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Reviews 365 State Lines. Compiled and Edited by Ken Hammond. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1993. 223 pages, $29.50.) StateLines is a book about “places”— sometimes places on a map, but more often places in the mind, in the heart, in the imagination. Comprised of fiftytwo of the best short essays originally published in the “State Lines”feature of Texas Magazine, the Sunday supplement to the Houston Chronicle, the collection preserves and celebrates, in the words of essayist Thom Marshall, “long ago scenes and incidents that remain evergreen in the mind.” Selected for their ability to offer a “sense or feeling of sharing something personally held,” the essays range widely over the Texas landscape, taking for their settings the state’s wide open range, woodlands, bayous and coastline, and describing the struggles of the diverse peoples—Hispanic, white, black, young, middle-aged, and old— who have made their home in the Lone Star state. Within the collection’s pages, readers will find nostalgic vignettes of child­ hood paper routes and visits to the bookmobile, of delight in King Kong, dogs, fishing, and watching a semi-pro baseball game on a warm, small-town summer night. Yet theywill also encounter strikingly contemporary accounts ofsuffering and despair brought about by illiteracy, poverty, homelessness, alcoholism, aging, and death. Perhaps the finest essays reveal the poignant struggles of individual men and women seeking to realize their dreams. Rachel Herrera Reed, for example, recounts her father’s frustration in never learning to read, yet his ultimate “triumph” in hearing the newspaper read to him in his daughter’s voice. Ben Ezzell describes the successful efforts of an elderly black man and a small-town newspaper editor to save a black church destined for demolition as part of an “urban renewal”scheme. Supplemented by Rolf Laub’s illustrations, brief biographical sketches of the authors, and Leon Hale’s forward, “A Defense of the Essay,”which situates the essays in the tradition of Michel de Montaigne, Samuel Johnson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and E. B. White, State Lines is a superb collection that should enjoy wide appeal among general readers. CHRISTOPHER S. BUSCH Hillsdale College Elmer Kelton Country: The Short Nonfiction of a Texas Novelist. By Elmer Kelton. (FortWorth: Texas Christian University Press, 1993. 312 pages. $25.00/$14.95.) For over forty-two years Elmer Kelton has worn two hats—agricultural journalist by day, writing mostly for the Livestock Weekly, and fiction writer by nights and on weekends, receiving five Spur Awards from Western Writers of America. Yet these hats, each with a distinctive West Texas crease, complement 366 Western American Literature one another as this collection of Kelton’s nonfiction, Elmer Kelton Country, admirably reveals. With a concisely helpful Foreword by Kelton critic Judy Alter, a brief autobiographical Introduction by novelist/journalist Kelton himself, and six main divisions—“Land and Water,”“Plows and Cows,”“Old-timers Remember,” “The Way It Was,” “Rodeo Life,” and “Writing About the West,” this indexed anthology demonstrates cogently why Kelton scholars have praised his fiction’s authenticity shaped by his convincing sense of place, his understated style, and his delightful humor. Kelton country is West Texas, typically a “low-rainfall, sandy, mesquite and greasewood area where livestock have to be a little lone­ some to do well,”a harsh place which a real estate agent described as “sorry as hell, but pretty good.” Yet this locale can be a caring place. Following the incredibly wet year of 1987, a 45-mile-wide grass fire destroyed 298,000 acres, and then strangers hauled in hay for livestock, “asking for nothing but direc­ tions.” Kelton’sunderstated reporting—“His roofat night was the open sky, which leaked, of course”; Ozuna’s 86-year-old Vic Pierce, on a cattle drive to San Angelo in his youth, “slipped into a West Concho dancehall but left through a window when the shooting started. The window was not open at the time”— shows the same kind of indirect style and humor so effective in Kelton’s novels. Including no references to women performers in his rodeo section and critical of some “self-styled environmentalists and historical revisionists,” his reporting of coyotes differs markedly...


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pp. 365-366
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