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Edward Swift making himself at home in the Big Thicket. ever grown up happily there, but Swiftan early balletomane twirling through town in a green wool skirtcertainly did not. And after attending Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, he hurried, in the late ’60s, to New York City, where he clerked at Scribner’s Bookstore with the rock-star-to-be Patti Smith and met his great writing teacher, the extraordinary novelist Marguerite Young \(author of that odd opus, Miss Macintosh, It’s difficult to imagine a more perfect teacher for Swift than Marguerite Young. They shared a literary sensibility that blended small-town gossip with Proustian cadence. In a 2001 elegy to Young published in Gulf Coast magazine, Swift quotes the advice she offered the writing students who enrolled in years. Among them: “All things strange are very beautiful. All things beautiful are very strange!’ And: “The imagination is everything. What you call reality is merely imagined, and what you call unreal may be the greatest of all realities!’ And perhaps the insight that proved most significant to Swift: “A writer must come from a special world … Joyce had Dublin, 22 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JULY 11, 2008 Proust had Paris, Flannery O’Connor had Milledgeville, and Faulkner had his county.” It would be Swift’s writerly task to return, in his imagination, to his “special world” of East Texasto Camp Ruby and Woodville, which would provide his books with a central metaphor. It seems that during the Great Depression, in a fit of New Deal exuberance and with very little provocation, the Works Progress Administration plastered over the Tyler County Courthouse, transforming a delightful example of Gothic architecture into a fairly drab Deco structure. It was a makeover that would prove formative to Swiftone he would return to in Splendora and My Grandfather’s Finger. In the latter, Swift writes: “The courthouse is … like someone who is hiding something that he has no business hiding but has been made to feel like he has business hiding it so he does. The courthouse is like someone in disguise, someone who is ashamed of what he looks like so he’s allowed everyone else to make him over to look like what they wanted him to look like whether he wants it or not:’