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First of all, I should say that (as far as I know) no famous Texas trees were sacrificed in the publishing of this column.
Second, it seems appropriate to celebrate the long-awaited arrival of spring and the upcoming forty-fifth anniversary of Earth Day, as well as Arbor Day, by writing about a beautiful new coffee-table book, Famous Trees of Texas by Gretchen Riley and Peter D. Smith (Texas A&M University Press, $35 hardcover).
Actually, it’s an old book that has been extensively updated and expanded. The first edition was published forty-five years ago, and it has been revised this year in conjunction with the centennial of the Texas A&M Forest Service (formerly the Texas Forest Service).
Famous Trees of Texas offers a compelling way to study the relationship between the state’s history and its environment.
The 101 trees featured in the book – those that have survived – provide historic enlightenment as well as always appreciated shade. But even those that have fallen still make their presence felt in this full-color volume.
In telling the stories, the authors delve into the both the history and sometimes the myths and folklore surrounding the trees. Take, for example, the Fleming Oak on the courthouse square in Comanche. Legend has it that Mart Fleming’s life was spared when he hid in the tree to escape attacking Indians and later declared: “To that tree I owe my life… and no axe will ever touch it!”
“Ain’t nothin’ to it,” the book quotes Comanche native C. E. Straley as saying in 1957. Straley, who
knew the Fleming family, claims Mart Fleming was on such good terms with the local Indians that he played ball and swam with them. It isn’t likely he had to hide from them in the tree. Still, it makes a good story. And similar stories or legends – many true, some perhaps stretched – make for good reading throughout the book. Color photographs enhance the stories and bring the trees to life.
Readers of this column might recall another book about Texas trees that received rave reviews here – Living Witness: Historic Trees of Texas, published in 2012, also by Texas A&M Press. Austin photographer Ralph Yznaga focused his lens on 37 famous Texas trees in that book ($29.95 flexbound), using the original Famous Trees of Texas as a reference. Living Witness Trees is more of a photography book, with short, crisp text blocks.
When Carlton Stowers and I put together our list of 101 Essential Texas Books last year, we included Yznaga’s volume. With the new, expanded edition, Famous Trees of Texas is equally deserving. The two books show well, side by side, on a bookshelf and offer proof that Texas does indeed have plenty of trees worth honoring, if not hugging.
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Glenn Dromgoole is co-author of 101 Essential Texas Books. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Portland, OR: Tin House
Paperback, 978-1935639831 (also available as e-book and audiobook)
The Other Side is the National Book Critics Circle Award– and Edgar Award–nominated memoir from Lacy M. Johnson, who was kidnapped, imprisoned, and raped by a former boyfriend in 2000. This is her story of the before, during, and after. Johnson also tackles universal issues women live with: the illusion of power as puberty works its alchemy and men begin to pay attention to girls who are still children, regardless of the new swell of breast and curve of hip; the sense of always being on stage, under constant evaluation; the popularity of Dead Girls in our culture. >> read more
New York: Scribner
Hardcover, 978-147684960 (also available as ebook) 156 pages, $23.00
Most of the Mexicans we read about in the United States are immigrants, maids, janitors, day laborers, and the like. In this country we don’t often read about Mexicans in Mexico unless they’re drug lords – cartel kingpins and their enforcers – or the poor, desperate classes victimized by them. We almost never get fiction in English telling the other side of that conflict. So Antonio Ruiz-Camacho’s Barefoot Dogs: Stories is a rare thing on this side of the Rio Bravo. >> read more
New Fiction Confab, an annual event featuring a emerging and mid-career fiction writers, will be held Sat., April 25, sponsored by the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation.
Visiting authors Rebecca Makkai, Viet Than Nguyen, Asali Solomon, and Akhil Sharma will lead writing workshops in Austin Public Library branches from 10:30 am to noon. From 2 to 5 pm, visiting authors will join local writers Amanda Eyre Ward (The Same Sky) and Mary Helen Specht (Migratory Animals) for readings and conversations at the Faulk Central Library, 800 Guadalupe Street. All events are free and open to the public.
