Cover photo | Adam Clark and Laura Vilsack.
Another academic year has come and gone. The finals were taken, the grades were entered, and the seniors walked across the stage. Working at a university is odd because everything is cyclical. New students in the fall, new students in the spring, followed by the dull quiet of summer, and then it begins again. Year in. Year out. This can keep things fresh. There’s always new blood and new escapades. Yet, there is also twinge of sadness throughout June, July, and August. The days are hot, cruel, and unending, and there is the strange solitude of having to stand back and watch so many people walk away and never return.
Here at the Center for the Study of the Southwest, we’re losing our Editorial Fellow, Claudia D. Cardona. She’s been working on her poetry in the MFA program here at Texas State University, and now she has graduated and is about to embark upon exciting expeditions into writing and publishing. We are all incredibly proud of Ms. Cardona. Besides her own poetry, she is the Editor-in-Chief of Chiflad@zine, an online publication featuring work by people with Latinx/Chicanx roots. She has also been a strong voice across Texas for the importance of zines within the literary community. Now, she plans on entering the work force in San Antonio, preferably in graphic design or in a new editorial position. She hopes she can take what she’s learned here to someday start up her own press.
Our longtime student worker Mayra Vallejo has also received her diploma and has set out on a new journey. Mayra was with us almost her entire college career and was always a pleasure to have in Brazos Hall. Now, she has a BS in criminal justice and will spend her summer in Maine before moving into the work force in her hometown in the Rio Grande Valley.
And, all too recently, we heard that we have also lost screenwriter and photographer Bill Wittliff who passed away on June 9th at the age of seventy-nine. Bill Wittliff has been something of a savior for Texas and southwestern writers. Besides bringing so many Texas tales to the screen (his credits include Lonesome Dove, Raggedy Man, A Night in Old Mexico, and others) Wittliff helped bring attention to other men and women of letters in the Lone Star State and Greater Southwest when he founded the Wittliff Collections here at Texas State University. Originally titled the Southwest Writers Collection, the collections have grown into an extensive archive center featuring the papers and photographs of Cormac McCarthy, Sandra Cisneros, J. Frank Dobie, Jovita González, John Graves, Katherine Anne Porter, Larry McMurtry, and many more. Because of Bill Wittliff, thousands of researchers visit our campus annually to better understand what makes Texas and the Greater Southwest so special.
In this issue of Texas Books in Review, we are fortunate enough to review Wittliff’s last work. Michelle Piersol reviews The Devil’s Fork, the last novel in his “Papa” trilogy. Wittliff started this epic with The Devil’s Backbone, and he followed that a few years later with The Devil’s Sinkhole. Now, this final chapter takes his characters off into the sunset.
But the sun also rises. Eventually, we’ll have a new editorial fellow, Linda R. Vázquez, and I’m sure we will hire one or two new student workers once the semester gets going. Still, it’s draining having to constantly say goodbye with nothing staying consistent besides your own individual routine. That’s the nice thing about books. They won’t leave you. Unless you give them away. Or lose them. Or have them stolen. Or they get wet or ruined somehow. But you can always buy another copy. It is just a book after all. No reason to get so overdramatic.
Luckily, Texas Books in Review can keep helping you decide which books to let into your library. This issue has a lot to say about a wide array of books, too. We have a good amount of fiction reviewed in this issue. Even I get in on the action. My review of Texas Ranger tackles bestseller James Patterson and his portrayal of the Lone Star State and Hill Country justice.
This edition also covers a healthy amount of nonfiction. Longtime contributor Joseph McDade gives his thoughts on God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Lawrence Wright. I think you’ll find McDade’s opinions not just insightful but highly entertaining to read. Alan Schaefer, from the Center for Texas Music History, switches things up with his review of Houston Rap Tapes: An Oral History of Bayou City Hip-Hop, once again showcasing the incredible diversity of Texas and Texas music. Rob Madole covers the latest political biography section with his review of Speaker Jim Wright: Power, Scandal, and the Birth of Modern Politics. I am positive our readers on both sides of the aisle will want to read that.
History, film, and other topics are covered in this issue of Texas Books in Review. I hope as the days grow long and warm, you can find a book from these pages that fascinate you, excite you, and keep you company. Summers are meant to be fun. Sometimes that means rest and relaxation, sometimes that means adventure. All of us here at the Center for the Study of the Southwest wish you a safe season of sun and good reading.