Renowned for Goodbye to a River, his now-classic meditation on the natural and human history of Texas, as well as for his masterful ability as a prose stylist, John Graves has become the dean of Texas letters for a legion of admiring readers and fellow writers. Yet apart from his own largely autobiographical works, including Hard Scrabble, From a Limestone Ledge, and Myself and Strangers, surprisingly little has been written about Graves's life or his work. John Graves, Writer seeks to fill that gap with interviews, appreciations, and critical essays that offer many new insights into the man himself, as well as the themes and concerns that animate his writing.
The volume opens with the transcript of a revealing, often humorous symposium session in which Graves responds to comments and stories from his old friend Sam Hynes, his former student and contemporary art critic Dave Hickey, and co-editor Mark Busby. Following this is a more formal interview of Graves by Dave Hamrick, who draws the author out on issues relating to each of his major works. John Graves's friends Bill Wittliff, Rick Bass, Bill Broyles, John R. Erickson, Bill Harvey, and James Ward Lee speak to the powerful influence that Graves has had on fellow writers.
In addition to these personal observations, nine scholars analyze essential aspects of Graves's work. These include the place of Goodbye to a River within environmental literature and how its writing was a rite of passage for its author; Graves as a prose stylist and a literary, rather than polemical, writer; the ways in which Graves's major works present different aspects of a single narrative about our relationship to the land; the question of gender in Graves's work; and Graves's sometimes contentious relationship with Texas Monthly magazine. Mark Busby introduces the volume with a critical overview of Graves's life and work, and Don Graham concludes it with a discussion of Graves's reception and literary reputation. A bibliography of works by and about Graves rounds out the book.
John Graves, Writer confirms Graves's stature not only within Texas letters, but also within American environmental writing, where Graves deserves to be more widely known.
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MARK BUSBY is Director of the Southwest Regional Humanities Center and the Center for the Study of the Southwest at Texas State University–San Marcos, where he also serves as Professor of English.
TERRELL F. DIXON teaches literature and the environment at the University of Houston, where his research is currently supported by the Martha Gano Houstoun Endowment in the Department of English. He served as Chair of the department from 1980 to 1995.
The editors of this work have faithfully captured the spirit of the man behind the writing, and as the various essays contained in this volume demonstrate, the fluid, captivating prose of John Graves is directly connected to his comfortable stance within a changing world, his profound sense of place, his keen observations about history and contemporary life in Texas serving as a microcosm for the world. The collection is particularly satisfying because of the smart way the editors expose Graves -- his personality along with his thoughtful claims about life and art. (Kenneth Hada Texas Books in Review 2007-01-00)
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