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BOOKS & THE CULTURE I BY DAVE HICKEY Magazine Writer To borrow a phrase from Dave Hickey, the late Grover Lewis was “the most stone wonderful writer that nobody ever heard of and blind as a cave bat in the bargain.” Born in San Antonio in 1934, Lewis survived a childhood marked by unbelievable violence. He specialized in a kind of immersion reportage that came to be known as the New Journalism \(“Victorian reportage with neon punctuation,” according to Hickey. “Dickens and Stevenson and DeQuincey in meaner Splendor in the Short Grass: The Grover Lewis Reader, edited by Jan Reid and W.K. Stratton duces Lewis to a new generation of readers. The Observer is pleased to publish two excerpts, “Magazine Writer,” by Dave Hickey, re-printed here with kind permission of the author, and “Goodbye If You Call That Gone,” \(Afterword, page S ince my old pal Grover Lewis no longer walks among us, let me begin by saying that, as a phys ical creature, by the standards of the culture, Grover was nobody’s dream date. But he had an air about him, something likeable and complicated. He had this lanky Texas stance, a big mouth with a big smile, and attired as he usually was, in boots, jeans, and some goofy forties shirt, faintly squiffed and glaring at you through those thick Coke-bottle glasses, he was a caricaturist’s delight: all eyes, mouth, angles, sweetness, and ferocious intelligence. Moreover, he was a Southern boy to the end. He believed in truth and justice, and through all the years of dope and whiskey, Deadheads and deadlines, movie stars and rented cars, he remained an alumnus of that old school. Women always called my attention to Grover’s “courtly manner”alluding to his charm even. But to me, he was always Prewitt in From Here to Eternity, a clenched fist in a frail packageprince and pauper in equal partsalways passing some outrageous, absolute judgment on your life and work, while appealing to your sympathy by bumping into a chair. Which is pretty much my definition of “exasperating”that uncanny ability to break your heart while making you smileso you never knew whether to thank Grover or forgive him for his impertinence. In my own case, since we were old and permanent friends \(and Texas boys, too, cagey with mutual Grover was, after all, the most stone wonderful writer that nobody ever heard of and blind as a cave bat in the bargain. He had been since birth, so he had to wear those wonky glasses. So, when he really ticked me off, I comforted myself with imagining Grover and his old running mate, Larry McMurtry, back at North Texas State in the fifties, as campus pariahs: two skinny, four-eyed geeks in goofy forties shirts scuttling along the sidewalk head to head, toting copies of The Evergreen Review and plotting their mutual apotheosisin the aftermath of which they would both be famous authors, claiming any female who fell within their view. The pleasure I took in this imagined tableau of pathetic geekdom was considerably enhanced by the improbable fact that both Larry and Grover, each in his own way, actually achieved their apotheosis \(and its consequent surfeit idly, in fact, that by the time I met them in the early 1960s they were no longer geeks. They were “promising Texas writers.” McMurtry had published his first novel, Horseman, Pass By. It was soon to be made into a movie called Hud, and, in the interim, he was teaching creative writing at TCU, while resisting attempts to ban Horseman from the university library. Grover had been booted out of grad school for publishing “communist pornography” in a state-funded journal and had begun publishing essays in national magazines. He had also written a bleak, feral book of poems called I’ll Be There in the Morning, If I Live and could be found reading from it in coffeehouses and other fugitive venues. So, far from being geeks, when I met them, Grover and Larry were on their way, marking the path I fully intended to follow out of town. By the early 1970s, McMurtry was producing novels at a steady clip and living like a fugitive out on the highway. Grover and I had seen the blessed visionTexas in the rearview mirror. We were ensconced on opposite ends of the country practicing something called “New Journalism,” which, in fact, was nothing more than Victorian reportage with neon punctuationDickens and Stevenson and DeQuincey in meaner streets with stronger drugs. Grover was in San Francisco working for Rolling Stone, writing landmark stories about movies and rock-and-rollinventing pop genres like “the location story” and “the tour story” I was in NewYork, writing about art for Art in America and about rock-and-roll for The Village Voice. As a consequence, our paths began crossing in airports and bars, in press trailers and at country music festivals. We forged a friendship based on our mutual distaste for bar-ditch Texas and on our fatal love for the life we found ourselves leading. Both of us had read enough books and seen enough highway to know what a lovely moment it was. We had grown up with the myth of the open range, with that unreflective, visceral cowboy hatred for fences, and, just for that moment, the fences were down. The institutions that strung them were in disgrace, and the borders were open: the president was a crook; the generals were losers; corporate culture was in disarray; and the universities were irrelevant. So there was a sense of making it up as you went along, with new rules 22 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JUNE 24, 2005