This publication is available in microform from University Microfilms International. Call toll-free 800-521-3044. In Michigan. Alaska and Hawaii call collect 313-761-4700. Or mail inquiry to: University Microfilms International, 300 North Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. some current T.I.L. members but he hardly qualifies as a Chicano writer, influential or otherwise, and Dobie was not so much “influenced” by his vaquero friend as he was provided a bow-legged book that only needed its transfiguration to paper, Pilkington delivered his paper three years after Limon delivered his, reinforcing the notion that the writers and critics of the dominant culture, as they say, were still deaf to the rising canto al pueblo. The more contemporary essays in Range Wars do little to dispel that notion. As to the remaining minorities disenfranchised by Range War’s recounting of the Great Debate over the Republic of Texas Letters, as Marshall Terry names it, they are relegated to isolated mentions or simply ignored altogether. Terry, to his credit, is the only critic in the book to mention poets Rosemary Catacalos, Naomi Shihab Nye, Pat Mora, and Harryette Mullen. But alas, it is little more than a mention. No one in the book mentions Angela de Hoyos, a poet whose work has been the subject of two books and a dozen or so articles around the globe. Ask an Italian or an Australian to name a Texas poet and they are more than likely to name de Hoyos. But then maybe I am missing the point of the book. Maybe Range Wars is not supposed to actually assess contemporary Texas writing maybe the editors really are so myopic as to believe this little range war scenario sufficient unto itself to be representative of contemporary Texas writing at large. The preface to Range Wars promises us “highly spirited and highly opinionated essays about Texas writing, sure to prove stimulating and even eye-opening for readers with an interest in contemporary Texas books and writers.” This critic has no quibbles with the “spirited” and “opinionated” part; I’ll go further and say that Range Wars reprints for us some of the most well-crafted criticism of Texas Observer Bequests Austin attorney Vivian Mahlab has ‘agreed to consult with those interested in including the Observer in their estate planning. For further information, contact Vivian Mahlab, attorneyat-law, P.C., at 1301 Nueces, Austin, Texas 78701, or call 512/477-9400. literature ever written. Stimulating? Well, I suppose the tone of this review backs that one up. Eye-opening? Only to the blind, and then only in that the omissions are so overwhelming. Not that I am suggesting we need something akin to affirmative action in our literary criticism. Equality and quality are truly unusual bedfellows in the literary world; but an open acknowledgment of the contemporary realities of writing and publishing in Texas might take some of the gunsmoke out of the air. While my ’38 Smith Corona sits smoking, let me take a look at the Texas books on my own shelves to back up my assertion about omissions. Yes, I have a copy of almost every book mentioned in Range Wars good books every one, well worth keeping. But hang on just a dag-blamed minute; there’s another 85, 86, 87 books on this shelf fiction, poetry, and criticism that aren’t mentioned at all. Hmm. Yes, indeedee, all of them were written by Texans since 1979; and all of them were published by independent presses, mostly operating within the borders of the state. And these are only the books this writer felt were substantial enough to warrant hanging on to, even under the harsh realities imposed upon impecunious writers by a decade of Reaganomics meaning that these books have survived many weedings when a trip to the used book store equalled supper. The point here being, not one of these books is mentioned by title by any of the critics in Range Wars. A very few of their authors receive single mentions, but most_ are entirely absent. This would seem to indicate a substantial bias, if an ironic one, on the part of these critics against fiction and poetry published by any but the major houses. Meaning mostly those hailing from New York. Pardon my French, but quelle merde est-ce? And not only are the works coming from independent Texas publishers generally ignored, so too are those few critics who do pay attention to them. Why is Dave Oliphant, for one, not represented in this “collections of highly spirited and highly opinionated essays” about Texas writing? I dare say Oliphant has written as much about Texas literature as has any of the authors in Range Wars, much more, in fact, than several of them combined. And why is Paul Christensen not included? Academics are happy to cite Christensen on the subject of Charles Olsen, but when it comes to the subject of Texas small press literature, his work is too often dismissed as being that of a zealot. Perhaps such a tag comes with being prophetic. Don Graham, whose “Palefaces vs. Redskins” is included in Range Wars, is generally credited with defining the apparent struggle between native writers and Yankee imports. His essay originally appeared in the Texas Humanist in 1984. Christensen covered the topic eloquently two years prior to that in one of those “small press magazines nobody reads,” The Pawn Review. What makes that so terribly ironic is that any scholar researching Texas writing during the late ’70s and early ’80s ought first go about finding a complete set of the Pawn, which published literally hundreds of reviews of books by Texas authors. Just a final note on the matter of Texas’ small and independent literary presses. Both McMurtry’s 1968 In a Narrow Grave and the book version of Greene’s 1981 The 50 Best Books on Texas were published, you guessed it, by independent Texas presses, the former by Encino Press of Austin, the latter by Pressworks of Dallas. Now, as to . why anyone would prefer to publish with a New York house rather than one in, say, Mansfield, the answer is simple: money. New Yprk has a lot more of it to pay authors. As to why the critics of Range Wars ignore the fiction and poetry which has come from, say, Mansfield or Bryan or Slayton_ or Denton or San Antonio or even Austin, the answer seems to lie in something A: C. Greene himself said: “. . . Texas has an inferiority complex aboutits art. Behind that _ mask of bigness, Texas can’t believe there is the ability to bring forth, in and of itself, something worthy of mankind’s recognition. Texas has relied too long and too completely on the opinions of others.” Good words; now if someone would just practice what they preach. .. . Although few of the critics in Range Wars evince an animosity towards the old DobieWeb b-Bediche k triumvirate to a McMurtryish degree, all are apparently happy to be rid of the reputation for cronyism that dates back to those good old boys. Range Wars itself, however, presents a pretty convincing case that all that has actually occurred is that we have a new, if less parochial, bunch of good old boys-. in the wheelhouse of the Republic of Texas Letters’ ship of state. The concluding essay of Range Wars is Tom Pilkington’s insightful “Herding Words: Texas Literature as Trail Drive” in which he writes: “Time is required for a literary tradition to develop. Even more time is needed for just appreciation and critical understanding of the tradition to evolve.” Right. But that process is going to take an eon if the critics whose words work themselves into collections like Range Wars which will no doubt be seminal reading on this topic in a very short time do not themselves stop unconsciously judging Texas writing by whether or not it has a New York imprint on the title page, or, if it does have a Texas imprint, whether or not the work is worth considering based upon whether the press in question has had the good luck to be mentioned by the New York Times or the Washington Post. Incestuous regional chauvinism coupled with an inbred inferiority complex can be a tricky ailment to live with, but the cure is fairly simple. It starts by opening your eyes. 20 APRIL 28, 1989
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