h.AM :NV-P:” `” ” ” Children at play, camp for migrant workers, its title suggests, ranges over and touches upon many subjects, Graham’s engaging voice animates and sustains the book. Most often, as in “Anything for Larry,” the voice generates comic effect, but at other moments it has a down home humanity that embodies Graham’s belief in the permanent connection between “the personal and the literary … one of the things that makes literature important.” \(Although for more than two decades a professor at U.T.Austin, Graham continues to write in English, a habit that has not endeared him referring to “The Ground Sense Necessary,” a 1984 essay about the death and burial of his father, in Collin County, William Carlos Williams, in which Williams, as Graham puts it, “strips the cant and phony rhetoric away from the event of death,” and Graham goes on to describe in straightforward, unadorned prose how he Weslaco, Texas, January 1942 and his mother went about the altogether human business of burying his father. As we drove through the cemetery, I asked about a site the driver hadn’t mentioned. It wasn’t near a concrete walkway and it wasn’t blessed with any allegorical sculptures. But it was pretty, and there were two shade trees and a small sapling. The man seemed a little embarrassed. Yes, there were some unclaimed plots there, and yes, they cost less than those in the Garden of Gethsemane Way. My mother liked the spot, too, and that’s what we chose. Some Collin County prairie and some good shade trees were as close as we could come, in that cemetery, to the real. In a particular, emotionally charged context, that’s an evocative summation of what the author himself describes as a characteristic theme of his essays: “an evaluation of what our mythology tells us about our past and what our actual experiences tells us. m interested in the gap between mythol Arthur Rothstein ogy and experience.” In writing about Texas and its culture, high, medium, and low, Graham is not the first writer to notice the yawning disjunction between the myth of Texas and its reality. But there isn’t a better one at evoking the intellectual and emotional sparks that flame across that characteristically American social gap. That may well be, to judge from several of the essays, because Graham feels that he has to a degree embodied the contradictions of the Texas myth and reality in his own life. He grew up in northeast Texas cotton country \(now the outskirts of Dalfarmers. Yet like most of us, he learned early from weekend afternoons at the McKinney movie theatres that to be a “Texan” was to be a man on horseback. He didn’t much care for hoeing cotton himself: “I found a new job at a country club … became a caddy and said goodbye to cotton fields forever.” But he remained bemused MAY 22, 1998 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER
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