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VOLUME 88, NO. 15 A JOURNAL OF FREE VOICES We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of human-kind as the foundation of democracy: we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them we do not necessarily imply that we agree with them, because this is a journal of free voices. SINCE 1954 Founding Editor: Ronnie Dugger Publisher: Geoff Rips Managing Publisher: Rebecca Melangon Editor: Louis Dubose Associate Editor: Michael King. _ Production: Harrison Saunders Copy Editor: Mimi Bardagjy Poetry Editor: Naomi Shihab Nye Circulation Manager: Amanda Toering Editorial Intern: Katy Adams, Carrie Evans Contributing Writers: Bill Adler, Barbara Belejack, Betty Brink, Brett Campbell, Jo Clifton, Carol Countryman, Lars Eighner, James Galbraith, Dagoberto Gilb, James Harrington, Jim Hightower, Molly Ivins, Paul Jennings, Steven Kellman, Tom McClellan, Bryce Milligan, Debbie Nathan, Brad Tyer, James McCarty Yeager. Contributing Photographers: Vic Hinterlang, Alan Pogue. Contributing Artists: Michael Alexander, Eric Avery, Tom Ballenger, Richard Bartholomew, Jeff Danziger, Beth Epstein, Valerie Fowler, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Ben Sargent, Gail Woods. Editorial Advisory Board: David Anderson, Austin; Elroy Bode, El Paso; Chandler Davidson, Houston; Dave Denison, Arlington 5Mass.; Bob Eckhardt, Austin; Sissy Farenthold, Houston; John Kenneth Galbraith, Cambridge, Mass.; Lawrence Goodwyn, Durham, N.C.; George Hendrick, Urbana, Ill.; Molly Ivins, Austin; Larry L. King, Washington, D.C.; Maury Maverick, Jr., San Antonio; Willie Morris, Jackson, Miss.; Kaye Northcott, Fort Worth; James Presley, Texarkana; Fred Schmidt, Fredericksburg. Development Consultant: Frances Barton Business Manager: Cliff Olofson, 1931-1995 SUBSCRIPTIONS: One year 532, two years $59, thrtX years $84. Full-time students $18 per year. Back issues $3 prepaid. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilm editions available froth University Microfilms Intl., 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. INDEXES: The Texas Observer is indexed in Access: The Supplementary Index to Periodicals; Texas Index and, for the years 1954 through 198 1,The Texas Observer Index. copyrighted. 0 1996, is published biweekly except for a three-week interval 477-0746. E-mail: [email protected] World Wide Web DownHome page: Second-class postage paid at Austin, Texas. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to THE TEXAS OBSERVER, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. DEPARTMENTS Dialogue Editorial Breaking Gramm’s Record Jim Hightower Corruption, Money Hogs & Liars Molly Ivins 5 The Sleeping Watchdog Political Intelligence 24 LET CRITICS BE CRITICS I am a fan of both Sandra Cisneros’ short stories and Marion Winik’s pieces on “All Things Considered.” So when I came across a friend’s May 31 issue while I’ve been visiting in Dallas, I read the Cisneros letter to you with interest. It’s not just the climate that gets hot in Texas! I did a little research. I read the review in question by Brad Tyer \(“Days of Whine read the book by Marion Winik \(I suggest that this is what a review, good or bad, is did not like her book either. I do not vote philistine. I appreciate, to adopt the Cisneros phrase, la vie boheme. A way of life that may not be romantic, yet it is neither as self-conscious nor as self-glorified as it is related by the narrator of the book. I thought Tyer’s review, which was brutal, was nevertheless accurate. I wondered if he were petty through his humor. He clearly did not like the book, and he explains why clearly. Another may have chosen to be less sarcastic, but his voice is his, and his defense, which is any writer’s defense, is that his work be smart, crafted, and careful. I enjoy Winik’s voice on the radio; I find that Tyer is a better writer on the page. Funny as it was, I see how what he wrote would be painful, and I couldn’t myself say what he did. But of all people, it would seem Winik should be able to take it. AFTERWORD Cheerleaders and Bull Semen 21 By Betsy Berry Yet if in a word I describe Winik’s book as disappointing, I was more disappointed by Sandra Cisneros’ attack of Tyer as a “not so happy being” or as jealous of [Winik’s] success. Is she serious? I don’t believe that unless a reviewer likes a book, something such as unhappiness or jealousy is the cause. More often it’s out of love for good literature. Even if it were true, aren’t these the sources of many people’s art? Since when did reviewers not have an ax to grind? Worse still is the accusation that he is a mean-spirited man attacking a poor, weak woman, the very least characteristic of Winik’s narrator. This line of argument is frightening, since Cisneros’ reasoning would seem childish if she weren’t so well-regarded. It’s her remarks, and ones like them, that create a climate of intellectual fear and shallowness. To follow this line of thinking, I will have to be accused of self-hatred for defending him. Even if he were wrong, he ought to speak up; a review ought to be a passionate, honest reaction, for or against. There is always something personal to criticize once it’s made personal, as Cisneros has made it. Let critics be critics! I admired Tyer’s gutsy wit and talent. Your magazine should be proud of his work if it’s always this good, even if he overlooked happy blurbs on the back of Winik’s book. Gloria Teran Cambridge, Massachusetts THIS ISSUE FEATURES The Fate of the Texas Writer by Rod Davis 6 Texas writers have always been a peculiar species; now they’re an endangered one. A writer considers the Lone Star State of Siege. BOOKS AND THE CULTURE 2 A Close, Comfortable Voice 10 3 Poetry by Sarah P. Wiseman Book Reviews 11-19 By James Sledd, Eyal Press, James 4 McCarty Yeager, Lars Eighner, Brad Tyer and Geoff Rips Cover art: “The Ultimate Deadline,” by Olga Garza-Cardona DIALOGUE 2 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JULY 26, 1996