The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988 Page: 105
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and perhaps contributes to the nostalgic tone the books evoke. Though
Graham notes that contemporary Texas is 80 percent urban, his editorial
preferences permit the urban only modest and usually unfavorable notice.
Texas: A Literary Portrait is the more interesting of the anthologies, perhaps
because of its greater inclusiveness. Though its fifty-one excerpts come
mostly from writing since mid-century, a few date to the nineteenth cen-
tury, and several to the early twentieth century. Fiction dominates the
excerpts, but nonfiction and poetry (from Walt Whitman, Amy Lowell,
William Carlos Williams, and Jorge Luis Borges) also appear. Necessarily,
perhaps, selections come mainly from well-known writers, though not
always from their best-known works, and a few neglected writers, e.g.,
George Williams, also receive due attention.
A Literary Portrait includes seven interpretive essays by Graham. Chapters
on East Texas, the Gulf Coast, the Border, and West Texas rely on a
geographical focus. The chapter on urban Texas, subtitled "Modernistic
Setting for a Machine-Age Play," relies little on geography but greatly
on Graham's vision of the contemporary city. He quotes ably here: e.g.,
from Stephen Crane's observation about the "prevailing type" of San
Antonio citizen in 1895 as moving intently to compete "in a community
. . commercially in earnest" (p. 215). Later excerpts record effects of
this competition. William O. Douglas bemoans developers' predations;
J. B. Priestly remembers "months afterwards" the "infinitely forlorn"
aspect of Houston's "monstrous monoliths" (p. 223). For Graham, IH
35 symbolizes the land destructions necessary to link and accommodate
the urban network.
South by Southwest gathers "modern" Texas short fiction, "modern"
meaning since 1940. As applied, this definition results in curious exclu-
sions (e.g., Katherine Anne Porter comes too early, Donald Barthelme
seems to come too late). East Texas stories from William Humphrey,
William Goyen, William A. Owens, and Bill Brett open the collection,
which concludes with West Texas/Sunbelt fiction from Peter LaSalle and
Doug Crowell, and with the anti-utopia envisioned in William Harrison's
"Roller Ball Murder." Fiction by Robert Flynn, Amado Muro, James
Crumley, Naomi Shihab Nye, and others create the Texas between these
geographical and visionary extremes.
Graham's introduction to South by Southwest laments the "perils of
stereotyping" (p. xiv) that beset Texas writing. He remarks that his an-
thology offers "no long-legged galoots gunning down varmints, no wheeler-
dealers of oil patch fame, no Sue Ellen southern belles in crinoline and
turquoise" (p. xiv). But the "Dallas" parodies don't encompass all these
perils. Stereotypes damage several stories here. Graham's preference for
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988, periodical, 1987/1988; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101211/m1/131/: accessed August 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.