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“BUT GOD, TO HAVE VIEWED IT ENTIRE, THE SOUL AND GUTS OF WHAT WE HAD AND GONE FOREVER NOW, EXCEPT IN BOOKS AND SUCH POIGNANT REMNANTS AS SMALL SWIFT BIRDS THAT JOURNEY TO AND FROM THE DISTANT ARGENTINE AND CALL AT NIGHT IN THE SKY.” somebody speculates, is the remote control. In his own quiet way, Graves was ahead of his time. In the period of big-finned gas Graves addressed issues that would later become central to the environmental movement. The word he used was “conservation.” Later in the decade, writers like Edward Abbey would heat up the discourse, and new words such as ecology would replace conservation. Graves was markedly ahead of the curve on these issues, but never strident, never militant in his proclamations. I devote so much space to Goodbye to a River because it holds the key to all of Graves’ other regional work. But perhaps the best single expression of his affection for nature and the past, linked as they are in his imagination, occurs near the end of “Self-Portrait with Birds,” an essay that ends with these words lanienting the fact that he was born much too late to see what Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby called the green breast of the New World: “What I myself seem to damn mainly, though, is just not having seen it. Without any virtuous hindsight, I would likely have helped in the ravaging as did even most of those who loved it best. But God, to have viewed it entire, the soul and guts of what we had and gone forever now, except in books and such poignant remnants as small swift birds that journey to and from the distant Argentine and call at night in the sky.” In Goodbye to a River and his other regional writing, Graves found a way to deal with belatednessthe problem that besets every serious writer. This struggle becomes very clear in the new collection which selfdiscloses the other John Graves, the internationalist writer, the expatriate. By the late fifties Graves had basically given up on trying to be a big frog in a big pond: meaning Europe, meaning Hemingway, meaning the Major Leagues. Instead he found his usable tradition in his own hard scrabble backyardTexas regional writing. Here, he could best the Old Fathers. The fact is, the Old Fathers didn’t offer that much competition. The best work of DobieBediWebb lay in essays, not in whole books \(though with Webb one might argue otherwise, but try reading The Texas Rangers mentary nature of Dobie’s accomplishment was particularly striking. F61 all of his energy and importance, Dobie never produced a book that one could indisputably claim was a regional masterpiece. Nor did Bedichek or Webb. John Graves Reader reveals that there have always been two John Graves. One is the Texan described above, the quintessential regional writer. The other is the expatriate writer, following in a grand but decidedly wellmarked tradition. Those curious about Graves’ earlier career have always known vaguely about the other John Graves, the one before Goodbye to a River cast the regional die. Before he wrote about Texas, he wrote about places like Spain and Mexico, and those stories, several of which were anthologized in prestigious collections, could only be read if you took the trouble to dig them out of library stacks. Now here they all are, or rather, the ones that Graves has chosen to bring back into public view. There was also, about that other Graves, always talk of an unpublished novel, maybe two unpublished novels. Graves has decided to include several chapters from such a text “A Speckled Horse”forty-six pages in all. All of this makes for very interesting reading indeed. My favorite of the expatriate stories is “The Green Fly,” a well-crafted tale of a graduate student who goes to Spain to write his dissertation. It’s a lovely life. He writes in the Morning at a hacienda high in the mountains, and in the afternoons he flyfishes for trout in pure, swift-running mountain streams, accompanied by a dignified old doctor who sided with the antiFranco party during the Spanish Civil War. In the evenings they dine well, drink excellent wines, and talk philosophy. Into this peaceful ritualistic order comes an Ameri can couple, the graduate student’s tweedy professor and his perfectly dressed wife. The professor is a pure type of a _certain kind of academic: pompous, pretentious, and priggish. \(There’s a coarser “p”-word that fits him perfectly, but I don’t want to The story’s climax turns upon the professor’s crass attempt to pay the old doctor for removing a fishhook from his hand. At that, the graduate student profanely denounces the professor, and the story ends. Wonderful story. Several of the expatriate stories, as Graves himself notes in a brief introduction, involve an older man-younger man pattern. Graves works some nice variations on the theme of male mentorship in stories like “The Aztec Dog” and “A Valley.” In all of these stories, the rhythms and manner of Hemingway are -unmistakably present. In an author’s note to “In the Absence of Horses,” Graves speaks of the difficulty of finding anything fresh to say about bullfighting, the reason being, of course, that this terrain is presided over by “the immense shadow of Papa Hemingway, not a comfortable place to reside, at least for me.” Still, this is a fine story about the degradation of bullfighting into an undisciplined communal blood-bath. Graves says in the introduction that he has taken the opportunity provided by the occasion of this book to make stylistic alterations in some stories, and in particular, the unpublished novel “A Speckled Horse.” In a note to that work, he makes an extremely interesting observation regarding his agent’s reaction to some of the material. The agent, he says, was “horrified by the novel when I sent it to him. I had in part expected this reaction, because he was gentle, civilized, and effete, and the book was quite masculine, with hard edges. It also lacked political correctness, and although the growth of that mutation of puritanism into a reigning force was still in the future, its rudiments were active back then, especially in the Northeast.” No doubt. 24 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 8, 1996