My every-so-often, mostly-monthly column appeared in the Dallas Morning News this morning. It deals with the ten "best" (an undefined term) books on Texas. I queried two men that I consider to be the "grandfathers" of Texas literature these days--an honor I'm not sure they find flattering--about their top ten. Don Graham, J. Frank Dobie Professor of Southwest Literature at UT Austin, had a list that ran heavily to Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry, while including Katherine Anne Porter, J. Frank Dobie and a couple I know little to nothing about--James Carlos Blake and Albert Goldbarth. Jim Lee, emeritus chair of the English department at UNT and former acquisitions editor for TCU Press, submited a list that tended toward East Texas with George Sessions Perry, William Owens, and William Humphrey, but he also got in Sallie Reynolds Matthews, A. C. Greene, Elmer Kelton, Porter, and Walter Prescott Webb. (The column should be on the web by mid-week--google Dallas Morning News and search for my name if you want to see the specific titles.) I timidly added my own list: John Graves Goodbye to a River, Stephen Harrigan's The Gates of the Alamo, Love is a Wild Assault by Elithe Hamilton Kirkland (a book review editor said to me once, "But, Judy, we all know it's a very bad book!"), McMurtry's Leaving Cheyenne and In a Narrow Grave, Wanderer Springs by Robert Flynn, The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton, The Captured by Scott Zesch, Where Dreams Die Hard by Carlton Stowers, and Texas on a Plate by Terry Thompson-Anderson (of course I included a cookbook!). My list is not so much the "best" books on Texas but personal favorites. They do tend to be books that I think reflect culture and life in Texas.
I invited responses, and I've already heard from folks both on the Morning News book blog (http://books.beblog.com) and on my personal email. Later I'll collect the responses into another column. But I'd love for readers of this blog to vote too. You can post a comment here or on the books blog or email me. I've already realized one author I left out--Jane Roberts Wood, and I do love Train to Estelline. I'm sure there are other, so remind me of what I overlooked.
Jim Lee "composes" his blogs (http://jimleesTexas.blogspot.com). I suspect he rewrites and polishes before he sends them to the office to be posted. On the other hand, I type mine directly into the blogger website as they occur to me, sometimes late at night. I'm sure the difference shows. But not I'm "crafting" a blog that I hope to publish tomorrow or the next day. It will reflect the fact that my attention is turning to food cooking. The women's rights manuscript has been submitted--hooray!