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even turn up in Texas tame enough to be scared into a writers’ roundup on the hoof.” Roger Shattuck November 21, 1958 Literature and Novelists What kind of situation brings forth a literature? Perhaps the question should not occur; a work of thought and form happens if a person does it. But in some kinds of societies, at some times, there are more such people than other places or other times. The language ripens for its harvester, Shakespeare; the upper financial class has some greater access to ideas and leisure, as in subsequent literary England; men seem to plant in each others’ thoughts, as Melville visiting Hawthorne, and Emerson, Thoreau; the boondocks resent the hub of culture, as Chicago resenting New York; or sometimes there is simply a camaraderie in some pub or salon. Describing Sunday evening meetings in Dublin, I believe to which, at different times, came Oscar Wilde, Kipling, and others who were to mean something only in that place and time, Yeats says, \(in one of his prose writings, which are as strong and surprising as as yet established in his own, or in the world’s opinion.” Of a group he gathered with later in a pub, he writes, “I remember saying one night at the Cheshire Cheese, when more poets than usual had come, ‘None of us can say who will succeed, or even who has or has not talent. The only thing certain about us is that we are too many.’ ” A writer I know vents an almost irrational pique each time he hears again that some other young Texan is writing a novel. “Novels!” he exclaims. “Why is everybody in Texas writing a novel? It’s a form that was invented for gentlewomen with nothing to do but pass the time.” Perhaps the explanation of his vehemence is his own preference for another discipline; it is by no means certain that there are too many. In Austin two men hardly 30 have finished novels this year. One is contracted for a publisher; the other awaits word from his agent. A third has had his massively conceived work on Texas in process for one third of his 30 years. Publishers’ representatives pass through the state like boys eagerly scouting a grove for pecans, and the young Texas writer who cannot display at least one of those come-on letters from New York \(cost hopeless, or, like Emily Dickinson, publishing is as foreign to his thought “as firmament to fin.” The young writers with whom I am acquainted have none of the clannish feeling of New England, San Francisco, or the Cheshire Cheese; though they gather episodically, sometimes in Austin they meet at Scholz Garten by accident, they have occurred as writers for reasons lonely to each, and if they sense some latency for competition with each other, they believe it is irrelevant to what they are doing. In the absence of a stringent literary criticism in the Texas press, they work alone, and “have none to ask. ” The novelist in Dallas, John Burnett, has no conspicuous associates in his trade there; Al Dewlen occurred as in an accident on the Panhandle flats; Walter Clemons has always been a solitary sort, and he goes to the East now for most of his time, though writing of Houston and Texas. There is no sense of a literary kinship in the state. There is the Texas Institute of Letters, where “Texas writing” is ledgered; there is a Texas Poetry Society, but they give so many first prizes, one wonders how those legions placing second can bear it. Imagination cannot be organized, nor friendship designed. In a place its inhabitant calls a studio, in a room up a flight of stairs in a city where he sometimes works, in a room with only a door to the yard, who knows where else?, men are writing here now. There will be some results, but whether they will in a few years or a decade constitute one of those regional renaissances which stir different places, different times, is less interesting than the question, each time, what has this writer done? Ronnie Dugger December 25, 1959 Culture, Etc. Houston It is frequently painful for a Texan to decide that he is not, after all, a cowboy. The role is glamorous, sanctioned by the community, and not difficult to play. Adults can manage it far more easily than they could, say, Spaceman. But there are some serious disadvantages. The trouble with being a cowboy, even a counterfeit cowboy, is that although exquisitely sage in matters of horses and cattle, the cowboy tends to be somewhat limited outside these areas. This has more to do with the ritual demands of the role than with his innate gifts. Certain important areas of thought and feeling are closed to him; like a cloche hat or an interest in the United Nations, they are simply not becoming. .. . My complaint about the ideas and attitudes received from the media as well as from such homegrown myths as the myth that every Texan is in some sense a cowboy, or capable of being one, or should possess the cowboy virtues is that they are second-hand, weak, and flat. In the choice of such models is to be found the meaning of provincialism. Not long ago I heard a local jazz group among whose obvious merits was a distinct resemblance, in style and attack, to the Modern Jazz Quartet. The latter is the most accomplished, most original jazz unit in the country. I know that this is so because I read it in the New Yorker, because I have heard their records. What I felt while listening to the local group, along with pleasure in their proficiency, was how much I missed having heard the Modern Jazz Quartet. What made this clear was both the excellence of the imitation and its imperfections. For one thing, the musicians had hands and faces. For another, the drums were a little loud, the bass a little dim, the vibes a bit hasty as is absolutely never the case when listening to music in the comfort of your own living room, where everything is always cool, meticulous, perfect. The quality of the experience was fresh and vivid; it made listening to records seem a very pale enterprise indeed. I rehearse all this in order to place myself in a position to say that I think we know what we know of the principal sources of innovation in our culture in pretty much this pale, unsatisfactory way. This too is part of the definition of provincialism. John Crosby recently remarked that although he’d been pleasantly surprised by the number of legitimate theatres he’d encountered in his travels around the country, he did wish they’d all stop doing “Bus Stop.” Like the cowboy, Dr. Schweitzer, and Leopold Stokowski, “Bus Stop” is a piety a lovely myth that enables us to avoid the arduous business of seeking out and experiencing The New. In a way, this is simply a function of one of our traditional obligations in our role as the public, the obligation to neglect artists, writers, creators of every kind or to patronize the wrong ones. In this way a Starving Opposition is created, and the possibility of criticism of our culture provided for. Neglect is useful: consider what “La Boheme” would be if, in the second act, Rudolpho entered and declared, in a passionate aria, that he had just received a two THE TEXAS OBSERVER 57