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CONTENTS FEATURES 2 The Culture Shrinks Geoffrey Rips 3 All’s Fair Geoffrey Rips 5 Wall Street or Guadalupe Street Mary Lenz DEPARTMENTS 4 Dialogue 7 Political Intelligence 22 Social Cause Calendar Books and the Culture: 8 The Political Monopoly 11 Soldiers of Foreign Policy 13 Neo-Conservative Obsession 15 Writing Out of Place 16 Collective Perspectives 18 A Her-story of Texas 19 Love and Loss Afterword: 23 Toys Aren’t Us Cover Art by Gary Albright George Scialabba Dave Denison Stephen Bronner Lyman Grant Dave Oliphant Dee Seligman Gary Pomerantz Geoffrey Rips they are fast becoming the exception. Lest you think all book publishers bring a missionary zeal to their trade \(as Alfred Schuster’s president, during a 1982 symposium on publishing, who said that books are the software of the information industry. What happens, then, is the list of titles published by these major companies shrinks dramatically. Many of the writers who would have been published by these houses in the 1960s are now published by smaller presses. There is nothing wrong with a small press. Many treat their writers with greater respect than do the big houses, allowing more room for experimentation in ideas and style. But the chains won’t carry them. The wholesalers won’t carry them. The writers for these small presses cannot make a living through their writing. The small presses struggle to stay afloat. And, more important, the books never reach their potential readers. There is a great shrinking of our culture and of our understanding. Our vision as a people narrows. It becomes a vicious circle. The less we are exposed to and understand, the less we will want to be exposed to, and, therefore, the less diversity in the books publishers small and large will publish. Since writers are, first, readers, what will inform our future writers? With the recent upsurge of public concern about literacy, we need to ask the question: what will there be to read? Literacy should not just mean the ability to read a gas bill or even the morning paper. It should mean the ability to read analytically, to develop an informed opinion, to think -independently. Part of any literacy campaign should include a drive to save our bookstores and our books. This isn’t just a matter of patronizing small, independent businesses rather than parts of some corporate octopus, though that is important. It’s a matter of self-preservation. With the winter ahead and a gift-giving season, we have devoted much of this issue of the Observer to reviews of books. Should a book reviewed here, or any other, grab you, go buy it at an independent bookstore if you still have that opportunity. Don’t do it just to save the store, but to save yourself. G.R. All’s Fair WHAT PRESIDENT Reagan characterized as “sharks circling” with “blood in the water” may be more appropriately likened to catfish feeding off the detritus that floats down to the river bottom. Following Reagan’s charge, the December 5 New York Times found it newsworthy to interview chiefs of the major media. They were faster than a bunch of cattle rustlers before Judge Roy Bean in throwing up their hands en masse to protest their innocence and ideological and professional purity. Having performed the equivalent of 10,000 Hail Marys for Watergate indiscretions by turning a hitherto uncritical eye on the Age of Reagan, several press leaders were almost apologetic for the recent press attention paid the developing Iran-Contra arms affair. Speaking with the ghost of Joe McCarthy hovering over his video display terminal, Michael G. Gartner, editor of The Courier-Journal of Louisville and president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, reminded the Times that a “Middle Eastern publication, not an American news organization, had first exposed the White House arms trade with Iran, and that the President and his aides had been the source of the first revelations regarding funds transferred from Iran to the Nicaraguan rebels.” Apparently, we in the American press can be proud that we did not break these stories. We do, however, find ourselves in the awkward position of having a few unanswered questions land in our laps with a public that is unseemly in its hunger for the truth. The press tried its damndest, for example, to ignore the fact that Vice President George Bush is a member of the National Security Council and, until the Iran story broke, had been closely linked with persona newly non grata, Oliver North. But Bush forced the issue, appeared in public, both defended the President and questioned the policy, and so the press just had to ask a question or two for form’s sake. And then Bush was also in the soup. There are those, of course, who welcome the circling shark comparison. Eugene Patterson, chairman of The St. Petersburg Times, called it “about time. I think Reagan’s had a free ride for six years.” But they seem to be the exception. Hodding Carter 3rd attributes such press overcaution to the beating the press has received from conservatives determined to characterize the major media as liberal. Nothing worse than being called liberal in the Age of Reagan. But there’s more to it than that. One outgrowth of the Watergate era was the elevation of certain media figures to star status, to a position of celebrity not unlike that of the elyg Ir mapi eln anagrn f layin a iraM . To Our Readers We are taking a week off for the holidays. Your next issue will be dated January 9. Happy New Year. The Staff of the Observer IMIONNUINfing2INNUMMUM1111 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3