The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987

Book Reviews

the alternatives to centralized control are not profitable and require
considerable self-discipline. Worster poses the ultimate question con-
cerning water development in arid regions: "the unresolved conun-
drum was whether there was any conceivable social instrumentality that
could be trusted to carry out the modern reclamation of the arid lands"
(P- 233).
North Texas State University J. B. SMALLWOOD
In the Deep Heart's Core: Reflections on Life, Letters, and Texas. By Craig
Edward Clifford. (College Station, Tex.: Texas A&M University
Press, 1985. Pp. xiv+ 145. Acknowledgments, prologue, epilogue,
notes, bibliography. $13.95.)
The key event in this book of sprightly and penetrating essays on
Texas letters and identity is the publication nearly twenty years ago of a
similar book of essays by a young Texas novelist, Larry McMurtry.
McMurtry is the literary leitmotif of this slim volume, edging out for
that honor the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, the author's
specialty, the rigor of whose intermittent presence in a book dedicated
to reflections on Texas may slightly befuddle the unwary reader. (It's
really all right. Texas has had worse literary company.)
In his 1968 In a Narrow Grave, McMurtry, rather in the fashion of a
young gunfighter who comes into town to look up and challenge the
fastest guns he can find, took on the Texas literary establishment, or
what there was of it, which then existed principally in the form of the
literary reputation of the Big Three, J. Frank Dobie, Roy Bedichek, and
Walter Prescott Webb. Until that moment, to talk about Texas literature
was to talk about the Big Three.
Briefly, McMurtry saw Texas literature as backward-looking, roman-
tic to a fault, unable or unwilling to deal with the reality of a modern,
urbanizing state. The argument had merit, was probably overdue-
and stuck. McMurtry's challenge was a crucial moment for those, still
not all that large a group, who follow and argue about Texas letters.
Time passes, as have the Big Three. For many born around 1950,
notes Clifford, "the Big Three are more like the grandfathers of a
friend of a friend" (p. 5). (Perhaps more justly, their best works are
emerging from the layers of obligatory deference they received in their
time, and are, in turn, enjoying deserved revival.)
God writes irony better than McMurtry-or just about anyone else.
The former scourge of the literary establishment is now the toast of it,
the possessor of a Pulitzer-for Lonesome Dove, a fine historical novel
about cowboys-and the object of corporate admiration, that of the


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed July 29, 2015.