Utopian Society

I am in a state of disbelief that Texas Monthly has chosen to attack Paulette Jiles [“The Crankiest Writer in Utopia,” May 2020], a gifted writer who is making Texas history come alive through fascinating stories that are thoroughly researched and skillfully written. I would think you would be respectful of the creative chronicler of historical facts who has introduced us to the African American frontiersman who went to the Comanche and reclaimed his kidnapped wife and children and to a Texan who in the 1870s purchased Eastern newspapers and traveled through Texas towns reading the news of the world to the people.

I wish you could have been with me in Brenham in 2017 at a standing-room-only reading of News of the World. The novel had been selected as book of the year by the Washington County READ program because both adults and young people could enjoy it as a study in Texas history. Texans will have a new appreciation of their state when they read about the incredibly difficult but fascinating time of rebuilding Texas after the Civil War, artfully described by Jiles in her new book, Simon the Fiddler.

Instead, TM has come to our small town and demeaned and ridiculed a lovely lady whom this town loves and is deeply proud of. Your article was not a review of Jiles’s new book but an attack on her. What was the purpose? The most hurtful part is that you published it under the banner name of Texas—as if you speak for the whole state. Who gave you this right?
Wanda Waters, Utopia

Off the Books

I was fascinated by the article on Paulette Jiles. As a wannabe writer of fiction, I hoped to glean something helpful from Jiles’s perspective. I instead found myself overwhelmed by her irascible attitude and general cross-purpose to life and those around her. Reminded me of the futileness of trying to be friends with a copperhead snake. Not worth the effort. Kudos to Emily McCullar for her ability to remain objective and present an article about someone for whom the best that could be said is “Bless her heart.” All the innuendo of the South intended.
William Lewis, McKinney

Reel Praise

I really enjoyed your articles on fishing in the May issue [“The Great Texas Fishing Safari”], especially the part on alligator gar. It reminded me of a time when I was young, in the early sixties. We were fishing for crappie off the dam at Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees, in Oklahoma. It was a long drop straight down to the water. We were using minnows on a crappie hook and getting frustrated, as we weren’t catching a thing and we could see fish swimming right past our bait. My cousin saw a big splash thirty feet or so out from the dam and decided to throw her hook out to it. No sooner had it hit the water than she got a big hit on the line. She struggled to bring the fish in but couldn’t bring it up the height of the dam. So we ran off the dam and around to the shoreline. The fish was still on the line, and she managed to bring it in. It was an alligator gar about four feet long, hooked on a crappie hook and a minnow with a ten-pound test line.
Gary McCoy, Arlington