Turning the Pages of Texas
Texas Christian University Press
Softcover, 978-0875657165, 271 pgs., $22.95
February 22, 2019
Lonn Taylor’s latest book demonstrates again why the West Texas and Fort Worth author is widely regarded as a master storyteller.
Reading the sixty short essays collected in Turning the Pages of Texas is like spending an inspiring, yet relaxing, weekend hanging out with some of the Lone Star State’s greatest writers, quirkiest characters, most avid book collectors and booksellers, and some of the state’s best librarians, cooks, cowboys, and photographers, among others.
Texas book classics and Taylor's love for collecting rare pamphlets often figure into his enlightening essays. Yet, they "are not book reviews," he assures. "They originated as recommendations to the readers of my weekly column in the Marfa Big Bend Sentinel, 'The Rambling Boy,'" which has been published since 2004.
Many of those "recommendations" have been expanded a bit for this book, and readers are offered intriguing details about—plus Taylor’s reflections upon—a diverse cast of nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first-century Texans, some famous, some notorious, and many just downright interesting.
For example, Taylor describes his friendship with Texas naturalist and photographer Jim Bones. “Watching and learning from landscape has become Bones’s life work,” Taylor writes. “When I first knew Jim Bones in the early 1970s, he and his first wife, Ann Matlock, were living in a house in the country west of Austin that was built around a Ford Econoline van. Their bedroom was the body of the van, the van’s roof was the floor of the guest room, and one of its sides was the wall of the kitchen. Bones referred to the van’s front seat as the television room, the television being the view of the landscape through the windshield.”
Turning the Pages of Texas presents Taylor’s essays under four headings: “Giants and Old-timers,” “A Bookman’s Pleasures,” “Back Roads and Dark Corners,” and “Cooks, Photographers, Poets, and Others.”
One “giant” he describes is writer and painter Tom Lea who was a World War II combat artist for LIFE Magazine before he became famous for his novels, his books about the King Ranch, and his artworks. Taylor points out that “Few American cities have embraced a native writer and artist in the way that El Paso has Tom Lea. Usually creative people, like prophets, are without honor in their own country, especially in Texas, where, until recently, artists and writers were considered weirdos, and people like Robert Rauschenberg and Terry Southern (natives of Port Arthur and Alvarado, respectively) had to go to New York to get any respect.”
Lonn Taylor’s previous writing credits include nine other books, such as Marfa for the Perplexed, The American Cowboy, and Texas Furniture: The Cabinet Makers and Their Work, 1840-1880.
Want to know more about some little-known quirks, history, and achievements of Texans? Turning the Pages of Texas is an excellent starting place. Everything from ancient rock art to punk rock gets a turn in Lonn Taylor’s spotlight, and he throws in some prairies, presidents, poets, pecans, and rattlesnakes for good measure.
Lonn Taylor is a historian and writer who retired to Fort Davis, Texas, with his wife, Dedie, after twenty years as a historian at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. He received a BA in history and government from Texas Christian University in 1961 and did graduate work at New York University before returning to Texas to enter the museum field. He served as curator and director of the University of Texas at Austin’s Winedale Historical Center from 1970 to 1977; as curator of history at the Dallas Historical Society from 1977 to 1979; and as curator and deputy director of the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe from 1980 to 1984. He writes a weekly column about Texas called “The Rambling Boy” for the Marfa Big Bend Sentinel. Lonn Taylor’s previous writing credits include nine other books, such as Marfa for the Perplexed, The American Cowboy, and Texas Furniture: The Cabinet Makers and Their Work, 1840-1880.