by William Jensen
Texas took a beating this spring when the skies opened up and let loose a rainstorm few will forget. Like something out of a bad movie, people scurried for safety, abandoning their cars as the water got too high for driving. Houses in Wimberley were washed away. Rivers rose until they overflowed and spilled forth in waves that swept through homes, destroying property and lives. The aftermath was mud and rust and mold and displaced people on streets littered with trash and weeds. People searched for missing loved ones, and the governor issued Emergency Disaster Proclamations across the state.
By the time the rain stopped and the water receded, there was not much for anyone to do but stand up, put on some gloves, and go to work. Roads were rebuilt, stores were cleaned and reopened, and neighbors helped one another. Though many had lost everything they owned, though some had perished, it looked as if Texas could take it. And then, a few months later, like a cruel joke from a malevolent and powerful child, it all happened again.
The day before Halloween, the announcers on the radio stations warned everyone to stay indoors. Rain fell in thick and heavy currents that resembled cement walls, and a tornado started whipping up along I-35 from South Texas. A bus filled with children in Bexar County became stuck in high water. Floresville’s high school was devastated. Families that had finally moved back into their homes had to deal with water damage once more. An elementary school in San Marcos had to be evacuated by rescue crews via armored trucks.
I’d like to dedicate this issue to anyone touched by these storms.
This issue is a special one. Besides acknowledging the victims and survivors of the catastrophes of the spring and fall, we have reviews of new books by David G. McComb, Joyce Gibson Roach, and Ed Bradley. This issue is also fortunate to have a review-essay by Sarah Cortez. This piece looks at two new collections of poetry by Larry D. Thomas and Laurie Ann Guerrero. As If Light Actually Mattered: New and Selected Poems by Thomas is a book that showcases West Texas in all of its glory. A Crown for Gumecindo by Guerrero explores memory, the past, and family, and the book contains artwork by Maceo Montoya. Be sure to check out what Sarah Cortez writes about these collections.
Reading and reviewing books is a pleasure for all of us here at the Center for the Study of the Southwest. But as technology changes, we must adapt to the times. To make it easier for everyone to read the latest reviews of the newest Texas books, we are ceasing our print publication and will launch the online edition of Texas Books in Review this spring. The online publication will continue to bring you all the insights and opinions about Texas novels, memoirs, poetry, and history, and it will be available for all. I hope this regeneration will start new traditions that print has not allowed. Be sure to check out our website to see when we go live.
I’d also like to mention the passing of Victor Holk, a former editorial assistant for Texas Books in Review. The photograph of Cheatham Street Warehouse on the cover of the previous issue was taken by Victor. I’m afraid that Victor received burns over 90 percent of his body when his house caught on fire this June. Someone who thought of others first, Victor put himself in harm’s way and rescued his wife, their pets, and a friend who was staying over that night. Victor held on for two months and endured skin grafts, amputations, sutured eyes, and a tracheotomy, but ultimately he slipped away in late August.
Victor was a renaissance man who had just earned his MA in philosophy and planned on becoming a teacher. A talented singer-songwriter, he was a huge part of the local music scene in San Marcos and was always eager to help people explore their own musical outlets. He could regularly be found playing old Merle Haggard songs while his wife, Caitlin, accompanied him with a musical saw. Victor loved Texas and was inspired by the beauty of the Hill Country. Texas flavored the songs he sang and influenced the stories he wrote, and now Victor George Holk is part of the state’s beauty, soil, and rivers.