversimplifiers of this world, the weary and wise intellectuals of Europe with their jaded japes, the smart-aleck young Africans and Asians and Latin Americans with their wonderful new panacea for their own ignorance and immobility, the demon-America that has them in their grip. Really, this sort of thing is intolerable. An American can’t expect to be loved, and shouldn’t, because he represents a world power at the peak of its age, in full flower culturally, politically and socially, and such powers may be respected but are hardly loved, neither by those previously banned book of the 1930’s with a column which read, in part: “Americans may wonder if this novel, written as a journal by a penniless American bumming about Paris during the depression, differs from all the other. novels of destitute slumming which they have read, in settings like Chicago or Dublin or Trieste or Buda. pest or Piccadilly. Is it worth while to step around the garbage, to dodge the drunks and streetwalkers, to have your pocket picked and your shoes fouled in a dirty alley, for Henry Miller’s company? “Yes, because your companion is unique. “‘I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive.’ . . . “What will you do with Miller, jobless or temporarily employed? You will walk, and sponge off misery’s strange bedfellows, make love, make talk, make merry and make fun. Pick up a concert ticket in a washroom and watch the well-dressed audience asleep; pick up a job with a Hindu miser, one with a Russian trucker, settle down as a proofreader on a Paris newspaper. Whoever you meet, whatever you do, it will be tremendously funny before the night is out, not through malice or superiority, but from humor, wit, health and irony. “The much-touted sexual documentation is there, all right, but it is only a part of a vivid world which Miller seeks to contrast with ‘the world of bric-a-brac, of trap doors, of arms and busts and waxed floors, of candelabra and men in armour, of statues without eyes and love letters lying in glass cases.’ ” The title of Mrs. Hobby’s column is simply “Books.” It goes with her style. Most newspapermen who have fought the English language at least to a draw tend to employ style as a sweaty waitress uses cologne, splashing it on with both hands. Mrs. Hobby does not. Her prose is what Heywood Broun would call “sudden”right there before you, without rococo embellishments, clean-washed by thought. B.S. who aspire to power or by those who have lost it. “Still, it is not asking too much that some elementary sense of reality enter these endless discussions of America’s nefarious role in the affairs of the world. If only these people weren’t so ignorant, or if we weren’t so foolish as to let them get away with it! There is nothing more sickening than to have to overhear the average anti-American intellectual’s mishmash of distortion, fear, jealousy and sick cant on the score of the United States; and there is no worse example of this kind of person than the American antiAmerican with his built-in sense of guilt and his obvious inability to handle his own position in the world. “This doesn’t mean that an American should tolerate the ills of his society merely to keep his sheepskin of citizenship pure and undefiled. If the United States is still a free country it is because its being free has enjoined on some the responsibility. to use that freedom to speak out. Every great society develops abuses; the greater the society the more enormous the abuses, because greatness is unwilling to be so petty as to limit those who conceive and execute that greatness. The corrective to those abuses lies in free speech.” THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 6
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