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You are Invited To join the Texas Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties ‘Union in honoringFormer Congressman Bob Eckhardt, Winner of the 1999 John 5-lenry Faulk Civil Libertarian of the Year Award David Qabban of the VT Law School will be the principal speaker Hilton Hotel, Middle Fiskville Road, Austin For information and reservations, call: 441-0077. “the sense of excitement and of unlimited possibilities. And the energy God, the energy that we had. We vibrated with it, shined with it. I couldn’t be still.” Anyone who has to deal with do-nothing agents and thieving book publishers will be awed by the way King through threats, flattery, humor, subterfuge, and friendship got more or less what he wanted from those who managed his life. But I think the thing that mainly shamed publishers into contracts and publicity tours was that they knew for every dollar they laid out, King would give one hundred dollars in energy. His tours are exhausting even to read about, and sometimes they offered only small rewards at one book fair he sold only nine books, one of which he paid for himself. After King had gained a certain amount of fame, I suppose fame itself kept him stoked up. But what kept him going in the early, very lean years as a freelancer? Not the necessities; for those he could have gone back to working as a top congressional aide, which he had been for ten years before he turned to writing full time. What kept him going \(as one can fairly judge dence, ego he had as much of these when he was on the bottom as when he was riding high, and they were always, I surmise, a major source for his strength. If ego were a deadly virus, some of these pages would be unsafe to touch; and occasionally it gets a bit tiresome. But it’s made ognizes his immodesty and frequently fame and the opportunities his fame has given him to rub elbows with the famous that one can’t help but share his pleasure; like Muhammad Ali, King deserves to boast \(oh, maybe he’s no heavyweight, but he’s certainly champion of one of the again like Ali, boasting is probably just part of King’s act. And act he does. The typewriter was his stage and he was always strutting and fretting on it \(he didn’t buy a computer until and we also learn from Richard Holland’s invaluable commentary holding these letters together that playwriting is King’s preferred outlet. King says “dialogue comes easily” and one can believe it because many portions of these letters read like dialogue. He loves the feel and sound, the immediate emotional payoff, of the theater audience. “I have never yet caught a stranger in the act of reading one of my books, short stories or magazine essays,” says King. “You write the things, they’re thrown on the market, you get a few fan letters, some reviews and then your works disappear into the literary black hole. It is like a small death.” Speaking of death, it is in the back of King’s mind these days. Old friends are dying. He fears that he will die be fore he writes everything he wants to write. Bouts of depression hit him, and Prozac doesn’t always compensate. In one of his dark moods \(“goddamned whining,” he wrote recently, “Yes, I have accomplished thirteen books, eight plays, countless magazine articles, have been anthologized, won some awards and had some satisfactory paydays but, somehow, it falls so short of what was intended that to my ears it all rings a little hollow and tinny and dimestore.” But none of that literary production is what we should be most grateful to him for. What we should be most grateful for brings me back to what these letters, judged as a whole, prove very clearly: Larry L. King sometimes known to his mother in moments of stress as Weldon or Raymond or Floyd is a character. Texas would be just another state if it weren’t for its characters real characters, colorful, hyper, unruly, maybe a bit oddballish, often bigger than life. It used to have them by the dozens in politics and in oil and other indigenous piratical enterprises. Not today. They are rapidly being replaced by faceless corporate mutants. Characters in the word business are also getting mighty scarce in Texas, though you would never guess it from the disproportionately large number you find on this publication’s masthead. King used to be there as a contributing editor. He fit right in. Robert Sherrill, a former editor of the Observer, keeps an eye on Texas from his home in Florida. ANDERSON & COMPANY COFFEE TEA SPICES TWO JEFFERSON SQUARE AUSTIN, TEXAS 78731 512-453-1533 Send me your list. Name Street City Zip 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 12, 1999