Page 33


AP OBSERVER Send a sample issue of the new to a friend! EMAIL [email protected] OR CALL 512-477-0746 1757,7=7;:MIEEM OBSERVER Ap OBSERVER ,* OBSERVER AP OBSERVER MBA BECOME AN dBCERVER PARTNER A NOTE TO OUR DEAR READERS The Texas Observer makes a fraction of its income from subscriptionsthough we treasure each and every one. Most of our income comes from folks like you who value truth-telling journalism and give what they can. In other words, we operate more like National Public Radio, and less like The New Yorker. Our new Observer Partners program is our future. By becoming an Observer Partner, you become a vital part of ensuring not only the future of the print magazine, but the growth of our daily Web site at . As you know, we’ve recently redesigned and revamped our magazine. But to reach new generations of progressive Texans who get their news from electronic media, our smallbut-dedicated staff is also working overtime to take full advantage of new-media opportunities. We’re giving a fast-growing online audience a daily dose of the Observer’s hard-hitting reporting and fearless commentary. The Observer Partners program supports both the magazine and our expanded efforts online. Please do what you can to help the Observer continue to provide the sharpest reporting from the strangest state in the Union. Yours for a better Texas, Bob Moser Editor For more information on Observer Partner levels and benefits, go to www.texasobservenorg. the chronicles rtf 1-…r4rInru l ;r,inrel telling detail, the quick character sketch, and the deadpan comedy of real life. What sets Silverstein most apart is his tenderness. Silverstein has an empathy and respect for his subjects that’s so often missing from the chronicles of professional observers. His gift is in the sensitivity of his observations; he never forgets that the people he writes about are people. The way he writes about construction workers and children suggests that the humble Silverstein of Nothing Happened is true to how the author regards himself and his world, however prestigious his real-life resume. Nothing Happened is conceptually clever. Though marketed as an answer to fabulists shilling memoirs and journalism, Silverstein’s hybrid also gives him the advantages of three genres at once. His nonfiction chapters showcase his ample skill as a magazine journalist, his fiction gives him a foothold in that artful genre, and the overall effect is of reading a memoirthe mythologized author documenting his own creation. By dividing his chapters into fact and fiction, Silverstein comments on the concept of genre and divisions thereof. He invites readers to compare fiction and nonfiction, and perhaps forget, not totally successful. Despite being a good read, his subiLiuiL, moment to moment, which they are reading. He’s tha’s so often They don’t read interchangeably. His fact chapters Silverstein’s fiction can’t compete with his truth. are restricted in plot by the events of plodding life, but they’re told so richly and so fully mined for sig nificance that they’re more interesting than the more plot-heavy fiction parts. Silverstein’s fictional characters are too often caricatures: The German photographer from the New Yorker is typically militant and humorless, and the adolescent son of a powerful Mexican-American businessman has a “weak handshake and stiff hair,” and is sullen and whiney. Silverstein’s imagined scenes also lack the precise language that characterizes his journalism. At one point, he describes “piles of rotting fruit” beneath a tree. As the owner of a relentlessly productive orange tree, I can attest that falling fruit bounces and litters the ground, but it never collects into a pile. It’s a little thing, but it robs Silverstein’s fiction of the delicious ring of truth present in his fact chapters. His observing eye, however, is precise. In chapter Reno, Nevada, of the Famous Poets Society, a cheesy scam in which poets compete for cash prizes. His descriptions of the award ceremony are priceless. Some of the winners let out huge sighs of relief and gazed graciously to heaven. Some were catapulted into frenzies of hugging and crying and clutching of cheeks. One girl, whose winning poem was entitled “My Elusive Heart,” immediately began to fan herself as if she were worried she might overheat. She fanned herself all the way up to the stage and then stood speechlessly at the podium for a quarter of a minute. Finally she shrieked, “World peace!” and burst into tears. As Homer Simpson says, it’s funny because it’s true. That’s the principle that guides the stronger half of Nothing Happened and Then It Did. CI Emi ly DePrang is a contributing writer JOr’rlie Texas Observer. She’s at work on her first book, Theory: A Love Story. APRIL 16, 2010