In the early sixties Shelby Hearon, a Kentucky transplant, started writing novels at a rapid rate and hasn't slowed down since. In fact, her fifteenth, Ella in Bloom (Knopf), is due out this month. Most of her stories offer portraits of women who are witty, educated, and sensual: They all seem like Junior League dropouts.
Tomás Rivera journeyed a long way from his early days in the South Texas town of Crystal City, where he was born to a family of migrant farmworkers. He enjoyed a varied and distinguished career as an educator and was appointed by presidents Carter and Reagan to serve on national higher education commissions. At the time of his death, in 1984, he was the chancellor of the University of California at Riverside. But arguably his most lasting accomplishment is his book . . . y no se lo tragó la tierra.
Beverly Lowry left her native Tennessee for Texas in the seventies, taught at the University of Houston, and plunged into the state's literary scene. The Perfect Sonya (1987), her best novel during this period, traces the ups and downs of protagonist Pauline Terry and her mostly disappointing experiences with men. The plot intermixes past and present in a constant back-and-forth between childhood and maturity, New York and Texas.
No other book in Texas literature is quite like Gertrude Beasley’s little-known memoir, My First Thirty Years. For one thing, it was published in Paris in 1925 by the avant-garde press Contact Editions, which included among its authors Ernest Hemingway, H.D., and Ezra Pound. Contact’s prime mover, Robert McAlmon, remembered Beasley in his own memoir of that era, Being Geniuses Together, as one of only two “temperamental” writers he had to deal with in those banquet years. The other was also named Gertrude, as in Stein.
When I was in San Angelo earlier this year, the only thing people wanted to talk about was the prospect for rain. There was none, though heat lightning in the evenings buoyed hopes nonetheless. Hard-pressed ranchers were already taking drastic measures, burning prickly pear to supplement feed for their cattle.
Instead of checking out the club scene during Austin's South by Southwest Music Festival in March, I stayed home and watched movies about music, searching for an authentic Texas classic. I didn't find one. What I did discover, however, was a set of rules that I offer free to the next director who ventures into the sub-subgenre of films about Texas music.