Behind the Lines
Writing about Larry L. King is a difficult task that leaves me feeling like some sweating country jeweler stooped over a fine stone trying to fashion an appropriate setting out of tin. Some good writers have craft; others have soul and spirit. Larry has what great writers have: he has both, and he uses them well. His writing is rooted in Texas without being locked and bolted up here. From such local roots it grows to universal appeal, as witness the translation of his essay “The Old Man” into several languages, including Russian. Larry has a country-bred Texan’s wariness about Eastern sophistication, and when he writes (“Leavin’ McMurtry,” page 70) about fellow author Larry McMurtry’s book Leaving Cheyenne being made a sad mockery by a New York film crew, it is quite possible to hear both Larrys—King and McMurtry— joining in some mutual chorus of lamentation by country boys perpetually sold out by city folk.
King is at his best at personal journalism, with which his new book The Old Man and Lesser Mortals abounds, although he can, as in The One-Eyed Man, turn a dandy hand to fiction. McMurtry is at his best with fiction—The Last Picture Show, Moving On— although he can do it up right as an essayist, which his collection In a Narrow Grave (to be reprinted by The Encino Press this spring) abundantly shows. Each man has carved out a substantial niche as a major American writer, although McMurtry was once prone to wearing a sweat shirt decorated with the words “Minor Regional Novelist,” and King is fond of retelling the story of his triumphal return to West Texas after the publication of his first book, and being asked, “Hidy Larry, you still working over at the post office?”
We are proud to have a story by Larry King in our pages, and proud to have him join our masthead as contributing editor. It has always been one of our goals, along with providing an outlet for promising young writers, to furnish a forum for the best Texas writers to publish in Texas. We all gain when a writer of the sensibility and talent of a Larry King turns his hand to the home soil, for the home folks.
Few issues arouse as much emotional heat and as little intellectual light as abortion. The whole issue is shrouded in primitive beliefs, religious dogma, libertarian credos, woman’s liberationist slogans, and sexual fears and prejudices. Some of the world’s most reasonable people find themselves yelling at each other and calling the other the worst of names whenever the subject comes up. We have tried to avoid such emotionalism in our story “Abortion in Texas” (page 54). Author Martha Hume spent three months interviewing women, doctors, social workers, abortion activists pro and con, hospital administrators, and maternity home officials in the process of producing the first comprehensive examination of the status of abortions since the United States Supreme Court struck down Texas’ anti-abortion statute a year ago. Martha has been freelancing since July, when she left her job as assistant editor of Texas Medicine, a publication of the Texas Medical Association. Journalism has been in her blood since her childhood days in Steams, Kentucky, a company mining town in Appalachia where her father edits the local paper. After a brief stint as city editor on the Winchester Sun in Winchester, Kentucky, she came to the University of Texas, where she earned an M.A. in journalism.
Katharine Lowry, who replaces Judith Crist as our regular film reviewer, is a native Texan in temporary exile in Princeton, New Jersey. She brings to film reviewing a determination to communicate with the filmgoer instead of the narrow world of professional reviewers. “My reviews are written for everyone to understand,” she says, “whether the film is the first, or the ten-thousandth, he has seen.” Where Ms. Crist had the solid stature of an established New York reviewer, Ms. Lowry has the enthusiasm and freshness of a new talent, and the sensibility and awareness of a Texan born and bred. Discovering and encouraging such new talent is one of the real pleasures of editing, and I urge our readers to keep an eye on Katharine Lowry’s work.
The Texas Monthly Reporter (page 9) is a new feature of the magazine, and is the handiwork of Richard West. Each month we will be sending Richard around the state to report on the bits and pieces of information underlying what is happening in sports, business, politics, and the arts; to draw profiles of well-known and un-known, but important, Texans; and to sample the flavor of life in the nooks and crannies of our cities and towns. That’s a big order, but Richard has crisscrossed the state many times before. For a number of years he was press secretary to former House Speaker and Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes. In those days he traveled by private plane; now he drives a red Volkswagen bus. Times have changed, but Richard still knows the state as well as anyone. He has already written in this magazine on subjects as diverse as how to buy a bike, where to go on the Border, and how the lobby works in state politics. While most of us live in a particular city, Richard’s home will be the state as a whole.
Over the past couple of months we have been changing the design and format of the magazine. Around the State has moved from the front to the back; film reviews and some other departments have moved from the back to the front. Not only are some of our standby departments in a different place, they look different as well. The new look of the magazine is the work of Gary Easterly, who has been our art director since December. Gary’s major goals, in his words, are “to make the magazine readable and interesting and to insure that the overall impression of the magazine matches what we are saying in it. A reader should be able to leaf through the magazine, just looking at it, and have a good idea what kind of a magazine it is.” Gary’s month-to-month job is to orchestrate the several elements—photographs, illustrations, and type—which make up an issue. Marshall McLuhan, the chronicler of our mixed media world, has said for years that how a medium communicates is as important as what it communicates. Gary is responsible for how Texas Monthly communicates; the changes that our readers may have noticed are designed to improve our communication and to make the magazine overall a better window into the world of Texas.