The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996 Page: 590
Southwestern Historical Quarterly
packaged that close friends never did know the truth. In successive chapters
reaching backward and forward in time, Stout explores such topics as gender,
Mexico, the Southern Agrarians, radical and moderate politics, and so on.
Porter was capable of stunning insights and, paradoxically, of prejudices as in-
grained and stupid as any of those she felt she was escaping when she left Texas
for a supposedly more enlightened world.
As a critic, Stout is sensible and fair. She does a good job, for example, of ex-
plaining why Ship of Fools, Porter's only great commercial success, is a cold and
artistically unsatisfying novel. As a novelist herself, Stout also understands
Porter's habits as a writer, especially her notoriously slow production rate. It is
interesting to note that McMurtry and Porter were such opposites in this regard:
for more than thirty years, McMurtry, a five-page-a-day man, has produced, to
date, nineteen novels; Porter, who was sometimes lucky to produce five pages in
a month, over a long lifetime completed only twenty-seven stories and one novel.
But since both authors won Pulitzer Prizes, each method seems to have been
sufficient unto the day.
University of Texas at Austin DON GRAHAM
Comanche Midnight. By Stephen Harrigan. (Austin: University of Texas Press,
1995. Pp. xi+227. ISBN 0-292-73096-9. $12.95.)
Stephen Harrigan's fifteen essays demonstrate not only clear, effective stylistic
competence, but also his appreciation for the history and folklore of the South-
west. A few of the essays offer the responses of a Texan consciousness to other
parts of the world. In the tradition of many American essayists, Harrigan's sensi-
tive comments have an elegiac tone. "The Soul of Treaty Oak" and "Comanche
Midnight" reveal Harrigan's ability to combine historical facts with interpretive
commentary and poetic sensitivity. "Comanche Midnight" both brings back to us
the all-but-vanished ways of the Comanches and memorializes the passing of
their rich, mystical approach to reality. "The Soul of Treaty Oak" captures some
of the madness of our times and the caring reactions of people who fought to
save the historic tree and grieved at the senseless trauma inflicted on it.
"Highway One" also brings history to life while musing upon the passing of
the old ways as the new inevitably crowds in. In this and other essays, Harrigan's
writing is ordered, precise, and logical, yet his feelings are always present. Obvi-
ously he enjoys his travels about Texas, Mexico, and Europe. With quiet assur-
ance, he can also follow the lead of generations of essayists by directing attention
to social problems which demand attention. "The Bay" captures the history and
romance of Galveston Bay and warns that unless pollution is stopped future gen-
erations will not have the bay to share with their children.
In an age in which reading seems on the decline, it is refreshing to have a col-
lection of literate, intelligent, sensitive, and factually sound essays to help situate
ourselves in the past and present. Harrigan's essays are richly varied in subject,
but they are unified in their engagement with contemplative responses to reality.
Here’s what’s next.
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Citing and Sharing
Reference the current page of this Periodical.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996, periodical, 1996; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101217/m1/668/ocr/: accessed September 29, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.