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ABILENE Mon., Apr. 13, Abilene Public Library, Texas Author Series with Miles Arceneaux, 11:45AM
AUSTIN Tues., Apr. 14, 8:30PM, North Door, Literary Death Match: Ruiz-Camacho, Castellucci, Neulander, Holt
The North Door, Literary Death Match: Antonio Ruiz-Camacho, Cecil Castellucci, Jason Neulander, and K.A. Holt
AUSTIN Sat., Apr. 18, 7 PM Malvern Books, bilingual reading & discussion with Ecuadorian poet Santiago Vizcaíno and translator Alexis Levitin
Malvern Books, bilingual reading and discussion with Ecuadorian poet Santiago Vizcaíno and translator Alexis Levitin, 7PM
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The Second Annual Dallas Book Festival will be held at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library Sat., April 18, from noon to 5 p.m.
East Texas native Joe R. Lansdale is a noted writer in various genres, including horror, science fiction, western, mystery, and crime fiction. Throughout Lansdale’s career, he’s received numerous accolades—most notably nine Bram Stoker Awards, including the one for Lifetime Achievement in 2011. He was inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame in 2012. Five of his books have been adapted into films, including Cold in July (1989) and Bubba Ho-Tep (1994). Lone Star Literary Life caught up with Lansdale via email after an appearance in North Carolina.
LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE: Joe, you’re a prolific author whose work has often been adapted for film and television -- sometimes with you as the producer. How has that phenomenon informed your writing? How are the two forms different, and how do they complement each other?
JOE R. LANSDALE: When I write a prose piece I don't think of it in film terms. I write for story, character, and style. But as a fan of films, art, music -- those are all part of my interests and will influence me in a more general way. You learn things from all the mediums. >> read more
Books and authors are a vibrant part of the arts scene at the 37th annual Lubbock Arts Festival, which will occupy the entire Lubbock Memorial Civic Center (1501 Mac Davis Lane, Lubbock, TX 79401) Sat, April 18 and Sun., April 19, 2015. The festival is the largest of its kind in West Texas. >> read more
The Cisco Writers Club of Cisco, Texas, will host its first-ever Book Look, to be held Sat., April 25 and Sun., April 26, in conjunction with the Cisco FolkLife Festival. >> read more
The Spring Writers Retreat, previously scheduled for April 24-25, 2015, has been canceled. If you were registered for this event, or considering signing up, check updates here.
At the 92nd annual conference of the West Texas Historical Association, held Apr. 10-11 in Amarillo, Patrick Dearen's novel The Big Drift (TCU Press) received the Elmer Kelton Award for Fiction, while the Rupert N. Richardson Award for the best nonfiction book published on West Texas history went to Alvin Lynn for Kit Carson and the First Battle of Adobe Walls (Texas Tech University Press).
BOOK EVENT FOCUS
The third annual San Antonio Book Festival was hopping Sat., April 11, at the Central Branch of the San Antonio Public Library and across Augusta Street at the Southwest School of Art. With more than eighty authors and more than sixty events on the schedule, the festival was a full day, including live music, cooking demonstrations, children’s activities, author readings, panel discussions, book signings, and dozens of vendors from food trucks to literacy organizations. >> read more
Gival Press, 2014
Trade paper, 978-1-928589914
260 pages, $20.00 (also available in ebook format)
At first, Thomas McNeely’s novel Ghost Horse, set in 1970s Houston, is frustratingly inscrutable. What is the meaning of this bit of conversation twelve-year-old Buddy overhears between his parents? Why doesn’t his real father—the one Buddy knows before the man goes off to Louisiana to finish med school—return to their home, the one where his Mom lives? Perhaps the author wishes for the reader to sense the utter confusion that is aroused in a child when his parents inexplicably decide to separate. Who wants “this?” the author repeats over and over again, his mother or his father? He says she does; she says he does. Each parent tries to build an alliance with Buddy, one that is exclusive of the other adult. >> read more
Sync Up! imagine • collaborate • innovate is the theme of the 2015 Texas Library Association annual conference, held
April 14-17 at the Austin Convention Center. Headliners include Cokie Roberts, David Baldacci, Tish Hinojosa. Preregistration has been extended until midnight on Sun., April 12. Click here for more information.
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