It oughta be a bumper sticker: I wasn’t born at TEXAS MONTHLY, but I got here as fast as I could. I first happened upon the magazine as a graduate student in the late eighties, and I was knocked out by its execution of journalism in what was, to me, the ideal form: narrative nonfiction, no shorter but no longer than necessary, filled with gripping detail and accompanied by photography and illustration that was every bit as journalistic as the writing. Beyond that there was a sense of fun—ample amounts of wit and nerve and an ability to tweak the self-important and the unself-aware in a way that didn’t seem mean. And a sense of purpose, a responsibility to something larger than the commercial imperative. Knowledge of Texas, and devotion (not blind) to Texas, and kinship with Texans infused every page.
What sealed the deal was the November 1989 issue. I picked it up in the office of a colleague at a magazine in New York. She’d worked for TEXAS MONTHLY back in the day, and she had old copies strewn about, including one that contained a profile of Bill Moyers (“The Mythic Rise of Billy Don Moyers”), written by some woman I’d never heard of named Mimi Swartz. Moyers I had heard of, but even if he had been unknown to me, I would have been sucked in by his portrayal on the cover as a shirtless hero of yore, ripped from Edith Hamilton’s Mythology or maybe a romance novel, his sword raised to the heavens. Mimi’s story was perfect: ambitious and confident and tart and honest, neither a puff piece nor a hatchet job—the last word you’d ever have to read on the subject. As soon as I put it down, I wrote a letter to the editor, Greg Curtis, offering to sweep