I take offense at your recent portrayal of the people of Marfa [“Breaking Away,” August 2010]. You state, “Marfa doesn’t seem to wake up till noon.” Yes, there are some imports—city folk, so-called artists—in town who may sleep till noon, but this is originally ranch country, and there are still plenty of ranchers and local folk who get up early and go to work, just like in any other city. Maybe in the future your writer will herself rise before noon and see that this is not a sleepy little town but a normal city with normal people.
While I agree with everything you wrote about Marfa and that far West Texas area, how could you not mention the Marfa lights? For this native Texan, the lights have been my mecca for more than fifty years. And no Texan should go to his grave without having seen them at least once.
Thank you for your comprehensive dose of reality and for letting the rest of Texas (and hopefully beyond) know what many of us who live near the border have known for years: Our borders are safe, Homeland Security is thriving, and the politicized rhetoric of air horns like John Cornyn, Jan Brewer, and Kay Bailey Hutchison are serving no other purpose than to raise the decibels on what has become a witless, xenophobic, fearmongering debate [“Near/Far,” August 2010]. Your contribution to today’s dwindling canon of journalistic integrity makes me proud once again to call myself a Texan.
E. Dan Klepper
Goodbye to a Writer
As a Texan-in-exile (living in the equally storied Commonwealth of Virginia), I eagerly anticipate each issue of TEXAS MONTHLY, a magazine that gives me an all-encompassing glimpse into the present and future of my favorite state.
With that said, I am discomfited by Gary Cartwright’s hagiographic portrait of John Graves [“Writing Life,” August 2010]. I understand the pragmatic nature of the assignment: The retiring Cartwright chose a final feature on a writer who once represented the vibrancy of Texas prose. However, to writers and critics pushing the aesthetic boundaries of writing in twenty-first-century Texas, this profile is the equivalent of a review of a restaurant that has long since closed. While I respect Graves’s talent and appreciate his contribution to historical Texas literature, I wish the magazine would marshal its vast resources toward analyzing the depth and breadth of the contemporary scene rather than anchoring itself to an increasingly archaic and inaccessible past.
Z. Bart Thornton
I read your fond portrait of John Graves in his winding down and recognized almost immediately that not only does the writer know his subject like the back of his hand, but he has caught Graves so solidly that he walks off the page. I first met Mr. Graves when I was a freshman at TCU and he taught “creative writing” (he cringed at that redundancy). My impression was of a robust, gentle man. And, as it turned out (no matter that he thinks he was not cut out for the job), a most dedicated and compassionate teacher. He merely suppressed a guffaw when I titled a short story “It Falls, the Obelisk,” telling me later that I was in love with the sound of words, sometimes at the sake of meaning. I hope he is reading. He might be interested that one of his students went on to become an editor at two magazines, the author of two nonfiction books, and a screenwriter. I guess you might say John Graves was a pretty fine teacher.
James M. Martin
Charter schools have the advantage over public schools for the following reasons [“Head of the Class,” August 2010]. There are too many laws and statutes, with new ones added yearly and no ways or means to monitor or enforce the ones that already exist. Most districts are top-heavy with the number and payment of noninstructional administrators. Districts prefer to hire first-year, sometimes noncertified teachers instead of teachers with any experience due to the cost of pay scales and health care. For this reason, experienced teachers do not move or leave for fear of not finding employment. Some school districts and employees paid into Social Security and the employees are now denied their money. Charter schools may show success because of their new beginnings and their naiveté about how political education is in Texas. There are many problems with education, but the blame should not be placed on the teachers. They are limited and governed by a system that society dictates.
Editors’ note: On page 167 and 173 of William Martin’s “Head of the Class,” the Harmony School of Excellence was misidentified as HSA-Houston. We regret the error.
What a joy to open the issue and find that Kinky Friedman is back [“Gov Hunt,” August 2010]! Please tell me this is not a onetime thing. We readers need him to put things in perspective.
It continues to baffle me as to why TEXAS MONTHLY devotes valuable editorial space to Kinky Friedman. In the August issue, we have this failed politician supposedly being legitimized by offering free advice to Bill White and Rick Perry. Wow! Advice from a man who in 1986 lost a bid for justice of the peace! Who in 2006 came in fourth in a field of six in the race for governor. And who, earlier this year, apparently not able to see the very big handwriting on the wall, sought and lost the Democratic nomination for agriculture commissioner. Getting political advice from Kinky Friedman is akin to getting legitimate investment advice from Bernie Madoff. In short, he is a lightweight in a heavyweight bout. So, please, take him out of the ring and give legitimate political experts an opportunity.