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On Writing in the Lone Star State
New and Selected Poems
Ruffin uses alliteration and subtle textured sounds throughout his poetry, making them likeably conversational while full of crafted sound patterns. Ruffin also employs whimsical narratives, coining the word “Necrofiligumbo” in “When the Mummy Became a Mommy.” But, Hill explains, the true power of this book comes from its storytelling. With the new material, readers will encounter compelling, often drop-dead funny storytelling.
New and Selected Poems
The State of Texas has honored Texas Poets Laureate for seventy-three years, but much of their work has gone unpublished and unrecognized. In a significant step toward recognizing the achievements of the Texas Poets Laureate, TCU Press will publish a series of the work of the Poets Laureate, with a volume dedicated to each poet. The series begins with the 2005 and 2006 Texas Poets Laureate, Alan Birkelbach and Red Steagall, and will continue through the next five appointments. These beautiful volumes collect the finest work of each individual poet. While a single volume may stand alone as a valuable selection of a poet’s work, the series as a whole will draw their different voices together into a singular poetic expression of Texas. Red Steagall has made his career in bringing the cowboy way of life into the public eye through many different media, and his poetry has been an important part of this effort. Here, it speaks as poetry in its own right. His poems, however, never lack a musical, songlike quality; his lilting rhythms carry the reader through the journey that each poem represents. Steagall’s poems chart the changing of the land and the passing of generations, but they rest on the solid ground of a steady faith.
Tom Hardy’s new novel, Slow Moving Dreams, tells the story of Tom Carter, a city man who is forced by the death of a cousin to return to his rural roots in West Texas. Hardy takes his readers along two journeys in this novel: the first is the physical journey that Tom takes as he drives to the funeral in Alpine, and the second is an exploration of Tom’s life as a child growing up in the country that the adult Tom is now passing through. But not all of those memories are happy ones, as Tom and his cousins soon find out. The funeral starts to unravel a dark secret that could change everything Tom thought he knew about his family.
Hardy breathes life into all of his characters with his witty dialogue and nostalgic memory sequences. Slow Moving Dreams is a story of homecoming and family bonds that, in this age of consumerism and technology, is a refreshing change of pace. For those familiar with the lifestyle of the modern cowboy, the life Tom Carter remembers is a reminder of the old days, when nature provided everything one could ever need. But all readers, new to the cowboy’s world or not, are in for a fun, heart-warming tale as they follow Tom’s exploration of his past and realizations about his future.
Nineteen-year-old Jason is lost. The rush of graduation parties has subsided, the ubiquitous discussion of college departures dimmed to a dull roar. His former classmates have made elaborate plans, but the only date on Jason’s calendar is a court appearance next Monday. Jason, who dropped out of high school just two months shy of graduation, finds himself stuck in the well-worn grooves of his hometown. But when his over-achieving girlfriend Lisa departs for UT Austin to study medicine, Jason finds Mesquite a place he can hardly recognize.
Jason’s family can offer him little direction. After his mother Sue’s unexpected death a few years back, his father Burl, fifteen years sober, slipped into old drinking habits. Jason watched the once clockwork-perfect routine of his family life descend into chaos. When Burl marries Lily, a high-strung, high-powered attorney, she brings a daughter into the house: Emily, eleven years old and a self-described know-it-all whose very existence is enough to irritate Jason.
Three days before Jason must appear in court, he receives a “Dear John” letter from Lisa. Heartbroken and determined to convince Lisa of his worth, Jason decides to hitchhike to Lisa’s dorm in Austin—but Emily, desperate to return to her father, a UT professor, overhears Jason’s plans and demands to accompany him. When Burl and Lily return home to find their children missing, Lily puts out an Amber Alert for Emily, accusing Jason of abducting her daughter. The frantic search effort that ensues threatens to destroy the tentative household that Burl and Lily have just begun to establish.
Smith’s gift for creating three-dimensional characters, abundantly demonstrated in his previous TCU Press titles including Understanding Women and Purple Hearts, lends this coming-of-age tale an unexpected quality of honesty and sophisticated narrative rarely seen in contemporary young adult fiction. Mary Powell, author of the TCU Press books Auslander and Galveston Rose, describes Smith’s prose as “rich and sophisticated, yet accessible, and the dialogue is right on.” Steplings doesn’t romanticize the misadventures of its protagonists. Though Jason and Emily grapple with universal teen issues—Emily searches for acceptance in her new middle school, while Jason balks when confronted with new adult responsibilities—their troubles feel like uncharted territory when expressed through pitch-perfect narrative voices. “Watching Jason self-destruct,” according to Powell, “is akin to watching someone in a horror film go down into the basement.”
The authentic quality of Smith’s prose extends to the Texas setting; readers will recognize their neighbors in the characters that populate Mesquite and Austin. Kate Lehrer observed that Smith also “draws subtle distinctions among social classes.” Smith invokes tension between Jason’s no-frills lifestyle and Lisa’s country-club upbringing, and paints a widening gulf between Burl’s small-town mannerisms and Lily’s cosmopolitan tastes.
Powell called Steplings “a friendly, hopeful, humorous, and thoughtful book about growing up.” Growing up, however, doesn’t belong exclusively to the young, and Steplings is a story that can’t be shelved neatly in the young adult category. Both teen and adult readers will see themselves in this multifaceted narrative of self-discovery.