Relax, and take a break for lunch or dinner, and watch the river go by. The drinks are ample, and the cheesecake is our own. We have sandwiches to seafood, from 11:30 until 11:30 every day of the week; open till midnight in the Metro Center, San Antonio, Texas. By R. G. Vliet I am not showing this book jacket as an advertisement for my book. For those of you who can’t see it at a distance, it consists of a man on a horse in the foreground, a bit of sky with a hawk in it, and a. background of some sandy-colored, mesa-topped bluffs. It’s the background, the landscape, I wish you would notice. I said to my editor, when I first saw this jacket, “Why does everyone in the East think Texas is in Arizona?” We have no image of the Southwest. No one anywhere in the country has much trouble conjuring up an image of the South, its history, landscape, climate, culture and the effect of these on the psyches of its inhabitants. Through Faulkner, Alan Tate, John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren, Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee Williams, William Styron and many others, the landscape and the psyche of the South stand revealed. There is no such definition of the Southwest. Only literature, by which I mean here works of sufficiently demanding aesthetic excellence and depth, can provide such definition, because only literature, of the forms that employ language as their medium, has the aesthetic that can cut through the surface and into the center: the ‘truth of existence, existence of particular persons in a particular place, persons who are -the product, in fact the image of that place. We have no literature of Texas or the Southwest, barring five or six books. We have no definition. The Cotton Bowl, the Alamo, the Dallas or Houston rich, Texas Longhorns, the King Ranch are incidentals, and people who set their minds on such things as these as images of Texas are the walking blind. It is the lives that are lived that are a place. And you know how secret all lives are, yours and mine, how hidden and deep. The novelist and poet are especially constructed to mine them forth. If you will follow Interstate 35 from Laredo up through San Antonio, Austin, Waco and Dallas you will have a pretty good lower boundary dividing the Southwest from the South, and if you will latch onto a good chunk of Arkansas up north and take in most of Oklahoma and all of New Mexico and much of Arizona, you will have, on the basis of landscape, culture, industry, history and climate, the probable territory of the Southwest, as opposed to, say, the Midwest, Mountain West, Northwest or Far West. It is somewhat larger in size than the association of states that make up the South, and it is definitely another country. I say that Route 35 is the probable dividing line, in Texas. As you drive toward Austin through, for instance, Kyle, the town where Katherine Anne Porter was raised by an archetypal grandmother and where much of her early fiction is set, the boundary is palpable. On your right is the rich, black, softly rolling cotton-farmland of the South, on your left the leading edge of the rocky, cedar and post-oak, ranch-section Hill Country. There is very nearly a clean division in idiom there too: toward the right the soft, drawling pronunciation general to the South, to the left the brusque, consonantal harshness understood as “western” that so reflects the harsher landscape. This accounts for the difficulty we sometimes have in deciding whether Katherine Anne Porter in her early fiction is in fact writing about the South or the Southwest. In her great short novel, Noon Wine, she is writing about the Southwest. In Old Mortality and in the series, of sketches in The Old Order, she is writing about the South. South and Southwest ran simultaneously through her childhood, right there in Kyle. To get a literature of the Southwest, to get an image of the Southwest, we are going to have to have poems and novels of such high linguistic and intuitive capabilities as to be able to probe and release, in their own idiomreflecting the sky they are under and the land they are on, the past they come from and the present they are inthe individual and communal psyches that, though they are at once all men, are also, and especially, of this time, this place. For my part I do not feel that this literature will be made in a mainly realistic nor, certainly, propagandistic mode. I believe it must use a language as highly charged imaginatively as the landscape it comes from and as harsh musically and idiomatically as its natives’ speech. It will be a literature that goes to the psyche, not the surface, and toward, on its own terms, Flaubert or Joyce rather than Dreiser. It will put an image into the nation’s consciousness as real and as imaginative as that we have of the South. It will be a world of its own. 1;! THE TEXAS ar.:’,3F.. klE 1;1
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