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and klru nd educates. KLRU-produced programs that air statewide on Texas KLRU-TV, Austin PBS, creates innovative television that inspires PBS stations include Special Session, Texas Monthly Talks, The Biscuit tv and beyond Brothers and Central Texas Gardener. Check your local listings. inundated by a reservoir. Goodbye to a River interwove Graves’ ruminations on the scenery with tales of the land’s history, an ecologically literary model he would successfully continue in Hard Scrabble and From a Limestone Ledge. In the second part of John Graves, Writer, author Rick Bass explores Graves’ talent for sifting universal relevance from the land along the Brazos: “Graves’ world of dirt, bone, blood, stone, fires, floods, ice, wind, stories, horses, deer, goats, and always, our tiny but vital living relevance amidst the motion and history of these other enduring nouns … are stories and sentences that provide a direct map from the heart into the worldany worldand provide us instruction on how to move with passion and yet as much intelligence as can be mustered, through the wonderfully beguiling and paradoxical terrain of our lives.” Graves’ eloquent musings on his personal relationship with the land inspire readers to look inward and reflect. As photographer and screenwriter Bill Wittliff notes, Graves’ “ability to reach beneath the surface of things into those deeper currents that run through us all as fellow members of the human tribe” ultimately allows the readers to see their own reflections in the waters of the Brazos. In “Works,” the collection of scholarly essays on Graves and his writing, Alex Hunt analyzes the effectiveness of Graves’ writing: “Graves is uniquely important for his understanding of the role of stories, as a sort of ecological haunting, in shaping our flexible reactions to place,” Hunt writes. Instead of merely describing flora and fauna, Graves recounts tales of the land he travels, often involving bloody battles between the Comanche and white frontier settlers. The stories instill his books with page-turning thrills and hammer Grave’s larger point, that land should be respected as the bed of our common history, for better or worse, and therefore has intrinsic value. In his essay on Goodbye to a River, Terrell Dixon writes, “John Graves deliberately chooses to build a quieter book for his reader, one that uses description, story, and historical anecdote to coax, rather than preach, the reader toward acknowledging the value of the natural world.” Compared with the angry social criticisms present throughout the works of Henry David Thoreau or Edward Abbey, Graves’ subtle contemplations are more effective because they allow readers to reach their own conclusions on how to live well with nature, to connect their own dots. The third section of John Graves, Writer touches on the author’s less examined aspects, from his love of dachshunds and brief stint with Texas Monthly to accusations of sexism. Though interesting for die-hard Graves fans, most of these essays amount to scholarly debate. Yet the book is made stronger by including critical examinations of Graves’ perceived pros and cons, giving fans new fodder to ruminate, a strategy in line with the author’s own writing technique. Undoubtedly, Graves’ greatest legacy will be his ability to subtly insinuate conservationist ideals into good storytelling. Readers who might initially shy away from anything “environmental” can enjoy Graves’ books for the prose, and perhaps be swayed to look at their own backyards anew. With water conservation, air quality, and urbanization at the state’s political forefront, Graves’ books, with their suggestions for natural attunement, should be required reading for the Texas Legislature. That notion isn’t too far-fetched, considering the author’s commission by Stewart Udall’s Department of the Interior under Lyndon Johnson in 1965 to write an ecological critique on pollution and mismanagement of the Potomac River. For people interested in learning more about Graves’ thoughts on the natural world but lacking time to read his books, John Graves, Writer is an ideal option, its essays lending themselves to quick reading when schedules permit. Despite flirtations with Hollywood, \(director Sam Peckinpah and actordirector Tommy Lee Jones both optioned, but never filmed, his short story “The lies in his abilities as an ecological writer. Published two years before Rachel Carson’s classic Silent Spring, Goodbye to a River stands as a quietly effective advocate for Texas river conservation. In a booming state looking again at building dams to resolve water shortages, paddling the deep backwaters of John Graves, Writer is a trip worth taking. Stayton Bonner is a freelance writer living in Austin. 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 18, 2007